6: College of Arts and Sciences

General Information | Academic Information | Departments and Programs | Faculty

Afro-American and African Studies | Anthropology | Archaeology | Art | Asian and Middle Eastern
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Department of Philosophy

Course Descriptions | Faculty

Overview   The main areas of study in philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy. In addition to these areas of study, the department also offers courses in aesthetics, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, biomedical ethics, and philosophy of law.

Some courses in these areas aim to acquaint the student with the most important intellectual traditions of our civilization, while others emphasize the characteristically philosophical activity of exposing and analyzing the arguments for and against the positions under discussion. Quite often, these two approaches are combined in the presentation of the material. Students of philosophy should have the desire to investigate some of the most fundamental and perplexing problems in the history of thought. The abilities and skills inculcated by the philosophical training are of lasting intellectual and personal value, for the ability to form one’s own views in a reasoned and rigorous manner forms the foundation of our democratic society, and the critical and analytical skills fostered by philosophy are valuable across a wide variety of other subjects. As part of a complete education, every student should take at least one philosophy course.

Faculty   The interests of the twelve faculty members cover all the principal areas of philosophy noted above. The department has a long tradition of commitment to undergraduate teaching, and a number of the faculty have achieved national and international prominence in their fields. All faculty in the department, including its most senior members, regularly teach undergraduate courses and seminars, including the large introductory lecture courses.

Students   Approximately seventy students are currently pursuing a major in philosophy. Students can choose from over fifty courses. Introductory lecture courses are usually designed as broad surveys of intellectual thought; these survey courses usually have enrollments of between fifty and two hundred students. Introductory seminar courses, on the other hand, are limited to between fifteen to twenty students and focus on much more specific topics. Upper-level courses typically enroll twenty to thirty students. Majors seminars and honors seminars are also offered; enrollment in these courses is limited to fifteen. Some advanced students may prefer to pursue independent study with a faculty member. Because philosophy is not usually taught in high schools, students would do well to begin with a 100-level or 200-level course before trying a 300-level or higher course.

Students who graduate with a philosophy major do so with the knowledge that they are well prepared for graduate work (more than 50 percent go on to graduate work) or the job market. Many attend law school. According to a recent study by the University’s Office of Career Planning and Placement, the average LSAT score for a philosophy major was nearly fifteen points higher than the average score for any other major. It is also worth noting that, according to a study recently completed by the American Medical Association, philosophy majors have the third highest acceptance rate into American medical schools. Those who do not attend graduate school often go into corporate work, with investment banking being the most popular career choice. Students who have studied philosophy are characterized by an independence and rigor of thought which serves them well in a wide variety of careers.

Requirements for Major   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 four areas of metaphysics and epistemology, logic, ethics, and history of philosophy, with the courses to be selected from among those listed below.

  1. Metaphysics and Epistemology   PHIL 331 (Metaphysics), PHIL 333 (Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem), PHIL 334 (Philosophy of Mind), PHIL 332 (Epistemology)
  2. Logic   PHIL 242 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 542 (Symbolic Logic), PHIL 141 (Forms of Reasoning), PHIL 142 (Basic Logic)
  3. Ethics   PHIL 351 (Ethics), PHIL 352 (Contemporary Ethics), PHIL 356 (Classics in Political Philosophy), PHIL 357 (Political Philosophy)
  4. History   PHIL 315 (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), PHIL 316 (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), PHIL 317 (Kant), PHIL 311 (Plato), PHIL 312 (Artistotle), PHIL 314 (History of Medieval Philosophy), PHIL 513 (Topics in Medieval Philosophy)

A philosophy major requires a total of 24 credits of courses numbered 200 or higher. If a student elects to satisfy the logic requirement by taking PHIL 141 or 142, those credits must be counted in addition to the regular 24 credit minimum.

The Distinguished Majors Program   The Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) is designed for students who wish to pursue their studies in philosophy beyond the requirements of the regular major. It requires both the study of a broad range of philosophical areas and a more concentrated examination of a single topic in the form of a senior thesis.

