“Philosophy” means “love of wisdom” and philosophers demonstrate that love by asking questions about fundamental issues: What is reality? Is truth attainable? Is science the path to truth? Is beauty universal? Does the universe have a purpose? Is there a right way to live? How should we interact with other species and the non-human environment?

As these examples reveal, philosophical questions cut across the boundaries of science, art, politics, and religion – crucial to all these areas yet belonging to none of them. They demand that we subject both our experiences and our beliefs to critical scrutiny. While unsettling at times, the practice of philosophy yields a fuller understanding of our belief systems, sciences, arts, values and ourselves.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

PHIL 101, Introduction to Philosophy (offered every semester)
PHIL 102, Introduction to Ethics (offered every semester)
PHIL 103, Logic (offered every semester)

PHIL104, Practical Ethics (offered every semester)
PHIL 113, Introductory Topics in Philosophy (topics vary; offered occasionally)
PHIL 201, Ancient Philosophy (offered only every fall; prerequisite: one prior course in philosophy, or permission of instructor)
PHIL 202, 17th and 18th Century philosophy (offered only every spring; prerequisite: one prior course in philosophy, or permission of instructor)

While most First-Year students should take their first course in Philosophy at the 100-level, some students have the background and ambition to seek permission to take their first Philosophy course at Dickinson at the 200-level. Those students should contact the course instructor or department chair.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Philosophy.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Humanities (Division I A):  
Any course taught in the department

Quantitative Reasoning (QR):  
PHIL 103, Logic

Writing in the Discipline (WID):

PHIL 301, Metaphysics

PHIL 302, Ethical Theory

PHIL 303, Epistemology

PHIL 304, Philosophy of Language

Suggested curricular flow through the major

First Year
PHIL 101 or 102 or 104
PHIL 103*

Sophomore Year
PHIL 201* (offered only in the fall)

PHIL 202* (offered only in the spring)
200-level electives

Junior Year
200 level electives
300 level seminars*♦

Senior Year
PHIL 401 (offered only in the fall)*
PHIL 300 level seminar*♦

*required for the major
♦taught as WID course
10 courses total which must include 103, 201, 202, two 300 level seminars, 401 (senior seminar)

Suggested four-year course plan for the Ethics minor:

First Year
PHIL 102 or PHIL 104

Sophomore Year
PHIL 102 or PHIL 104, one 200-level course

Junior Year
Two 200-level courses focused on ethics in the Department of Philosophy or cross listed with the ethics minor

Senior Year
One 300-level course focused on ethics in the Department of Philosophy


Students may complete an honors thesis in their senior year. The thesis is an original piece of philosophical writing, the product of student research and reflection, written under the guidance of a member of the department acting as advisor. Usually, students work on the thesis for two semesters senior year, enrolling in Independent Research (PHIL 500) each semester. Honors are awarded upon successful oral defense of the completed thesis.

For more details on honors in philosophy, please see the department's guidelines.

Independent study and independent research

The department supports independent study by its majors, especially as leading to an Honors thesis (see below). Any student interested in independent study in philosophy should see the appropriate instructor to negotiate topics, readings, and logistics.


Many students have found ways to combine their philosophical interests with internships, particularly in areas of applied ethics, law, or public policy. Contact the department chair.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Majors are encouraged to study abroad, at the Dickinson program at UEA or elsewhere. In the past majors have studied at universities in several other countries. The program at UEA is particularly well suited to support Dickinson philosophy majors in a year of study abroad. Contact the department chair.

Additional Remarks

Careers: Graduates with Philosophy majors enjoy a wide range of career options. They find that their philosophical education gives them the ability to think logically and analytically about problems and their solutions, to research and read carefully, and to express themselves in clear, logical and effective writing and speech. This is a skill set which meets the needs of employers in business, education, public service and advocacy, and many of our graduates have careers in these areas. These skills are also congenial to a career in law and many philosophy department graduates become lawyers.  Others move into careers in medicine, social work and computer science. Our graduates include lawyers, doctors, bankers, corporate managers, researchers, teachers, a biomedical ethicist, a yoga instructor and a career counselor who maintains that philosophy prepares one “for anything”.

Those of our graduates who continue their studies for a Ph.D. have received degrees from top graduate programs in Philosophy. Our departmental alumni include professors of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin, Illinois State University, Hofstra University, West Chester University and St. Norbert College.