Advice for Philosophy Majors

Students pursuing the regular philosophy major who have no previous background in philosophy should probably begin with an introductory course (PHIL 100 or PHIL 150). Otherwise, a good place to begin is with the history sequence (PHIL 260-261) or logic (PHIL 340-341), since these courses provide excellent background for other courses. The history sequence is required for anyone taking the regular major. The logic sequence, which was at one time required, has not been required since Fall 2004.

As for other required courses, PHIL 350 (Ethics) can be taken at any time. PHIL 385 (Epistemology) and PHIL 390 (Metaphysics) are best put off until your junior and senior year. Bear in mind, however, that unlike the other required courses, PHIL 385 and PHIL 390 are offered only every other year and indeed in alternate years—i.e., one one year and the other the next. This means that you can’t postpone them both until your senior year. Ideally, you should take one of them in your junior year and the other when you’re a senior.

The other course it generally makes sense to put off until your junior or senior year is the Advanced Seminar (PHIL 495). The kind of work you are likely to be asked to do in that course is usually easier and more profitable for students who have already taken a considerable amount of philosophy. (Note, by the way, that PHIL 495 can be taken more than once. For those who take it more than once, the additional section or sections may be counted as electives.)

Bear in mind that if your philosophy major is not a part of a double major, you must also complete the requirements of a minor of at least 18 hours. Also, bear in mind our recommendation of at least two years of a foreign language—preferably French or German. Students who are thinking about going on to study philosophy at the graduate level should take this recommendation especially seriously.

For further advice, see our four year plan for students pursuing the regular philosophy major.

The advice offered here is not meant to substitute for the detailed advice you can get from your adviser. You should make arrangements to see your adviser early and often. Doing advising is a part of his or her job.