Philosophy Major

Goals for the Philosophy Major

Majoring in philosophy will acquaint one with important developments in ancient and early modern philosophy and how these developments influence contemporary philosophical debates. Moreover, because philosophy is in the business of critically evaluating the reasons offered to support hypotheses, factual claims and evaluative judgments, majoring in philosophy will develop or sharpen the following skills:

  • The interpretation of dense and challenging texts
  • The ability to formulate and consider alternatives to commonly accepted views
  • The construction and defense of coherent, well-considered positions
  • The ability to offer reasoned responses to the ideas and objections of others

Requirements for the Philosophy Major

The major in philosophy consists of at least nine units. PHIL 201 and PHIL 221 are required of all majors. In order to assure that all majors are familiar with the breadth of the field, every major must take at least two units in each of subfields B and C. Majors are strongly encouraged to take a third unit in subfield A. Students planning graduate work in philosophy should take PHIL 216 and acquire a reading knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, or German. In order to assure that students have acquired some depth in philosophy, the department requires that each major complete at least two 300-level units; these units must be in different subfields of philosophy and at least one of the 300-level units must be a philosophy seminar (as opposed to PHIL 350 Independent Study, or PHIL 360 or PHIL 370 Honors Thesis) taken at Wellesley. Every philosophy major is responsible for doing a PHIL LAB presentation during the fall or spring semester of her senior year. This involves presenting a philosophy text of her choice to an audience consisting of philosophy majors, minors, and faculty, and then leading an informal discussion of the philosophical issues it raises.

Subfield Information

The philosophy department divides its courses and seminars into three subfields:

(A) the history of philosophy: PHIL 201, PHIL 221, PHIL 222 [2011-12], PHIL 224, PHIL 230, PHIL 239 [2012-13], PHIL 300, PHIL 301, PHIL 310, PHIL 323 (when the topic is appropriate) [2012-13], PHIL 349 (when the topic is appropriate);

(B) value theory: PHIL 106, PHIL 108 [2012-13], PHIL 110, PHIL 202, PHIL 203, PHIL 204, PHIL 206, PHIL 210 [2010-11], PHIL 211, PHIL 212, PHIL 213, PHIL 233, PHIL 235 [2011-12], PHIL 236, PHIL 246, PHIL 249, PHIL 253, PHIL 256, PHIL 310 (when the topic is appropriate), PHIL 317, PHIL 323 (when the topic is appropriate) [2012-13], PHIL 326, PHIL 333, PHIL 340, PHIL 342, PHIL 349 (when the topic is appropriate);

(C) metaphysics and theory of knowledge: PHIL 103, PHIL 109 [2012-13], PHIL 110, PHIL 207, PHIL 208 [2011-12], PHIL 209 [2010-11], PHIL 211, PHIL 215, PHIL 216, PHIL 217, PHIL 218, PHIL 239 [2012-13], PHIL 243, PHIL 245, PHIL 300 (when the topic is appropriate), PHIL 301, PHIL 310 (when the topic is appropriate), PHIL 313, PHIL 317, PHIL 323 (when the topic is appropriate) [2012-13], PHIL 325, PHIL 333, PHIL 345, PHIL 349 (when the topic is appropriate).

Honors in Philosophy

Honors in the Philosophy major may be earned by writing a thesis or a set of related essays, and passing an oral examination.

To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100-level; the department may petition on her behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. Members of the department also prefer to see the following criteria satisfied by the end of the junior year: PHIL 201 and PHIL 221 completed, at least six philosophy courses completed, and at least one 300-level seminar that demonstrates the ability to work independently completed with a grade of A or A-.

Transfer Credit in Philosophy

The department participates in exchange programs with Brandeis and MIT. Both schools have excellent philosophy departments, and students are encouraged to consult the respective catalogs for offerings.

Courses for Credit Toward the Philosophy Major

Education in Philosophical Perspective


WRIT 114EDUC 102 Education in Philosophical Perspective



Departments and Programs