Philosophy is a search for understanding and wisdom through inquiry into fundamental questions regarding existence, knowledge, the nature of reality, and “how to live a good life.” Through research, reflection, and discussion, philosophy seeks both to refine and answer humanity’s enduring questions: What is the nature of consciousness? What is the connection between mind and body? Does God exist? What counts as knowledge? Is there only one right way to reason? Does science give us objective truth? Could computers think? Could they feel or exhibit genuine creativity? Do we have free will? How are right and wrong to be determined? Of what does the good life consist? Does life have meaning?
Agreeing with Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” the philosophy degree program encourages students to develop their own philosophical understanding, helping them to think critically and creatively about themselves and the society around them. The hoped-for result is the attainment of competency in reasoning as well as the development of a coherent and critical personal perspective that provides the foundation for a full and satisfying life, for the practice of responsible citizenship, and for the exercise of leadership in a world characterized by increasing globalization, ubiquity of information, and constant technological change.
The flexible requirements for this program allow students to complete dual majors that combine philosophy with a major in another field, such as mathematics, computer science, cognitive science, or one of the natural sciences.
Whether working toward a bachelor’s degree in philosophy alone or toward a dual degree, students must complete at least 32 credit hours of work in philosophy or in related areas approved by their adviser. These must include:
- At least one of the following: Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 1110), Minds & Machines (IHSS 1140), Philosophy, Technology and the Human Future (IHSS 1130), Are Humans Rational? (IHSS 1235), Genome and You (IHSS 1150), Science and Scientific Misconduct (IHSS 1160), or Great Ideas in Philosophy (IHSS 1165).
- Introduction to Logic (PHIL 2140).
- At least one of the following: Ethics (PHIL 4240), Environmental Philosophy (PHIL 4300/STSH 4340), Bioethics (PHIL 4500/STSH 4250), or Ethics of A.I. (PHIL 2960)
- At least one of the following: Philosophy of Biology (PHIL 2400), Philosophy of Science (PHIL 4130), or Scientific Revolutions (PHIL 4310)
- Capstone Experience in Philosophy (PHIL 4990)
- Three additional courses in philosophy
- At least 12 credits must be at the 4000-level (including the Capstone Experience in Philosophy)
- At least two courses (8 credits) must be designated as communication intensive
Each philosophy major will develop a Plan of Study in consultation with a departmental adviser. In the senior year, all philosophy majors must take PHIL 4990 Capstone Experience in Philosophy, in which they will construct and carry out an in-depth investigation or activity relating to some area of philosophy and write a research report (undergraduate thesis) detailing their findings. Preparing this document will provide students with early training in thesis writing in the event that they pursue further study. Students will participate in their Capstone Experience under the guidance of a professor of their choosing or one selected based on the professor’s familiarity with the research topic.
Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum
Students who complete this curriculum will be able to demonstrate:
- critical thinking and logical reasoning in producing, analyzing, or evaluating ideas and arguments.
- the ability to describe accurately, compare, and evaluate key features of a variety of approaches, ideas, and philosophers across the history of philosophy.
- the ability to solve real-world problems using logical reasoning, development of concepts and ideas, and clear communication skills.