Major & Minor Requirements

Philosophy Majors

Major Requirements

Philosophy Major checklist (pdf)

The following requirements apply to all philosophy majors, except where noted. In addition to our regular major, we offer three specialized "tracks": a Philosophy Research track, a Law and Policy track, and a Philosophy of Science track.

Majors are declared online via WebSTAC.

Unit requirements

Philosophy majors are required to complete at least 27 total units (e.g. 9 three-unit courses). All 27 units must have a grade of C- or above. Of these 27 units:

  • 21 units (e.g. 7 three-unit courses) must be at the 300-level or above.
  • 6 units (e.g. 2 three-unit courses) must be at the 400-level or above, of which only 3 units (e.g. 1 three-unit course) may be from an independent study course.

Course requirements

In addition to the unit requirements, majors must complete:

  • Three core courses, one in each of the three core areas 

  • Either a Writing Intensive philosophy course or a fourth core course
  • A Capstone Experience, i.e. either Philosophy 3991 or an Honors Thesis

See relevant sections below for more details about these additional requirements.

General policies
The following policies apply to all philosophy students (majors and minors):

  • Courses that count towards the major or minor may not be taken pass/fail.
  • Majors and minors should enroll in courses using the L30 (Philosophy) course number.
  • Courses offered by departments other than philosophy do not count towards the major or minor, absent approval from the undergraduate director. (In the course listings, these are courses whose "Course Type" is "Ident," as opposed to those courses whose course type is "Home"; only the latter automatically count towards the philosophy major or minor.)
  • Summer courses do not count towards the major or minor, absent approval from the undergraduate director.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences places restrictions on "double counting" courses toward more than one major or minor program; refer to the current Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Bulletin for more information.

Students who spend one semester in a study abroad program may receive up to 6 units towards the major or 3 units toward the minor for philosophy courses taken in an approved philosophy program, and students who spend a full year in a study abroad program may receive up to 9 units towards the major or 6 units toward the minor. Refer to the Study Abroad page for more details.

Core Courses

Contemporary/Analytic

  • 301G Symbolic Logic
  • 306G Philosophy of Language
  • 3113 Theory of Knowledge
  • 315 Philosophy of Mind
  • 321G Philosophy of Science
  • 3481 Introduction to Metaphysics
  • 361 Philosophy of Emotions

History

  • 347C Ancient Philosophy
  • 349C Descartes to Hume
  • 357C Kant & 19th Century Philosophy
  • 358 Conceptual Foundations of Modern Science

Value Theory

  • 331F Classical Ethical Theories
  • 339F Philosophy of the Arts
  • 340F Social and Political Philosophy
  • 345F Issues in Applied Ethics
  • 346 Philosophy of Law
  • 361 Philosophy of Emotions

Explore our Course Listings for more details.

Writing Intensive Course

Writing Intensive Course

All students in Arts & Sciences are required to take a Writing Intensive course. Majors are encouraged to fulfill their Writing Intensive requirement by taking Philosophy 390 (which is offered every Fall semester) or a regular philosophy offering that is specially designated as “Writing Intensive.” These courses are typically taken in the junior year and are limited to 15 students. A philosophy major who does not take a philosophy writing intensive seminar must take a fourth core course, in any of the three core areas.

Philosophy 390: Philosophical Writing

This seminar is the "Writing Intensive" course in Philosophy. It will have a different topic of central philosophical importance each semester. Significant attention will also be devoted to conceiving, researching, writing, revising, critiquing, and presenting philosophical essays. This seminar is also designed to be a small, specialized seminar for philosophy majors (and others with a strong interest in philosophy). This course will have a cap of 15 students, and a requirement that students write and then revise at least three papers. Typically taken in the junior year. Priority will be given to philosophy majors and minors who have not yet completed their Writing Intensive requirement.

