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7002 Humanities and Social Sciences Building
Muir College

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

Introduction to the Department

Philosophy addresses some of the most basic questions humans ask about the world. Some questions are very broad, such as how can minds know about the external world, themselves, and other minds? How can we arrive at reasonable answers to ethical questions about right and wrong? What distinguishes science from other kinds of knowledge and are there limits to science? What is the role of moral choice and values in human life? Do standards of truth and logic apply in areas such as religion, art, politics, and law?

Philosophy also seeks answers to particular problems in specific areas of science, medicine, law, ethics, and technology. For example, it explores the ways that modern physics impacts our notions of space, time, causation, and nature itself. It considers the ways that neuroscience and genetics impact the traditional ideas about free will and responsibility. It debates the limits of democratic governments in regulating individuals’ conduct. It wrestles with problems about the right to die and the varied responsibilities of medical professionals. It inquires into the relation between science and religion. Related issues concern privacy, the limits of private property, and who should have access to what information.

Career Guidance

Philosophy is a broad field with diverse subfields. Some students may want to pursue a general course of study for the major, sampling courses across several of these distinct subfields. This strategy develops a solid foundation for graduate work in philosophy and for any career that requires breadth of knowledge, intellectual flexibility, as well as communicative and analytic skills.

Other students may wish to pursue a more specialized program of studies. Below are descriptions of several areas of emphasis within philosophy. These illustrate the possibilities of developing your own coherent and focused set of courses that fulfill the requirements for the major in ways that are tailored to your specific intellectual and career interests. Philosophy is preparation for a wide range of careers—including science, law, medicine, teaching, business, and public policy.

Choosing a philosophy major is an excellent way to follow a disciplined and rigorous course of study that joins the breadth of a traditional college education with specialization in a chosen area.

Undergraduate Program—Major

The Department of Philosophy offers the bachelor of arts (BA) in philosophy for the undergraduate major. A major in philosophy requires a total of fifteen philosophy courses, at least twelve of which must be upper-division (courses numbered 100 and above). Up to two upper-division courses outside of philosophy can count among the twelve required for the major if they are drawn from a related field and contribute to the major’s philosophical program; such credit must be approved by the undergraduate adviser. Honors and directed study courses (Philosophy 191–199) may not be used to satisfy the major requirement of fifteen philosophy courses. Major requirements may be met by examination.

There is no required introduction to philosophy or the major. The department offers a variety of lower-division courses and sequences (numbered 1–99), any of which could be a suitable introduction to philosophy. The only required lower-division course for majors is Philosophy 10, Introduction to Logic.

At the upper-division level, majors are encouraged to take courses in the central areas of philosophical study:

Though many upper-division courses have no prerequisite, any combination of three lower-division courses would provide a good foundation for taking most upper-division courses.

Core Requirements for the Major

  1. History of Philosophy. A history of philosophy core sequence Philosophy 110, 111, and 112. These courses must be taken in order.
  2. Logic. Philosophy 10 and Philosophy 120 are required of all majors. Because Philosophy 120 is a prerequisite for a variety of upper-division courses, prospective majors are strongly encouraged to take Philosophy 10 and Philosophy 120 as early as possible.
  3. Moral and Political Philosophy. Majors must take at least one upper-division course in moral or political philosophy from among Philosophy 160, 161, 166, or 167.
  4. Metaphysics and Epistemology. Majors must take at least one upper-division course in traditional areas of analytic philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind—from among Philosophy 130, 131, 132, 134, or 136.
  5. Philosophy of Science. Majors must take at least one upper-division course in philosophy of science from among Philosophy 145, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, or 152.

Optional Areas of Emphasis in the Major

The Department of Philosophy offers four optional areas of emphasis within the major, as described below. Students selecting an optional area of emphasis for the major must take and pass five of the courses listed under that area. Courses taken to complete an area of emphasis are counted toward the fifteen courses required for the major. Particular courses may be applied both to the completion of the area of emphasis and in fulfillment of a core requirement for the major. Students should be aware, as they plan their course of study, that only some of the courses listed for an area of emphasis will be taught in any given year.

