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VCE Humanities

Philosophy Unit 3: Minds, Bodies and Persons


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

This unit considers basic questions regarding the mind and the self through two key questions: Are human beings more than their bodies? Is there a basis for the belief that an individual remains the same person over time?

Students critically compare the viewpoints and arguments put forward in set texts from the history of philosophy to their own views on these questions and to contemporary debates.

It is important for students to understand that arguments make a claim supported by reasons and reasoning, whereas a viewpoint makes a claim without necessarily supporting it with reasons or reasoning. Philosophical debates encompass philosophical questions and associated viewpoints and arguments within other spheres of discourse such as religion, psychology, sociology and politics.

Areas of Study

Minds and Bodies

The central concern of the philosophy of mind is to explain the relationship between the body and the mind. The difficulty in advancing such an explanation stems from the fact that bodies and minds appear to be very different types of entities. To illustrate, consider that the experience of reading does not obviously feel like neurons firing in a brain. Some philosophers argue that such apparent differences indicate that the two are in reality fundamentally independent entities. Others typically argue that the mind is just the physical body but then must reconcile the apparent differences. Students examine the views of those who argue that the mind is nothing more than the body, as well as those that think there is more to the human mind than just the body, and consider whether the two can exist independently of each other.

Personal Identity

Modern philosophers have explored the question of the continuity of the self over time. They have attempted to identify the basis on which we say, for example, that an individual is the same person at 80 as they were at eight years old. Self, in this sense, is a contested term that refers to what is most essential about ourselves as a particular entity distinguished from others, if anything. In this area of study students explore selected positions on personal identity and the arguments for and against them. In doing so, students consider the implications of views on personal identity for personal responsibility of past actions and personal concern for future happiness. Students consider how thought experiments can be used to explore and challenge theories of personal identity. A range of relevant thought experiments is to be sourced from within the set texts where possible and beyond the set texts as appropriate. Students apply their understanding of philosophical concepts and problems related to personal identity to analyses of contemporary debates such as organ transplants and cloning.


Outcomes Assessment Tasks Marks Allocated
(school-assessed coursework)
On completion of this unit the student should be able to examine concepts relating to the mind and body, analyse, compare and evaluate viewpoints and arguments concerning the relationship between the mind and body found in the set texts, and discuss contemporary debates.

an essay

a written analysis 


On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse, compare and evaluate viewpoints and arguments on personal identity in the set texts and discuss related contemporary debates.

short-answer responses

a written reflection 


Total Marks 100

Overall Final Assessment

Graded Assessment Title Assessment Exam Duration Contribution to Study Score (%)
1 Unit 3 Coursework School-assessed   25
2 Unit 4 Coursework School-assessed   25
3 Written Examination November 2 hours 50


Reproduced by permission of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: