Major in Philosophy

The Philosophy major at Boston College is designed to ground students in the core classical issues of philosophy and to give them the ability to engage with significant areas of  contemporary concern in way that moves forward our communal conversation and the path toward answers and solutions. The Philosophy major focuses and sharpens students’ abilities to critically evaluate arguments and issues, to understand the assumptions and backgrounds of contemporary views, practices, and controversies, with a view to enable them to use their insights and skills to contribute to dialogue, understanding, and positive action in their professions and communities, large and small. Philosophy majors engage with fundamental and contemporary issues by reflecting on the large questions of identity and relationship to others, to communities, and the divine in a way that gives them a richer and broader vision of what it means to live a full life. (For an article exploring the popularity of the major and its attraction to students, see On the Consequences of the Examined Life.)

The Philosophy major serves students with different  interests and career paths through different concentrations or tracks: 1) “Systematic Philosophy” (designed for those who are considering graduate school in Philosophy), 2) “Science, Ethics, and Humanity” (intended especially for premeds, nursing students, biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology majors, environmental studies minors, students interested in public health, etc.), “Pre-law/ International Studies/ Public Policy” (intended especially for those majoring or minoring in international studies, political science, and/or students interested in careers in law, public service, politics), “Philosophy/Economics/Justice” (intended especially for students also studying economics, finance, and management), “Philosophy and Religion” (intended for students with second majors or minors in theology and/or those interested in exploring a vocation in the priesthood/ministry), “Faith, Peace, Justice” (intended for students in the “faith, peace and justice minor” who are also philosophy majors), “Philosophy and the Arts” (intended especially for students involved in the arts or the study of literature).

All students majoring in Philosophy will be able to demonstrate

  • knowledge of major texts and thinkers in at least 2 of the major periods in the history of Western philosophy
  • an ability to read and interpret philosophical texts
  • an ability to evaluate philosophical arguments
  • understanding of such philosophical issues as the nature and scope of human knowledge, the meaning of human personhood, the good life and moral obligation, the social and political dimensions of human existence, the relationship of faith and reason, and the existence and nature of God, especially those connected to their track
  • understanding of the difference between philosophical and other types of claims, e.g., historical, scientific (both natural and social sciences), theological, political, etc., especially those most connected to their track
  • an ability to use philosophical resources to engage with contemporary issues and problems, especially those most connected to their track

The total number of PHIL credits needed (including core) for the major in any of the tracks is 30; each track only requires that some of the credits be taken in the track (see below); the rest of the major can be completed with ANY PHIL class. Please note that ONLY the "Systematic track" included area and logic requirements.

Beginning with the class of 2018, all philosophy majors will be required to complete one of the following tracks in philosophy, or choose the Perspectives interdisciplinary major. Any year-long core course can be used as the first foundational course, for a total of six credits toward the major. After the core, students must complete one of the following concentrations.

Once the designated track is complete, the student may take any number of additional electives she or he would like, in any area of study. (Students may also elect to start two different track sequences and choose which one to complete later, if time allows.)

Majors in all tracks can request permission for up to two cognate courses (courses listed in other departments but with significant philosophical content) to count toward the major. Courses that are cross-listed with philosophy automatically count toward the major. To request approval of a cognate course, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and please provide an explanation for the request.

Please note that the Perspectives Program also counts as a philosophy major program and can be found separately on the web under “Perspectives.”

The Philosophy major at Boston College is designed to ground students in the core classical issues of philosophy and to give them the ability to engage with significant areas of contemporary concern in a way that moves forward our communal conversation and the path toward answers and solutions. The Philosophy major focuses and sharpens students’ abilities to critically evaluate arguments and issues, to understand the assumptions and backgrounds of contemporary views, practices, and controversies, with a view to enable them to use their insights and skills to contribute to dialogue, understanding, and positive action in their professions and communities, large and small.

Philosophy currently supports over 200 majors, almost half of which are 2nd or 3rd majors. Philosophy blends easily with other majors because it offers a great deal of flexibility and speaks to so many issues that are foundational to other disciplines and many career paths.

The Philosophy major serves students with different interests and career paths through different concentrations or tracks which have been designed to both give focus and direction to the Philosophy major while preserving the flexibility of the major:

Designed for those who are considering graduate school in Philosophy

The Systematic Philosophy track requires:

  • Two of the four courses in the history of philosophy sequence:
    • Greek Philosophy (offered every fall)
    • Modern Philosophy (offered every fall)
    • Medieval Philosophy (offered every spring)
    • 19th/20th Century Philosophy (offered every spring)
  • Logic (offered every semester)
    • Three courses in three of the following four systematic areas*: epistemology, philosophy of science, metaphysics and ethics

To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended especially for premeds, nursing students, biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology majors, environmental studies minors, students interested in public health, etc.

The Science, Ethics, and Humanity track requires:

  • Philosophy of Science OR UNAS 1119/1120 Perspectives IV: New Scientific Visions
  • At least two courses in the area* such as Bioethics: Issues in Health Care; Environmental Ethics, Law, Medicine, and Ethics; Values in Social Service and Health Care; The problem of suffering; and any course in Ethics/Ethical Theory
     

To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended especially for those majoring or minoring in international studies, political science, and/or students interested in careers in law, public service, politics)The Science, Ethics, and Humanity track requires:

The Pre-law/ International Studies/ Public Policy track requires:

  • Philosophy of Law OR Ethics, Religion and International Politics OR UNAS 1109/1110 Perspectives III: Horizon of New Social Sciences
  • At least one elective in the area*, such as Challenge of JusticeRace and PhilosophyCultural Social StructuresFascisms, The Problem of SufferingTechnology and Culture, and any course in Ethics.
 
To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended especially for students also studying economics, finance, and management

The Philosophy/Economics/Justice track requires:

  • Philosophy of Law OR Perspectives III: Horizon of the New Social Sciences OR Modern Philosophy (offered every year)
  • Challenge of Justice (offered every fall and spring) OR Philosophy of Liberation (or equivalent.)
     

To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended for students with second majors or minors in theology and/or those interested in exploring a vocation in the priesthood/ministry

The Philosophy and Religion track requires:

  • Medieval Philosophy AND Philosophy of Religion (or equivalent.)
  • At least one elective in the area*, such as courses in Buddhism, Chinese philosophy, Philosophy of SufferingEthics, Religion, International Politics

To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended for students in the “faith, peace and justice minor” who are also philosophy majors

The Faith, Peace and Justice track requires:

  • Challenge of Justice
  • Faith, Peace, and Justice senior seminar
  • a cluster of four courses developed in concentration with the director of the FPJ program
 
To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended especially for students involved in the arts or the study of literature

The Philosophy and the Arts track requires:

  • Perspectives II: Modernism and the Arts OR Philosophy of Imagination (or equivalent*)
  • At least one elective in the area*, such as Philosophy and Painting, ExistentialismFreud and PhilosophyDante’s Divine ComedyGerman Romanticism

To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu). 

Intended for students who complete the four, full year-long, six credit courses in the Perspectives Programs

The Perspectives Interdisciplinary track requires four year-long courses:

  • Perspectives I: Perspectives on Western Culture
  • Perspectives II: Modernism and the Arts
  • Perspectives III: Horizons of New Social Sciences
  • Perspectives IV: New Scientific Visions
 
To inquire where specific courses fall under various tracks, Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cherie McGill (mcgillc@bc.edu).