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College of Letters & Science


Requirements for the Major
Honors in the Major
Senior Thesis

5185 Helen C. White Hall, 600 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-3700; philosophy.wisc.edu

Professors Bengson, Brighouse, Card, Fletcher, Forster, Gibson, Gottlieb, Hausman, Hunt, Kelleher, Mackay, Masrour, Messina, Nadler, Paul, Schectman, Shafer-Landau, Shapiro, Sidelle, Sober, Southgate, Steinberg, Streiffer, Titlebaum,V ranas

Undergraduate advisor in the major: Martha Gibson, 5117 Helen C. White Hall

Faculty diversity liaison: Claudia Card, cfcard@wisc.edu

Philosophy involves reflection upon and understanding of all phases of human activity. Philosophy especially directs itself to the nature of knowledge and the most basic concepts of human understanding and value: morality, society, art and aesthetic experience, as well as science, politics, and religion. Philosophy is thus closely involved with other disciplines because, as human activities and quests for knowledge, they and their findings provide the material for philosophical inquiry. The courses offered by the department are designed to help students develop their own capacities to reflect intelligently on questions of fundamental and lasting significance. The philosophy major is intended to meet the needs of four types of students:

  • those who wish to use philosophy as the organizing core of a liberal education;
  • those who desire to study philosophy in preparation for graduate work in some other field, such as law, government, or theology;
  • those who plan to major jointly in philosophy and one of the social and natural sciences or humanities; and
  • those who have a professional interest in philosophy and intend to do graduate work in the subject.

Requirements for the Major

The minimum requirement for the major is eight conventionally graded philosophy courses amounting to at least 27 credits. These credits must include:

  • 211 or 511 (or equivalent);
  • 430 and 432 (or equivalent);
  • a total of five philosophy courses, which are 3 credits or more, from any course designated in the Schedule of Classes (Course Guide) as 400 or above, excluding the following courses: 442, 505, 545, 547, 558, 571, 598, 599, 670, 681, 682, 691, 692, and 699 (it is recommended that 430 and 432 be taken in the sophomore or junior year; the course used to satisfy requirement one above should be taken as early as possible);
  • at least one course from Category A (501, 503, 516, 520, 530, 551, 560) and one course from Category B (241, 253, 541, 549, 552, 553, 555)

All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major taken in residence. Philosophy courses of at least 3 credits at the 400 level or above, with the exception of 442, 515, 545, 547, 558, 571, 598, 599, 670, 681, 682, 691, 692, and 699, count toward this requirement.

Students should inform the philosophy office of their intention to major and be assigned an advisor within the department.

Course projections: Detailed descriptions of the content and format for future course offerings will be available at philosophy.wisc.edu several weeks prior to the commencement of the semester/term.

Honors in the Major

Students wishing to earn Honors in the Major in Philosophy will be expected to have earned a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in philosophy at the completion of their thesis (Philosophy 681-682) and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW-Madison at the time of graduation. Students will not be permitted to write an honors thesis unless they have taken at least one advanced course on the topic on which they will be writing. Credits earned by writing an honors thesis will not count towards the minimal number of credits required for an honors major. In consultation with the professor with whom the student is working, the student will enroll for 1-3 credits of 681 in the first semester of thesis writing and 3 credits of 682 in the second semester. The thesis credits must earn a minimum grade of AB. In addition to a standard major in philosophy, the student must take an additional three credits in philosophy. These additional credits must come from Category A or Category B or from a capstone course.

Senior Thesis

Students who wish to enroll for such work (691-692) should consult their advisors.