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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

B.A. in Philosophy

Undergraduate Overview

Philosophy is a field with a tradition reaching back many thousands of years but is also an area of very active current research. The study of philosophy at Syracuse University covers both its historical and contemporary aspects.

The study of philosophy is perhaps the most liberal of the liberal arts, an ideal way to participate in the life of the mind. It expands one's imagination and deepens one's understanding of our culture and its history.

Philosophy develops skills for many careers and professions: the careful analytical reading of texts, the construction and evaluation of arguments, and the writing of clear, effective prose. An undergraduate philosophy major is excellent preparation for law school, for government service, for a career in publishing, and even for a successful career in business and finance (Philosophy majors include J. Paul Getty, Carl Icahn, Gerald Levin, George Soros, Carly Fiorina, and many others).

Philosophy majors at Syracuse University often combine their study with a major or minor in another discipline either within or outside the College of Arts and Sciences.

Majors are required to take a standard course in introductory logic, a seminar for majors, and courses in each of the following core areas of philosophy: History (Ancient and Early Modern), Metaphysics and Epistemology, Value theory (including aesthetics), Logic, Language, and the Philosophy of Science. Majors also typically take one or more courses that focus on the philosophical examination of some other area of knowledge: the philosophy of social science, the philosophy of psychology, the philosophy of art, the philosophy of religion, and so on.

The Philosophy Department has an active program of visiting speakers throughout the year that is open to all members of the University community; majors are more than welcome to attend. The Philosophy Seminar Room and Library is located in 538 Hall of Languages next to the Philosophy Department Office (541 HL) and is available to Philosophy students for quiet study when not in use for a scheduled seminar or meeting. The common room, HL 539, is open for all who are interested in informal philosophical discussion.

For all inquiries about course registration, please call the philosophy department at 315.443.2245, or visit 541 Hall of Languages. Students wishing to discuss majoring or minoring in philosophy should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Kara Richardson, 537 Hall of Languages, kricha03@syr.edu.

Sample Major Requirements

The following requirements went into effect in August 2015 and only apply to students who first enrolled at S.U. for the Fall 2015 semester or later. If you enrolled at S.U. prior to Fall 2015, please do not hesitate to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Kara Richardson (kricha03@syr.edu).

The major requires 30 credit hours in philosophy, at least 24 credits of which are numbered 300 or above. Only courses in which a student receives a grade of at least C count towards the major.

Each student must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Logic: PHI 251
  • Philosophy Majors' Seminar: PHI 401
  • History of Philosophy: at least two of the following:
    • PHI 307 - Ancient Philosophy
    • PHI 308 - Classical Islamic Philosophy
    • PHI 311 - The Rationalists
    • PHI 313 - British Philosophy
    • PHI 317 - Political Philosophy: The Social Contract Tradition and its Critics
    • PHI 391 - History of Ethics
    • PHI 418 - Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche
    • PHI 510 - Topics in Ancient Philosophy
  • Metaphysics, Epistemology, Mind, Language, and Logic: At least one of the following:
    • PHI 321 - Twentieth Century Theories of Knowledge, Reality, and Meaning
    • PHI 351 - Logic and Language
    • PHI 373 - Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
    • PHI 375 - Philosophy of Biology:What Can Evolution Explain?
    • PHI 376 - Philosophy of Mind
    • PHI 377 - Philosophy of Psychology
    • PHI 378 - Minds and Machines
    • PHI 381 - Metaphysics
    • PHI 383 - Free Will
    • PHI 385 - Personal Identity
    • PHI 387 - Epistemology
    • PHI 551 - Mathematical Logic
    • PHI 552 - Modal Logic
    • PHI 555 - Philosophy of Mathematics
    • PHI 565 - Philosophy of Language
    • PHI 573 - Philosophy of Physical Science
    • PHI 575 - Philosophy of Social Science
    • PHI 576 - Philosophy of Mind
    • *Other appropriate course approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • Value Theory: At least one of the following:
    • PHI 317 - Political Philosophy: The Social Contract Tradition and its Critics
    • PHI 379 - American Slavery and the Holocaust
    • PHI 391 - History of Ethics
    • PHI 393 - Contemporary Ethics
    • PHI 394 - Environmental Ethics
    • PHI 395 - Philosophy of Art
    • PHI 396 - Stem Cells and Society
    • PHI 397 - Philosophy of Law
    • PHI 398 - Medical Ethics
    • PHI 417 - Contemporary Political Philosophy
    • PHI 493 - Contemporary Ethical Issues
    • PHI 593 - Ethics and the Health professions
    • *Other appropriate course approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies