Four Year Plan: Philosophy Major

Freshman Year

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

PHIL 100 or PHIL 200


Sophomore Year

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

PHIL 260

PHIL 261

PHIL 350 or PHIL Elective


Junior Year

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

PHIL 350 or PHIL Elective

PHIL 385 or PHIL 390

Senior Year

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

PHIL Elective

PHIL 385 or PHIL 390

PHIL Elective or PHIL 495

PHIL Elective or PHIL 495

 

All this is just a recommendation. The important facts are these:

  • PHIL 260 and 261 constitute a year-long sequence in the history of philosophy. This should also be completed fairly early. PHIL 260 is offered every fall and PHIL 261 is offered every spring. Either of these courses may be taken first (neither is a prerequisite for the other).
  • PHIL 350 (Ethics) is offered every year—usually in the fall.
  • PHIL 385 (Epistemology) and PHIL 390 (Metaphysics) are taught every other spring—PHIL 385 one year, PHIL 390 the next.
  • PHIL 495 (Advanced Seminar) is offered at least once a year. This is best taken late—it can serve as a sort of capstone course—but note that its content constantly varies and that it may be taken more than once.

Other facts worth noting:

  • For students who declared the major prior to 2004-2005, PHIL 240 and PHIL 241 (Formal Logic I and Formal Logic II) were required courses, but this is no longer true as of 2004-2005. When those six hours of specifically required courses were eliminated from the major, we increased the number of required PHIL electives from nine to twelve, with the result that what had been a 33 hour major became a 30 hour major.
  • For students declaring the major prior to 2005-2006, a minor is also required unless philosophy is a part of a double major. Choice of a minor should be discussed with the major adviser. In principle, any minor is acceptable. Starting in 2005-2006, no minor will any longer be required of anyone majoring in philosophy.
  • We strongly recommend that majors complete at least two years of study in a foreign language—preferably French or German. This is not, however, a requirement.
  • Career options are virtually unlimited. An undergraduate degree in philosophy can, of course, provide the foundation for graduate study in philosophy itself, and that, in turn, can provide the basis for a professional career in philosophy and for teaching philosophy at the college level. Yet this is by no means the only use to which the degree can be put. Undergraduate work in philosophy provides an excellent foundation for careers in law, medicine, and business and in a number of other pursuits. The question is not “What can one do with philosophy?” but “What doesn’t philosophy help one do better still?”

Since not many people encounter philosophy before they get to college, most of our students declare the major as sophomores or juniors—usually after having had a course or two in philosophy. Because only 30 hours of course work are required for the major—not counting the hours required for a minor—this is quite feasible. All the same, students should avoid declaring the major so late that they have to take more than three philosophy courses in any given semester. Philosophy courses are typically very demanding, and few people find that they can manage as many as four or five of them at once.

Again, the fact that only 30 hours of course work are required in the major helps make it possible to take philosophy as a part of a double major. Some students find this option attractive because while they find themselves drawn to philosophy, they want the security of having a more “practical” major too. Still, as the American Philosophical Association itself has said (in Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates, prepared by the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession; Robert Audi, principal author, published by the American Philosophical Association, 1982):

[T]he...value of a field of study must not be viewed mainly in terms of its contribution to obtaining one's first job after graduation. Students are understandably preoccupied with getting their first job, but even from a narrow vocational point of view it would be short-sighted to concentrate on that at the expense of developing potential for success and advancement once hired. What gets graduates initially hired may not yield promotions or carry them beyond their first position, particularly given how fast the needs of many employers alter with changes in social and economic patterns. It is therefore crucial to see beyond what a job description specifically calls for. Philosophy need not be mentioned among a job's requirements in order for the benefits derivable from philosophical study to be appreciated by the employer, and those benefits need not even be explicitly appreciated in order to be effective in helping one advance....

[E]mployers want, and reward, many of the capacities which the study of philosophy develops: for instance, the ability to solve problems, to communicate, to organize ideas and issues, to assess pros and cons, and to boil down complex data. These capacities represent transferable skills. They are transferable not only from philosophy to non-philosophical areas, but from one non-philosophical field to another. For that reason, people trained in philosophy are not only prepared to do many kinds of tasks; they can also cope with change, or even move into new careers, more readily than many others.

Regarding current trends in business, a writer in the New York Times reported that “businessmen are coming to appreciate an education that at its best produces graduates who can write and think clearly and solve problems” (June 23, 1981). A recent long-term study by the Bell Telephone Company, moreover, determined that majors in liberal arts fields, in which philosophy is a central discipline, “continue to make a strong showing in managerial skills and have experienced considerable business success” (Career Patterns, by Robert E. Beck). The study concluded that “there is no need for liberal arts majors to lack confidence in approaching business careers....”

As all this suggests, there are people trained in philosophy in just about every field. They have gone not only into such professions as teaching (at all levels), medicine, and law, but into computer science, management, publishing, sales, criminal justice, public relations, and other fields.