The Department of Philosophy
We all have ideas about what’s real (and what’s not), what’s true (and what’s not), what’s right and beautiful and just (and what’s not). Studying philosophy helps us get a handle on these deep, practical, and important questions.
Philosophy helps us think clearly in a misleading world
Every area of life gives rise to philosophical questions. Should we blame people for the harm they intend to cause or for the harm they actually cause? When is it our duty to disobey the law? When does a nation cease to be just? Can fiction convey deep truths? What is the nature of love? Are humans essentially irrational? Pursuing such questions with imagination and rigor, through diverse historical, cultural, and contemporary perspectives, is what we do, and what we teach students to do. Our aim is to enable students to develop, clarify, and critically assess their own answers to these and other questions.
Philosophy helps establish a foundation from which we can read carefully and critically, reason effectively and systematically, articulate our thoughts lucidly, and reflect on major questions concerning the world we live in. Perhaps most importantly, we spend most of our lives being influenced (often unconsciously) by claims to authority, or swayed by our own default assumptions and biases. Philosophy gives us the tools to question these—to have reasonable skepticism of what we’re told, and better control over what we believe.
Our department is particularly strong in legal and political philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, Asian philosophy, philosophy of mind, metaphilosophy, and the history of ideas.
Starting 2023-2024, the Philosophy Major will require 3 courses in the history of philosophy, 4 other courses at the 3000 level or above, and one capstone seminar (4900 or 4905). Students will also have two other ways to complete the Major, by specializing in one of two new concentration areas. These have their own requirements that supersede the requirements for the Philosophy Major. Details below.
While the study of philosophy is rewarding in its own right, there are broader applications to philosophical training. On average, philosophy majors have a higher starting salary and higher lifetime earnings than any other humanities major. Philosophy majors are also highly employable, and valued for their cognitive skills (there is no autocorrect for illogical thinking). Moreover, professional advancement increasingly requires a graduate degree (JD, MBA, MD, MS, or PhD), and studies consistently show that philosophy majors tend to perform better than other majors on entrance exams such as the GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. Philosophy students score the highest on the GRE and, among humanities students, near the top on the GMAT. Philosophy is also an excellent preparation for law school, as philosophy majors acquire the reasoning skills crucial to understanding legal theory and analysis.