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Requirements for the Major in Philosophy

Major P red on blackPhilosophical inquiry encompasses a wide range of topics, across a wide range of disciplines, including interrelations between disciplines. Nearly every academic discipline is a historical outgrowth of philosophy; indeed, ‘PhD’ stands for Philosophy Doctorate – an advanced degree offered in most disciplines in the university. The knowledge and skills acquired in the study of philosophy are widely valued both for practical reasons, and because of the intrinsic worth of such pursuit.

On the practical front, philosophy majors develop superior reasoning and analytical skills, helping explain why philosophers majors excel on such Grad School entrance exams as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT. Employers value problem solving skills, along with an aptitude for clear expression of ideas (both spoken and written); these abilities are developed in every philosophy course. As for intrinsic value, it is sometimes said that intellectual inquiry is as much about the journey, as about a destination – “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” (Ernest Hemingway). The study of great ideas and of history's greatest thinkers is valuable in its own right, helping bring an increased sense of meaning to one's life. (Further information about the value of a philosophy major.)

The degree requirements in philosophy allow students to tailor their course of study. A well-designed program is appropriate not only for students whose primary interest is the study of philosophy, but for various pre-professional students (for example, those planning on law school or medical school). Philosophy is also very popular as a second Major, because philosophical study tends to reinforce a deep understanding of the issues of interest to other disciplines.

Required coursework for philosophy students is organized around four main areas of study: Ethics and Values; Metaphysics and Epistemology; History of Philosophy; Logic and Formal Methods. The specific requirements are explained below.


Note that the requirements below supplement the University Baccalaureate Degree requirements. Refer to the General Catalog for this information. You can obtain a copy of the General Catalog at the University of Utah Bookstore.


The Major in Philosophy calls for a minimum of 36 units of philosophy coursework that meets the following six requirements:

 Area Requirement

Students are to take courses from the four Areas in the summary table below, in the quantities indicated:

Areas Minimum Qualified Courses
Ethics and
Value Theory
3011*, 3080, 3500, 3510, 3520, 3530, 3700, 3710,
3720, 3730, 3740, 3750, 3800, 3820, 4540, 5130,
5191*, 5500, 5510, 5520, 5530, 5540, 5700, 5710, 5800
Metaphysics and
3012*, 3300, 3310, 3350, 3370, 3375,
3400, 3440, 3600, 4380, 4400, 4450, 4480, 5192*, 5300,
5350†, 5370†, 5375†, 5400*, 5450, 5480*
History of
3013*, 3810, 4110, 4120, 4130,
4140, 5040, 5060, 5110,
5120*, 5150*, 5193*, 5360
Logic and
Formal Methods
3200, 3210, 5200,
5210, 5220

* These courses typically have variable content and may be taken multiple times, each time counting as a new and separate course, so long as the course content is different.

† These courses sometimes have variable content, in which case they may be taken multiple times. Check with instructor for permission to take a second time.

Full COURSE TITLES and DESCRIPTIONS at bottom of this page

Students elect the particular courses (from each of the above Areas) they wish to take. Those who are just starting the degree should begin  taking courses of interest, in each of the four areas, beginning with courses at the 3000 or 4000-level. Here are two guidelines for which courses to take and in which order. First, it is generally a good idea to take courses from multiple Areas at once, rather than focusing on courses only from one Area: following this advice will make it easier, in your final year, to complete any leftover coursework that you have yet to complete; we do not offer all of these courses, each semester, however, we do make a point -- each fall and spring -- to offer a mix of courses from each of the four Areas,  at both the 3000 or 4000-level and at the 5000-level. Second, we tend to offer the most courses in Area 1, and the fewest in Area III; so it would be  unwise to wait on taking Area III courses--in case the few offerings in play, in your final semester, don't provide the flexibility you need. Third, as for prerequisites, before taking any 5000-level course students must have completed at least one 3000 or 4000-level course from that same Area; exceptions must be approved by the instructor of the 5000-level course. Beyond these two guidelines, take whatever looks interesting to you. If you need further guidance, please see the advisor.

 Advanced Course Requirement

At least three courses of the total 36 units must come from the 5000-level (or higher). These advanced courses do at the same time satisfy an Area Requirement, as indicated in the above table. (Note: the Advanced Course Requirement may not be satisfied by "independent study" coursework.)

Senior Seminar Requirement

Majors must take the Senior Seminar, Phil 4010. Students need not wait till their senior year to take this course, though it is aimed at advanced majors. The minimum prerequisites for taking the Senior Seminar are that the student have already completed at least one course from each of Areas I, II, and III, in the Area Requirement table above.

