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Philosophy Major and Minor

Overview

Philosophy investigates the foundations of reality, knowledge, and value. Examples of philosophical questions include: What is the mind and how is it related to the body? What is the difference between knowledge and belief and how can we acquire knowledge? Why is there so much moral disagreement and what does this say about the nature of morality?  And what is it for human beings to flourish and how can we organize society to promote human flourishing? Students who study philosophy can expect to receive training in these fundamental areas of inquiry, and also in clear thinking, inventive synthesis, and precise expression.

The Department offers a wide range of courses, including courses on historical figures, such as Plato and Kant, traditional philosophical topics,  such as the nature of time, free will, beauty, and the just society, and several that deal with the philosophy of various disciplines outside philosophy itself, such as science, artificial intelligence, medicine, and law.

Since philosophy often reflects on fundamental concepts in other areas of intellectual inquiry, philosophy is an excellent second major or minor to pair with many other programs of study. For example, students in political science can take courses in ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law; students in linguistics and computer science can take courses in logic, formal methods, and philosophy of language; and students in psychology can take courses in the philosophy of mind and human reasoning.

In studying philosophy, students develop the skills required to clarify and critically analyze ideas and arguments, both orally and in writing. As a result, studying philosophy provides excellent preparation for professions such as law, medicine, government, business, and any field that demands intellectual rigor (See Why Study Philosophy for more information on how studying philosophy provides preparation for a variety of careers). 


Please see the the links below for information about the Philosophy major, the Philosophy minor, our  honors program, our program objective, and careers and internships.

Course Requirements for Major

The requirements for a Major in Philosophy are as follows (in addition to the usual degree requirements for the Arts & Humanities, such as the global engagement requirement):

A total of at least 36 hours (twelve courses) in philosophy. 

Up to 9 credit hours (three courses) from outside of PHIL may be counted towards the major degree upon departmental approval.

For a course to count toward a student's major, the grade in the course must be C- or above. The average of all grades counted toward the major must be 2.0 or greater. Therefore, grades of C- will have to be balanced with higher grades. (C- counts as 1.7 toward the GPA.)

The twelve philosophy courses must be distributed as follows:

  • at least six courses numbered 300 or above, of which at least two must be numbered 400 or above.
  • at least one course in logic at any level.
  • at least two courses numbered 200 or above in the history of pre-twentieth-century philosophy.
  • at least two courses numbered 200 or above in value theory (including aesthetics and political philosophy as well as ethics).
  • at least two courses numbered 200 or above in metaphysics or epistemology (including philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion, as well as metaphysics and theory of knowledge).

Here is a list of philosophy courses that can be used to satisfy the various distributive requirements.  Please note that not all of the courses on this list are taught every year.  The department also offers new courses from time to time that may not appear on this list.  You should check with an advisor to determine what, if any, distributive requirement such a course fulfills.

Benchmarks

Students should organize their course of study to make sure they acheive the following "benchmarks"

  • Year 1 (after declaring the major):  PHIL170; one other course in PHIL
  • Year 2:  one course in the History of Philosophy; one other course in PHIL
  • Year 3:  five PHIL courses

Students are reminded that if there is a topic that doesn't figure in our list of courses, they are welcome to ask a faculty member to teach an individual study course on that topic (working either with a single student, or with a small group).

Course Requirements for Minor

The requirements for a Minor in Philosophy are as follows:

A total of at least 18 hours (six courses, at least three of which must be at least 300 level or above) in philosophy. For a course to count toward a student's minor, the grade in the course must be C- or above.  The average of all grades counted toward the minor must be 2.0 or greater. Therefore, grades of C- will have to be balanced with higher grades. (C- counts as 1.7 toward the GPA.)   Candidates for the Minor must satisfy the following distribution:

  • at least one course numbered 200 or above in the history of pre-twentieth-century philosophy.
  • at least one course numbered 200 or above in value theory (including aesthetics and political philosophy as well as ethics).
  • at least one course numbered 200 or above in metaphysics or epistemology (including philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion, as well as metaphysics and theory of knowledge).