The department encourages students considering a philosophy major to consult with the philosophy undergraduate coordinator and the philosophy faculty undergraduate adviser to plan a program of study that is suitable to their particular interests and needs. The department website provides additional information about courses falling within each area of emphasis. Areas of emphasis are not noted on transcripts or diplomas. The optional areas of emphasis are:

1. Law, Ethics, and Society
This area targets the nature and source of our moral rights and obligations, the authority of the state and law, the basis of value and goodness. Several courses in this area target ethical issues in medicine, the environment, technological change, economic inequality, and matters concerning race, gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality. In this area, students will learn how moral and legal reasoning can reshape the political debates over abortion, the death penalty, privacy on the internet, genetic testing, religious tolerance, free speech, affirmative action, and other issues.

This area is excellent preparation for law school as well as for postgraduate study and careers in public policy.

PHIL 148. Philosophy and the Environment

PHIL 152. Philosophy of Social Science

PHIL 160. Ethical Theory

PHIL 161. Topics in the History of Ethics

PHIL 162. Contemporary Moral Issues

PHIL 163. Biomedical Ethics

PHIL 164. Technology and Human Values

PHIL 166. Classics in Political Philosophy

PHIL 167. Contemporary Political Philosophy

PHIL 168. Philosophy of Law

PHIL 170. Philosophy and Race

2. Science, Technology, and Medicine
This emphasis focuses on the insights and challenges presented by science. Modern science and technologies affect our view of ourselves and of nature, introducing novel promises and problems. For instance, how do we balance technical, economic, environmental, and ethical values in making decisions concerning which technologies or drugs to develop? Modern science has also changed our understanding of nature. Quantum physics, the genetic revolution, and neuroscience (to name a few) present problems and have important implications for human life. Finally, there are questions about science itself. What are the methods of modern science? Do they vary from one science to another? Can the sciences be value free?

This area will appeal especially to those students interested in pursuing careers in philosophy, science, clinical medicine, medical research, the social sciences, science journalism, and public policy.

PHIL 123. Philosophy of Logic

PHIL 145. Philosophy of Science

PHIL 146. Philosophy of Physics

PHIL 147. Philosophy of Biology

PHIL 148. Philosophy and the Environment

PHIL 149. Philosophy of Psychology

PHIL 150. Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences

PHIL 151. Philosophy of Neuroscience

PHIL 152. Philosophy of Social Science

PHIL 163. Biomedical Ethics

PHIL 164. Technology and Human Values

3. Mind, Brain, and Cognitive Sciences
Traditional epistemology (the theory of how and what we know) and philosophy of mind (the theory of that-which-perceives-and-thinks) have recently been joined by several scientific disciplines in a collective search for illuminating theories. Psychology, cognitive neurobiology, computer science, and sociology have all made explosive contributions to a tradition as old as Plato and Aristotle. For example, our growing understanding of the biological brain has given new life to our traditional attempts to understand the nature of the mind. New accounts of the various mechanisms of cognition—both at the cellular and the social levels—have provided entirely new perspectives on the nature of consciousness, the self, knowledge and free will, and on the nature of science itself.

This area is excellent preparation for careers in cognitive science, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, science journalism, and philosophy.

PHIL 132. Epistemology

PHIL 134. Philosophy of Language

PHIL 136. Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 145. Philosophy of Science

PHIL 147. Philosophy of Biology

PHIL 149. Philosophy of Psychology

PHIL 150. Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences

PHIL 151. Philosophy of Neuroscience

PHIL 180. Phenomenology

4. Historical Perspectives on Philosophy, Science, and Religion
Throughout its history, philosophy has developed in a complex relationship with the natural sciences and religion. Philosophical ideas have both contributed to and challenged our understanding of nature and God, and developments in the sciences and religion have posed new challenges for philosophical thinking. The historical perspectives emphasis focuses on the fertile interplay between philosophy, science, and religion in several key periods: ancient Greece, the Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Europe. The aim is not simply to document the history of philosophical ideas, but to use this history as a way of better understanding contemporary debates about the basic questions of human life.

This area prepares students for postgraduate work in philosophy, and for any career that requires breadth of knowledge, intellectual flexibility, as well as communicative and analytical skills.