Capstone Experience

Capstone Experience

All Philosophy majors are required to complete a Capstone Experience, either by taking Philosophy 3991 (which is offered every Spring semester) or by writing an Honors Thesis. (Students who write an Honors Thesis enroll in Philosophy 499.) To qualify for doing an honors thesis, students must have, at the end of the junior year, at least a 3.65 GPA in the major, a 3.65 GPA in advanced philosophy courses, and a 3.65 overall GPA. Alternatively, majors sign up for Phil 3991 (a three-credit course).

Philosophy 3991: Philosophy Capstone Course

This course will focus either on classic writings from the past century or on contemporary writings that address a major philosophical concern, such as "The Meaning of Life" or "The Concept of Self". In either case, the course will draw together a variety of philosophical specializations. Must be taken by all philosophy majors who are not writing an honors project. Prerequisite: Senior standing, major in philosophy; preference given to those majors not pursuing Honors.

Major Tracks

Philosophy Research Track

The Philosophy Research Track is especially recommended for students who plan to pursue graduate studies and an advanced degree in philosophy - a must for anyone interested in a career as a university or college philosophy teacher. It will give the student a broad background in philosophy, which is a competitive advantage when applying to graduate programs in the field.

The requirements for the Philosophy Research track are the same as the regular major requirements (see above), with the following exceptions:

  • Philosophy Research majors must take 36 total units (e.g. 12 three-unit courses).
  • All 36 units must have a grade of C- or above.
  • 30 of those units (e.g. 10 three-unit courses) must be at the 300-level or above.
  • 6 of those units (e.g. 2 three-unit courses) must be at the 400-level or above, of which only 3 units (e.g. 1 three-unit course) may be from an independent study course.
  • Philosophy Research majors must take Philosophy 100 (Logic and Critical Analysis) and one additional 100-level course, preferably Philosophy 120 (Problems in Philosophy) or 125 (Great Philosophers).
  • To fulfill their Contemporary/Analytic core requirement, Philosophy Research majors must take Philosophy 301 (Symbolic Logic); one of either Philosophy 3113 (Theory of Knowledge) or Philosophy 3481 (Introduction to Metaphysics); and one of either Philosophy 306 (Philosophy of Language), Philosophy 315 (Philosophy of Mind) or Philosophy 321 (Philosophy of Science).
  • To fulfill their History core requirement, Philosophy Research majors must take two core courses in History (or a 400-level course in the history of philosophy may be substituted for a second 300-level course).
  • To fulfill their Value Theory core requirement, Philosophy Research majors must take Philosophy 331 (Classical Ethical Theories) and one of Philosophy 4315 (Normative Ethical Theory) or Philosophy 4310 (Metaethics).

Philosophy Research major checklist (pdf)

Law and Policy Track

The Law and Policy track is especially recommended for students who intend to pursue a career in law or public policy. The track involves taking certain specific courses for the major, and possibly a few extra courses, that will provide the student with additional preparation and a competitive edge when applying to law school, post-graduate programs in public policy, and related jobs.

The requirements for the Law and Policy track are the same as the regular major requirements, with the following exceptions:

  • Law and Policy majors must take Philosophy 100 (Logic and Critical Analysis) or 301 (Symbolic Logic). As well, a 100-level course other than Philosophy 100 and a 200-level course is strongly recommended.
  • To fulfill their Value Theory core requirement, Law and Policy majors must take Philosophy 340 (Social and Political Philosophy) and Philosophy 346 (Philosophy of Law). As well, an additional core course in Value Theory is strongly recommended.

 Law and Policy major checklist (pdf) 

Philosophy of Science Track

The Philosophy of Science track is available only as a second major in combination with work in one or more of the sciences. It is intended for those students with a scientific background who have an interest in pursuing philosophical issues relating to the natural and physical sciences.