Here is a list of philosophy courses that can be used to satisfy the various distributive requirements.  Please note that not all of the courses on this list are taught every year.  The department also offers new courses from time to time that may not appear on this list.  You should check with an advisor to determine what, if any, distributive requirement such a course fulfills.

Honors Program

The Philosophy Honors Program allows exceptional students the opportunity to work closely with a member of the Philosophy faculty on a project, typically a 30-40 page philosophical paper (i.e., “Honors Thesis”), during the final two semesters of their undergraduate career. The two semesters of independent study with the faculty advisor culminate in the student presenting and defending the Honors Thesis before a committee consisting of 2-3 faculty members in addition to the advisor. Successful students will graduate with Honors in Philosophy. Requirements and Procedures:

  • A prospective honors student should normally have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and a GPA of 3.75 in philosophy classes with no grade below a C in any philosophy course.
    • A prospective honors student should find a willing faculty advisor in the spring semester before the senior year.*
    • The student must present a proposal to the prospective advisor at the end of the spring semester.*
    • The proposal will typically include a list of proposed readings, a clear and appropriately narrow topic, and a projected position to be defended in the Honors Thesis.
    • This proposal will then be submitted to the Undergraduate Affairs Committee for approval.
       
  • If the proposal is approved, the student will enroll in 498F (3 credits) the following semester and the student and advisor will agree on a schedule for meetings and the work expected by the end of the semester.
     
  • At the end of the semester, the advisor will evaluate the student’s progress and will decide whether the student should continue work on the Honors Thesis for another semester.
     
  • If, at the end of the first semester, the advisor judges that the project should not continue, the student will be given a grade for 498F but will not enroll in 498G in the subsequent semester and will not receive an Honors degree.
     
  • If, at the end of the first semester, the advisor thinks the project should continue, the student will enroll in 498G (3 credits) and the student and advisor will agree on a schedule of meetings and a timeline for completion of the Honors Thesis.
     
  • The student, in consultation with the advisor, will arrange an examining committee of at least 2 faculty members in addition to the advisor. The student will present and defend the Honors Thesis before this examining committee. The faculty advisor determines the grade for 498G but the committee determines whether the student graduates with Honors.

*or, for students graduating in December, the semester prior to the student’s next to last semester.

Students admitted into the Philosophy Honors program are considered members of the Honors College, whether or not they were Honors students when they were admitted to UMD. For more information on the benefits associated with being a member of the Honors College, see:

http://www.honors.umd.edu/departmentalhonors.html.

Program Objectives

The philosophy program aims to:

(1) Provide students with an understanding of a range of philosophers and philosophical problems, while encouraging as deep a critical engagement with those philosophers and problems as is feasible in the time available.

(2) Equip students with the core skills involved in: careful reading; sympathetic interpretation and understanding; critical reflection; rational argumentation; creative problem solving; and the clear and well-organized expression of ideas.

(3) Facilitate an awareness of the application of philosophical thought to other academic disciplines or to matters of public interest, encouraging students to apply philosophical skills more widely where appropriate.

Careers and Internships

The College of Arts and Humanities has a special office devoted to career and internship advising for students majoring or minoring in arts and humanities. Services provided by the University Career Center @ ARHU include: 

  • Job search strategies (networking, follow-up etiquette, informational interviews, etc.)
  • Developing customized application materials for desired industry or field of choice
  • Preparing for interviews
  • Salary research
  • How to make contacts within a specific industry
  • Internship search strategies 

Please see their webpage for information on walk-in hours and scheduling an appointment.

The Bright Future ‘Unpaid Internship’ Scholarship awards students with need-based scholarships ranging from $250-$1250 to help offset expenses incurred during unpaid internships. Click here for more details. 

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Rachel Singpurwalla

Associate Professor, Philosophy
Affiliate Faculty, Classics

1120A Skinner Building
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-5844