Department of Philosophy

  • Chair

    Michael A. Smith

  • Departmental Representative

    John P. Burgess

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Hendrik Lorenz

     

  • Professor

    John P. Burgess

    Adam Newman Elga

    Daniel Garber

    Hans Halvorson

    Elizabeth Harman, also University Center for Human Values

    Mark Johnston

    Thomas P. Kelly

    Sarah-Jane Leslie

    Hendrik Lorenz

    Benjamin C. A. Morison

    Alexander Nehamas, also Comparative Literature

    Gideon A. Rosen

    Michael A. Smith

  • Associate Professor

    Desmond Hogan

    Boris C. Kment

    Sarah McGrath

  • Assistant Professor

    Johann D. Frick, also University Center for Human Values

    Harvey Lederman

  • Lecturer

    Grace E. Helton, also Council of the Humanities

    Victoria McGeer

  • Associated Faculty

    Charles R. Beitz, Politics

    Robert P. George, Politics

    Sanjeev R. Kulkarni, Electrical Engineering

    Melissa S. Lane, Politics

    Alan W. Patten, Politics

    Philip N. Pettit, Politics, University Center for Human Values

    Peter Singer, University Center for Human Values

    Jeffrey L. Stout, Religion

     

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

Prerequisites

Any course in the philosophy department may serve as prerequisite for concentration. A student who has not satisfied this prerequisite and who, at the end of sophomore year, desires to enter the department must apply to the departmental representative.

Early Concentration

Early concentration is open to spring semester sophomores who have completed the prerequisite for entering the department by the end of the fall semester of sophomore year, and allows the student to make an early start on independent work. This option is especially useful for students planning to study abroad junior year.

General Requirements

Distribution Requirement. Six of the eight courses must be so distributed that there are two in each of three of the four areas into which philosophy courses are divided; there is no such restriction on the remaining two of the eight. The four distribution areas are as follows:

1. Metaphysics: 203, 218, 237, 311, 313, 315, 317, 318, 337, 338

2. Ethics and philosophy of value: 202, 306, 307, 309, 319, 320, 325, 326, 335, 360, 380, 384, 385, 390, 391, 419

3. Logic and philosophy of science: 201, 204, 312, 314, 321, 322, 323, 327, 340, 490

4. History of philosophy: 200, 205, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 306, 332, 333, 335, 338

Interdisciplinary Options

Political Philosophy. Senior concentrators doing their theses in political philosophy have the option of substituting for the usual distribution requirement (two courses in each of three areas plus two unrestricted courses) the following: two courses from among those listed under the Department of Politics as courses in political theory; two philosophy courses in the ethics and philosophy of value area; two philosophy courses in one other philosophy distribution area; and two philosophy courses unrestricted as to distribution area.

Philosophy of Science. Senior concentrators doing their theses in philosophy of science have the option of substituting for the usual distribution requirements (two courses in each of three areas plus two unrestricted courses) the following: two upper-division (300 level or higher) courses in one relevant science (such as mathematics, computer science, physics, biology, psychology, economics); two philosophy courses in the logic and philosophy of science area; two philosophy courses in one other philosophy distribution area; and two philosophy courses unrestricted as to distribution area.

Philosophy and Linguistics. Philosophy concentrators participating in the certificate program in linguistics may follow the philosophy of science option just described, taking linguistics as their science. All courses listed under the Program in Linguistics as core, other, or related courses may be considered courses in the science of linguistics for this purpose.

Independent Work

Junior Year. During fall semester of the junior year, independent work normally involves participation in a seminar of up to five students under the supervision of an instructor from the faculty of the department. The seminar provides a transition from course work to fully independent work. A junior seminar meets weekly for an hour or biweekly for two hours to discuss readings selected by the instructor, and each student writes a final paper, normally of at least 5,000 words, on a topic in the area defined by those readings, usually chosen by the student from a list provided by the instructor. (The student's grade for fall semester independent work will be based mainly on this paper, but it is usually based partly on shorter papers and/or oral presentations in the seminar earlier in the term.) During spring semester of the junior year, independent work consists of writing a junior paper -- an essay on a philosophical topic, normally of at least 5,000 words--under the supervision of an individual faculty adviser (different from the student's fall seminar instructor).

Senior Year. Senior year independent work consists of the following: writing the senior thesis, an essay or group of related essays on a topic or group of related topics in philosophy, normally of at least 10,000 words (and normally of at most 15,000 words); and preparation for the departmental examination (see below). The thesis is read, the examination is conducted, and both are graded by a committee of two members of the faculty, one primarily for advising the thesis, the other for coordinating the examination. A short thesis proposal is due just before fall recess and an interim thesis draft, normally of at least 5,000 words (not necessarily in final form), is due just after winter recess.

Senior Departmental Examination

The senior departmental examination is a 90-minute oral examination on the general area of philosophy to which the thesis topic belongs. The final syllabus of readings for the departmental examination (agreed upon between the student and his or her examination coordinator and thesis adviser) is due by the last week of classes.

Study Abroad

Each year some junior philosophy concentrators spend one or both semesters on foreign study, usually in Britain. The department has generally been flexible in allowing, within the limits of University regulations, departmental credit for work done abroad. If the student is planning to be away for only one semester and has a choice, the department recommends choosing spring so as not to miss the fall junior seminars here.

Preparation for Graduate Study

Students contemplating going on to graduate study in philosophy are strongly advised to do more than the minimum required of all majors: to take more than just eight philosophy courses; to do some work in all four areas of philosophy and not just three; to include in their work in the philosophy of value area some in core ethics (at least one of 202, 307, 319, 335) and in their work in the philosophy of science area some in core logic (at least one of 201, 312, 323, 340); and to include in their work in the history area some on ancient philosophy (at least one of 205, 300, 301, 335) and some on modern philosophy (at least one of 200, 302-306, 332, 333, 338). Also it is advisable to study at least to the level of the University language requirement one of the following: ancient Greek, Latin, French, or German.

Courses numbered below 300 have no prerequisite and are open to underclass students. Most courses numbered 300 and above are intended for students who have already had some philosophy; others should consult the instructor before enrolling. With some exceptions, 200-level courses are given every year. Other courses are scheduled on the principle that a student majoring in the department for a two-year period will be able to work out a well-balanced program and satisfy the department's distribution requirements with significant freedom of choice.

Courses