Note that the Senior Seminar satisfies the University Advanced Writing Requirement.

 Elective Requirement

If meeting the above requirements brings your total to 36 units, you need not take any further courses in philosophy. Otherwise, an elective course will be needed to bring the total to 36.

Every course the philosophy department offers counts towards the Elective Requirement. Note that two kinds of courses count only towards this requirement, not meeting any other requirement. First, all lower division courses count as electives (i.e., 1000 level and 2000 level courses). Second, the four specifically religion-oriented courses we offer: Phil 3610 (Religions of India), Phil 3620 (Religions of China and Japan), Phil 3630 (Buddhist Thought), and Phil 3640 (World Religions). Since these courses are not primarily philosophical in content, they do not count towards any of our specific philosophy requirements, but they do count for the Elective Requirement. The historical explanation of why the philosophy department offers these courses is that U of Utah does not have a Religion Department, the natural home for such courses. Note that Phil 3600 (Philosophy of Religion) is a philosophy course, and it meets the Area II requirement.

You may, of course, take many more than just one elective. Doing so will enhance your philosophical education. Additional electives will count towards the total number of units needed for the University Baccalaureate Degree requirements.

Grade Requirement

The Grade Requirement has three parts. First, only coursework taken for a letter grade will contribute to the above requirements; CR/NC coursework will not count. Second, no individual course receiving a grade lower than C- will count for any of the above requirements. Third, the overall grade-point average (GPA) for courses meeting the above requirements must be at least 2.00.

 Residence Requirement

Various of the above requirements may, in special cases, and with approval, be satisfied with transfer credit. Requirements 2 and 3 are exceptions: in all cases, the Advanced Course Requirement and the Seminar Requirement must be satisfied by course work completed at the University of Utah.

-End of Requirements-

Course Titles

(For Course Descriptions, CLICK HERE)

Area I - Ethics and Value Theory

 3011* Philosophy of _______

 3080 Philosophy of Feminism

 3500 Ethics

 3510 Business Ethics

 3520 Bioethics

 3530 Environmental Ethics

 3700 Political Philosophy

 3710 Philosophy of Law

 3720 Philosophy of Education

 3730 Justice and International Affairs

 3740 Drugs and Justice

 3750 Philosophy of Literature

 3800 Philosophy and the Arts

 3820 The Meaning of Life

 4540 Engineering, Ethics, and Society [formerly 3540]

 5130 History of Ethical Theory

 5191* Philosophy of _______

 5500 Contemporary Ethical Theory

 5510 Applied Ethics

 5520 Advanced Bioethics

 5530 Environmental Philosophy

 5540 Hydrotopia: Water Rights and the Environment

 5700 Advanced Political Philosophy

 5710 International Human Rights

 5800 Topics in Philosophy of Art

Area II - Metaphysics and Epistemology

 3012* Philosophy of _______

 3300 Theory of Knowledge

 3310 Science and Society

 3350 History and Philosophy of Science

 3370 Philosophy of Biology [formerly 4370]

 3375 Philosophy of Social Science

 3400 Mind, Language, and Reality

 3440 Cognitive Science

 3600 Philosophy of Religion

 4380 Philosophy of Physics

 4400 Metaphysics

 4450 Philosophy of Mind

 4480 Philosophy of Language

 5192* Philosophy of _______

 5300 Epistemology

 5350† Topics of Philosophy of Science

 5370† Philosophy of Biology

 5375† Topics in Philosophy of Social Science

 5400* Metaphysics

 5450 Philosophy of Mind

 5480* Philosophy of Language

Area III - History of Philosophy

 3013* Philosophy of____________

 3810 Existentialism

 4110 Ancient Greet

 4120 Early Modern

 4130 Nineteenth Century

 4140 Classical Chinese Philosophy

 5040 Twentieth Century Analytic

 5060 Twentieth Century Continental

 5110 Issues in the History of Ancient and Medievall Philosophy 

 5120* Issues in the History of Modern and Recent Philosophy

 5150* Topics in Classical Chinese Philosophy

 5193* Philosophy of ____________

 5360 Topics in the History of Science  

Area IV - Logic and Formal Methods

 1250  Reasoning and Rational Decision Making  [counts only for Minor]

 3200  Deductive Logic

 3210  Inductive Logic

 5200  Advanced Deductive Logic

 5210  Advanced Inductive Logic

 5220  Rational Choice Theory

Last Updated: 7/19/18