Major Requirements



As a discipline, philosophy reflects on the nature and foundations of every other discipline.

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Twelve credits in philosophy (or eleven credits and a two-semester, two-credit senior thesis) with a grade of at least C- in each, including at least one course that satisfies the logic requirement, and a total of at least six upper-level courses are required. Normally, courses in this latter category must be taken at Trinity. Three of the upper level courses should be courses in the History of Philosophy—Philosophy 281. Ancient Greek Philosophy, Philosophy 283. Early Modern Philosophy, and Philosophy 288. Modern Philosophy.

Majors are strongly urged to take PHIL 101 at an early stage of their philosophical development. Senior majors are also required to complete the senior exercise, for which instructions will be provided by the department.

Concentrations/Tracks: The departmental offerings are divided into five categories:

Introductory courses: These courses have no prerequisite. There is no single or best way to be introduced to philosophy, and the department offers a number of different introductory courses. All 100-level courses are introductory, as are courses numbered 200 through 250. If you are in doubt as to the best course for you, see a member of the department.

Courses satisfying the logic requirement: either PHIL 205. Symbolic Logic or PHIL 255. Philosophy of Logic (a student may not receive credit for both). PHIL 390. Advanced Logic also satisfies the requirement.

Courses in the history of philosophy:

  • PHIL 281. Ancient Greek Philosophy

  • PHIL 283. Early Modern Philosophy

  • PHIL 288. Modern Philosophy

Upper-level courses: These courses are appropriate for students who have progressed beyond introductory level study of philosophy.

  • PHIL 282. Medieval Philosophy

  • PHIL 306. 20th-Century Continental Philosophy

  • PHIL 307 to 339. Major figures in philosophy: Each year the department will offer at least one course entirely devoted to a close reading, analysis, and critique of the major work of one or more important philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Mill, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Dewey, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Sartre, Adorno, and Foucault.
  • PHIL 340 to 389. These will include other historically oriented courses on topics such as American philosophy, metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, and rationalism, German idealism, and the Frankfurt School.
  • PHIL 350 to 369. Courses in topical studies: these will include courses such as philosophy of language or philosophy of history.
  • PHIL 370 to 389. Seminar in philosophical problems: A study of some important philosophical problems such as the freedom of the will, the concept of space or time, the mind-body problem, the nature of meaning.

Individualized courses: These courses give students an opportunity to design, in conjunction with an adviser in the department, their own course of study. The student should see the department chair if in doubt as to who might be an appropriate adviser for a given topic.

PHIL 399. Independent Study: Independent, intensive study in a field of special interest requiring a wide range of reading and resulting in an extended paper. Normally there will be only a few meetings with the supervisor during the course of the semester.

PHIL 466. Teaching Assistantship: Work conducted in close consultation with the instructor of a single course and participation in teaching that course. Duties for a teaching assistant may include, for example, holding review sessions, reading papers, or assisting in class work. In addition, a paper may be required from the teaching assistant. This course may count as one of the 11 total required for the major, but will not count as one of the six required “upper-level” (300 and above) courses.

PHIL 499. Senior Thesis: A two-credit course culminating in an extended paper to be read by two or more members of the department. It may be organized like a tutorial or independent study. This is a required course for all students who wish to graduate with honors in philosophy. In order to be eligible for this course a student must have an A- average in the major or must successfully petition the department for an exemption.

The Writing Intensive Part II requirement is fulfilled by one of the following courses: PHIL 281, 282, 283, 288, or 306.

Electives: Cognate courses—A good philosopher should know at least a little something about everything. Hence any course, any job, any friendship, any bit of recreation is valuable if you reflect on it and learn from it. But there are some courses to which students of philosophy should give special consideration. Philosophical work often requires slow, painstaking reading; the study of a foreign language, particularly Greek or Latin, is usually effective in encouraging the habit of careful attention to a text. Students who work with a computer language may find that this provides a similar discipline. If the student is considering graduate study in philosophy, then some competence in Ancient Greek or Latin or French or German is especially recommended.

A student of philosophy should have a broad understanding of modern science. Any good science course (including the behavioral sciences) is suitable, but courses in the natural sciences and mathematics should be given first consideration.

Equally important is a familiarity with the humanistic culture of the West. Most philosophers are also scholars— they are educated people. In order to understand them, one has to have read widely in non-philosophical books. Hence courses in literature, history, and the arts should be elected. We recommend that the student find out which courses require the most reading, and take those.

We require no particular non-departmental courses as part of the major. Rather, we encourage all students who are interested in a philosophical education to talk to one or more members of the department about their abilities and interests. We will then be able to recommend a course of study that will make sense for each individual.

Capstone/Senior Project: The senior exercise in the philosophy department consist of a Senior Philosophy Conference. During the conference each senior major will present a paper (20 – 25 minutes long) on some philosophical topic of his or her choice. The paper might be a chapter from a senior thesis, a revised version of a paper submitted for a course, or something composed especially for the conference. The conference will give each senior the opportunity not only to share your ideas with fellow students and faculty, but also to find out what other senior majors have been working on this year.