The requirements for the Philosophy of Science track are the same as the regular major requirements, with the following exceptions:

  • To complete their Contemporary/Analytic core requirement, Philosophy of Science majors must complete Philosophy 301 (Symbolic Logic), Philosophy 321G (Philosophy of Science), and Philosophy 4210 (Topics in Advanced Philosophy of Science).
  • To complete their History core requirement, Philosophy of Science majors must complete either Philosophy 347C (Ancient Philosophy), Philosophy 349C (Descartes to Hume), or Philosophy 358 (Conceptual Foundations of Modern Science).
  • Philosophy of Science majors are not required to complete a core course in Value Theory.
  • Philosophy of Science majors must take 12 units (e.g. 4 three-unit courses) from the list of "advanced courses" below.

Advanced courses for the Philosophy of Science track:

*No more than 6 units can be taken in any given subject area.
**We strongly encourage students to take 3 units in philosophy of the special sciences: Philosophy of Biological Science, Neuroscience, Psychology, or Medicine.

General Philosophy
390 Philosophical Writing (only offered in the fall)
426 Theories and Concepts

Logic and Method
405 Philosophical Logic
4051 Philosophy of Logic

Epistemology and Metaphysics
3113 Theory of Knowledge
3481 Intro to Metaphysics
4141 Advanced Epistemology
4142 Advanced Metaphysics
4332 Cognition and Computation

Life and Science
3001 Philosophy of Medicine**
4212 Philosophy of Neuroscience**
423 Philosophy of Biological Science**

Mind and Science
315 Philosophy of Mind
418 Current Controversies in Cognitive Science
419 Philosophy of Psychology**
4212 Philosophy of Neuroscience**
495 PNP Seminar

 Philosophy of Science major checklist (pdf) 

Philosophy Minor

Minor Requirements

The following requirements apply to all philosophy minors, except where noted. Minors are declared online via WebSTAC.

Unit requirements

Philosophy minors are required to complete at least 18 total units (e.g. 6 three-unit courses), all with a C- or above. 12 of these units (e.g. 4 three-unit courses) must be at the 300-level or above.

Course requirements

Minors must complete three core courses, on in each of the three core areas.

General policies

The following policies apply to all philosophy students (majors and minors):

  • Courses that count towards the major or minor may not be taken pass/fail.
  • Majors and minors should enroll in courses using the L30 (philosophy) course number.
  • Courses offered by departments other than philosophy do not count towards the major or minor, absent approval form the undergraduate director. (In the corse listings, these are courses whose "Course Type" is "Ident," as opposed to those courses whose course type is "Home"; only the latter automatically count towards the philosophy major or minor.)
  • Summer courses do not count towards the major of minor, absent approval from the undergraduate director.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences places restrictions on "double counting" courses towards more than one major or minor program; refer to the current Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Bulletin for more information.
  • Students who spend one semester in a study abroad program may receive up to 6 units towards the major or 3 units toward the minor for philosophy courses taken in an approved philosophy program, and students who spend a full year in a study abroad program may receive up to 9 units towards the major or 6 units toward the minor. To count study-abroad credit towards the major or minor, students must have their courses approved in advance by their philosophy advisor, and submit written work and course documentation after the fact.

Normally philosophy minors will be expected to satisfy their core distribution requirements for the minor with courses taken at Washington University. However, when submitting their written work for the courses taken abroad, students may apply for three units of credit (one course) toward their distribution requirements, subject to approval by the department.

Philosophy Minor checklist (pdf)

Philosophy of Science Minor Checklist (PDF)

 

Philosophy Prizes

Stenner Essay Competition

Each fall semester the Department sponsors the Helen Stenner Memorial Essay Prize Competition, the winner of which receives a monetary prize. The competition is open to all undergraduate majors in the Department and is separate from the Stenner competition for graduate students. A notice advertising each year's prize competition is posted several months prior to the deadline for submission of papers.

Nishi Luthra Prize

Drs. Chaman and Adarsh Luthra established the Nishi Luthra Prize in Philosophy in memory of their daughter, Nishi, who was an undergraduate major in philosophy. This prize is awarded to an outstanding graduating philosophy major, determined by the department.