Majoring in Philosophy

Note: The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at    

Before You Declare Philosophy

If you are interested in majoring, it is a good idea to take a 1000 or 2000-level course as early as possible to get a feeling for philosophy as an academic discipline. Most of the 1000- and 2000-level courses provide a good introduction to the subject matter of philosophy. The PHIL 2110 & 2120 sequence should be of special interest to the potential major. It provides a rather detailed survey of the history of philosophy from ancient to modern. If you are thinking about declaring a major you are encouraged to speak to the undergraduate advisor – currently Ross Cameron – who can answer questions not answered here. The undergraduate advisor can also put you in touch with current philosophy majors who can tell you more about the major from a student's point of view.

Prerequisite for Major

Students must have passed at least one philosophy course (a course with the PHIL mnemonic) with a grade of C or better before declaring the philosophy major. The only exception to this policy shall be the following: if a student is currently enrolled in a philosophy course the DUP, in consultation with the instructor of said course, may allow a student to declare the major.

Declaring a Major

To declare a major in philosophy simply pick up a "Declaration of Major" form from the Office of the Dean of the College (Monroe Hall) or from the Philosophy Department Office in Cocke Hall. Next, make an appointment to see the undergraduate advisor in the Philosophy Department in order to complete the declaration form. When you declare you will be assigned an advisor within the Philosophy Department. You should meet with your advisor during preregistration week of each semester to plan your schedule for the coming semester.


The major in philosophy is designed to sharpen the student's analytical and creative skills, and to enhance clarity of exposition. It also acquaints the student with some of the most important themes in the history of Western thought. In order to fulfill the requirements for a major in philosophy, a student must complete at least three credits of course work in each of the three areas of metaphysics and epistemology, logic, ethics, and at least six credits of course work in the history of philosophy, with the courses to be selected from among those listed below.

M&E PHIL 3310 (Metaphysics), PHIL 3320 (Epistemology), PHIL 3330 (Philosophy of Mind)

PHIL 2420 (Introduction to Symbolic Logic), PHIL 5420 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 1410 (Forms of Reasoning).

NB: PHIL 1410 satisfies the logic requirement but it does not count towards the 30 credit requirement.

Ethics PHIL 3710 (Ethics), PHIL 3720 (Contemporary Ethics), PHIL 3730 (Ancient Ethical Theory), PHIL 2760 (Classics in Political Philosophy), PHIL 2770 (Political Philosophy)

All majors must take either PHIL 2110 (History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval) or PHIL 2120 (History of Philosophy: Modern).

Those who take PHIL 2110 (Ancient and Medieval) must also take at least one of the following: PHIL 3140 (History of Medieval Philosophy), PHIL 3150 (17th Century Philosophy), PHIL 3160 (18th Century Philosophy), or PHIL 3170 (Kant).

Those who take PHIL 2120 (Modern) must also take at least one of the following: PHIL 3110 (Plato), PHIL 3120 (Aristotle), PHIL 3130 (Hellenistic Philosophy), PHIL 3140 (History of Medieval Philosophy).

NB: PHIL 3140 can count as either ancient or modern.

Normally, students may count up to six transfer credits in philosophy courses towards the philosophy major, but transfer credits cannot be used to satisfy any of the above requirements. Students wishing to transfer credit must consult the DUP for approval. Currently matriculated students must do so prior to taking the course(s) in question; transfer students should consult the DUP as soon as possible.

A philosophy major requires a total of 30 credits of courses numbered 2000 or higher. Students double majoring in philosophy need 24 credits of courses numbered 2000 or higher.

Summer School

The Philosophy Department ordinarily offers three or four courses each summer. Because these summer courses are usually at the 1000-level, students should not expect to take summer courses to work towards completion of the requirements for the philosophy major.

Double Majors

A number of philosophy majors are double majors, and we encourage students who are interested in doing this to try it. Students who double-major need 24 credits of philosophy classes at the 2000+ level. Majors with which the philosophy major is often combined include: English, mathematics, economics, government, biology, anthropology, and history. Many students also combine a philosophy major with a pre-med curriculum.

Academic Standards

Normally, courses being applied to the major must be completed with a grade of C or higher. Students who incur a C- in a Philosophy course are placed on probation as majors for the following semester. Further, students whose cumulative GPA in major courses falls below 2.0 will also be placed on probation for the following semester. Absent significant improvement in their academic performance, these students may be discontinued as a major in Philosophy.

Seminars for Majors

The seminars for majors are small seminars in which a specific philosophical problem is studied intensively. Recent seminars have been on the problem of universals, utilitarianism, skepticism, perception and selected topics in Plato and Aristotle. The majors participating in this Seminar help choose the seminar topic and are expected to present at least one seminar paper during the semester. These seminars can be extremely rewarding, offering the student an opportunity to investigate and grapple with a philosophical problem in the context of a group of equally interested inquirers.

Independent Study and the Senior Thesis

Majors who wish to do independent work with a specific instructor should either speak to the instructor or their major advisor. If the instructor agrees, the student should register for either PHIL 4993 or 4995. Both of these are 3 credit courses and count towards the major. A Senior Thesis is not required for the major. However, students who plan to go on in philosophy are strongly encouraged to consider a project of this kind. Ideally a student should begin research on the thesis topic in the sixth or seventh semester. This initial preparation should be done under the supervision of a faculty member as a 3 credit Independent Study. The actual writing of the thesis should be done during the following semester as another 3 credit course (PHIL 4999 Senior Thesis).