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Department of Philosophy|College of Arts & Sciences

Pre-Graduate Studies in Philosophy Curriculum

Pre-graduate course of study: some suggestions

Here is some advice on a course of study if you are preparing to go on to study philosophy at the graduate level (or, if you want an especially solid and well-rounded plan of study).  This advice is certainly nothing more than that, suggestions.  Plenty of students do well at the graduate level who haven’t followed these suggestions, at least not all of them.  Many of these suggestions are based on the anecdotal wisdom of us (I always regret not having taken this course when I was an undergraduate . . . ).

1.  Don’t specialize in terms of philosophy coursework at the undergraduate level.  That’s what graduate school is for.  As an undergraduate, stress breadth rather than depth.

2.  Because you’ll need three letters of recommendation, and most letter writers want to have worked with you as a student in at least two courses, preferably both at the 3xxx level or above (and preferably at least one course at the graduate level): Try to take at least two mid-range to advanced courses each with three different faculty members.

3.  Remember that the 33 hrs of philosophy required for the major is merely the minimum.  You should probably take more than this.

4.  Here is a list of core classes:

PHIL 3000 (current number), Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 3100, History of Modern Philosophy
PHIL 3140, Philosophy of Science
PHIL 3300, Ethical Theory, or PHIL 3350, History of Moral Philosophy
PHIL 3420, Symbolic Logic
PHIL 3440, Philosophy of Mind
PHIL 3510, Introduction to Epistemology
PHIL 3560, Introduction to Metaphysics

Notice that if you were to take all eight of these courses, plus Introduction to Philosophy, plus nine hours of advanced courses, that would be 36 hrs.

5.  The undergraduate major at UW is designed for maximal flexibility.  As a result, it does not require specific core classes, and most noteworthy, it does not require symbolic logic.  You shouldn’t even think of going to graduate school in philosophy without planning to take symbolic logic.

6.  A couple of additional courses to consider are PHIL 2310, Philosophy of Religion, and Philosophy of Language.  The reason for Phil of Religion is that, as a graduate student, you will probably be a teaching assistant for Introduction to Philosophy, and will probably be called on to teach various issues in the philosophy of religion, especially the classic arguments for the existence of God.  Having some exposure to this will help prepare you.  The reason for Philosophy of Language is that, though the field is still central to the discipline, even if not quite as central as it was 25 years ago.

7.  The issue of a foreign language.  As long as your professional work is in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, there is no need for intensive study of any particular foreign language.  However, if you want to study Descartes at the advanced level, it would probably be helpful to know French and Latin.  If you want to study Plato and Aristotle at the advanced level, it would probably be helpful to know ancient Greek.  In general, the need for reading competence in a foreign language is dependent on the specifics of your philosophical interests.

8. While we're on the subject of other coursework that supports the philosophy major, be sure not to ignore it. For example, if you are interested in philosophy of mind, try to take some courses in core psychology, such as neuro-anatomy/physiology. In general, for any "philosophy of X" discipline, the more knowledgeable you are in field X, the better.

 

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