PHIL 100. Plato

PHIL 101. Aristotle

PHIL 102. Hellenistic Philosophy

PHIL 104. The Rationalists

PHIL 105. The Empiricists

PHIL 106. Kant

PHIL 107. Hegel

PHIL 108. Nineteenth-Century Philosophy

PHIL 109. History of Analytic Philosophy

PHIL 161. Topics in the History of Ethics

PHIL 166. Classics in Political Philosophy

PHIL 180. Phenomenology

PHIL 181. Existentialism

PHIL 183. Topics in Continental Philosophy

Honors Program

The Department of Philosophy offers an honors program for outstanding students in the major. Majors who have a 3.7 GPA in philosophy (3.25 overall) at the end of their junior year and who have taken at least four upper-division philosophy courses are eligible to apply. Interested students must consult with a faculty sponsor by the last day of classes during the spring term of their junior year. Admission to the honors program requires nomination by a faculty sponsor and approval of the undergraduate adviser. Nominating Petitions can be obtained from the philosophy department.

In addition to the usual major requirements, an honors student is required to complete a senior honors thesis by the end of winter quarter. During the fall and winter quarters, the student will be registered for Philosophy 191A and 191B and will be engaged in thesis research that will be supervised and evaluated by the student’s faculty sponsor. A departmental committee will read and assess the completed thesis and determine if philosophy honors are to be awarded. Honors students are expected to maintain an average of 3.7 or better for all work taken in the program. (Qualified students wishing to participate in the honors program according to a different timetable than the one described above can apply to do so by petitioning the undergraduate adviser.)

Transfer Credit

Courses taken at other institutions may be applied toward the major by petition only. Petitions should be submitted to the Department of Philosophy undergraduate coordinator, and must be accompanied by supporting materials (transcripts, syllabi, course work, etc.). Students are required to submit one petition per transfer course.

For specific regulations regarding transfer credit for Philosophy 10 (Introduction to Logic), please see the information on the department website:

It is important to note that seven of the twelve upper-division courses in the major must be taken in the Department of Philosophy at UC San Diego.

Note: All courses applied toward the major must be taken for a letter grade.

Undergraduate Program—Minor

The Department of Philosophy offers a minor in philosophy. As with the major, the minor is an attractive option for a wide range of career paths, including medicine, law, research in the natural and social sciences, journalism, education, and government. A minor requires a total of seven philosophy courses, at least five of which must be upper division. If choosing an area of emphasis, at least four upper-division courses must be from the chosen area of emphasis. All courses must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a C– or better.

Undergraduate Program—Bioethics Minor

The Bioethics Minor is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of important ethical questions concerning life in a wide variety of contexts, knowledge of the most promising and influential approaches to such issues, and the skill to apply foundational frameworks and critical reasoning to new issues as they arise. Students will explore pressing questions in a wide variety of contexts, such as medical and clinical ethics, distributive justice in health care, as well as environmental and climate ethics—including questions arising from the latest technological, medical, and scientific innovation in such areas as geo-engineering, human genetic engineering, synthetic biology, health care technologies, and big data, such as: What principles of distributive justice should regulate the allocation of scarce medical resources? Should priority be given to extending lives or to improving their quality? Is it permissible to select the genetic traits of one’s children? What are the goals of regenerative medicine? What is informed consent, and under what conditions is it required? In response to climate change, should “geoengineering” play a role, and should we take a more hands-on approach in environmental conservation when hoping to improve biodiversity? The minor builds on the Philosophy Department’s resources in ethical theory, political philosophy, philosophy of science and values, and interdisciplinary research, and complements and connects with a number of programs across the campus in the natural and social sciences, and engineering.

The minor will require seven courses (twenty-eight units) in all, one from each of five core categories, and two electives. A maximum of two may be lower-division courses. 

Core Requirements for the Bioethics Minor

Electives for the Bioethics Minor 

Minors must take two courses from the following:

The courses already listed under the core requirements, (1) - (5)

PHIL 10. Logic

PHIL 120. Symbolic Logic

PHIL 148. Philosophy and the Environment

PHIL 169. Feminism and Philosophy

PHIL 170. Philosophy and Race

HISC 116. History of Bioethics

FPMU 40. Introduction to Public Health

FPMU 50. Primary Care and Public Health 

USP 143. The US Health Care System

BILD 36. AIDS, Science, and Society

BILD 38. Dementia, Science, and Society

Grade Rules for Majors/Minors

All courses applied toward the major or minor must be completed with a grade of C– or better. Further, a GPA of 2.0 must be maintained in courses applied toward the major or minor. It should be noted that courses taken under the Pass/Not Pass (P/NP) grading option cannot be applied toward the major or minor.

Advising Office

Students who desire additional information concerning our course offerings or program should contact the undergraduate coordinator at H&SS 7030, or call (858) 534-3077.