Students may apply to the DMP as early as the fifth semester before graduation and as late as the third semester before graduation. They must have completed at least two philosophy courses, and have a GPA of at least 3.4 in all philosophy courses taken. (In addition, they should have an overall GPA close enough to 3.4 to make it likely that they will be able to satisfy the College requirement of a final cumulative GPA of 3.4 for graduation with distinction.)

In order to complete the DMP a student must complete 30 credits of course work in philosophy, no more than 12 credits of which are at the 200-level. 100-level courses cannot be counted toward the satisfaction of the DMP requirements. The 30 credits must include:

  1. At least 3 credits of logic chosen from PHIL 242, PHIL 542, PHIL 543, PHIL 547.
  2. At least 3 credits of history chosen from PHIL 311, PHIL 312, PHIL 315, PHIL 316, PHIL 317.
  3. At least 3 credits of ethics or social philosophy chosen from PHIL 351, PHIL 352, PHIL 356, PHIL 357, PHIL 367, PHIL 368.
  4. At least 3 credits of metaphysics or epistemology chosen from PHIL 230, PHIL 329, PHIL 331, PHIL 332, PHIL 333, PHIL 334, PHIL 546.
  5. At least 3 credits of seminars for majors (PHIL 401, 402).
    (The selections from 4 and 5 can be regarded as satisfying the general DMP requirement for 6 credits of advanced course work.)
  6. Thesis: Six of the required 30 credits must be allocated as follows: (a) PHIL 493 (Directed Readings) to be used as a pre-thesis research course. The student must submit a thesis proposal to the undergraduate committee upon completion of this course (3 credits), (b) PHIL 498 Senior Thesis (3 credits).

The Philosophy Honors Program   In addition to the major programs listed above, the department offers a program of two years of tutorial study leading to the B.A. degree with honors in philosophy. Candidates are required to pass an examination in logic by the end of their first year in the program. At the end of their final year candidates are required to take written examinations in (1) epistemology, (2) metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, and (3) ethics. In addition, a candidate must either (a) submit a thesis upon a topic of his or her choice, or (b) take a written examination in one of the following: political philosophy, formal logic, philosophy of science, aesthetics, the writings of a major philosopher. An oral examination is held following the written examinations. Students should register for PHIL 490: Honors (15).

Requirements for Minor   The minor in philosophy consists of 15 credits of which no more than three credits may be below the 200 level. The program of study should be developed in consultation with a departmental advisor.

Additional Information   For more information, contact Jorge Secada, Undergraduate Advisor, Department of Philosophy, 507 Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7701.

Requirements for a Minor in Bioethics   21 credits including one course at the introductory level—either RELG 265 (Theology, Ethics, Medicine) or PHIL 252 (Bioethics: A Philosophical Perspective); BIOL 121 (Human Biology) or BIOL 201-202; 6 credits at the 300-level or higher in ethical and/or political theory, 3 credits of which must be in ethics; 6 credits at 300-level or higher in bioethics electives or closely related courses; and 3 credits in a capstone seminar for fourth-year students.

In order to fulfill the bioethics electives requirement of 6 credits, students may opt to take one course that, while not specifically focused on bioethics, still relates in a substantial way to the issues or methods of bioethics—e.g., BIOL 425 (Human Genetics), GFAP 471 (Values, Resources, and Public Policy), ANTH 329 (Marriage, Mortality and Fertility), SOC 426 (Health Care Systems). Students may not take all the electives from the same department. A list of such courses is kept current by Professor John Arras, the program director.

While most such electives should be at the 300-level or higher, some exceptions are approved (e.g., for ANTH 234, Race, Gender, and Medical Science). Which courses count is up to the discretion of the program director.

Students may take up to 3 credits for an appropriately structured internship in partial fulfillment of the bioethics electives requirement.

No more than 12 credits may be double counted both toward the student’s major and this minor. The type and number of courses that are eligible for double counting for each student is handled on a case-by-case basis by the program director in collaboration with students and their academic advisors. The director of the bioethics minor works with closely related departments (e.g., philosophy and religious studies) to ensure that appropriate limits are set on the number of bioethics electives that may count toward their respective majors.

Additional Information For more information contact John Arras, Program Director, Bioethics Program, 524 Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7868.

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