The Philosophy Major — Program Description

1. The Major in Philosophy

(a) Admission to the major

Students who want to major in philosophy are encouraged to apply for admission as soon as they have decided to do so. Classes are often filled very quickly, and majors are given special opportunities to register for the area distribution requirement courses. The method for applying for the major differs depending on your status, as described below.

Undergraduates in semesters 1–5 (using the Universal Tracking method) who want to change their major should go to the CLAS Advising Center to meet with an advisor. The advisor will review your academic record to see if you can start the major and be on track. (For the tracking criteria for philosophy, see the details in the page in the UF Catalog on the Major in Philosophy.)

After reaching the upper division level, students who want to be admitted to the major must fill out a form available at the CLAS Advising Center and seek the approval of the Undergraduate Coordinator. To be approved, students should be in good academic standing, have completed at least two philosophy courses with a grade of B or better, and have a realistic plan for completing the major requirements in a timely fashion. Meeting these conditions is not a guarantee of admission, however; it is at the discretion of the Undergraduate Coordinator whether to support admission, and the CLAS office has the final say.

Students who apply to transfer to UF at the upper division and who want to transfer in as philosophy majors should, if they want to maximize their chances of admission, have already had two courses in philosophy with a grade of B or better. Such transfer decisions are made at the CLAS admissions office, and the Undergraduate Coordinator does not play a role.

(b) Major requirements

The philosophy major requires a minimum of 33 hours of coursework in philosophy. These must include the following courses, which constitute the major’s area distribution requirements:

Area Distribution Requirements
PHH 3100 Ancient Greek Philosophy
PHH 3400 Modern Philosophy
PHI 3130 Symbolic Logic
PHI 3650 Moral Philosophy
Either PHI 3300 or PHI 3500 Theory of Knowledge or Metaphysics

The required subject courses are designed to ensure that students have a good grounding in the history of philosophy, which is essential for an adequate understanding of contemporary philosophy, a core competence in ethics and epistemology or metaphysics, the study of which play a foundational role in the study of many other subjects in philosophy, and, of course, a substantial facility with logic and argumentation, which is central in all of philosophy.

Beyond the area distribution requirements, there are some levels requirements. Of the 33 credit hours required for the major, at least 27 of them must be at the 3000-level or above, and at least 6 credit hours must be at the 4000-level or above, excluding PHI 4905, PHH 4911, PHI 4911, and PHI 4912. Courses at the 4000-level are intended to be advanced seminars for undergraduates, and registration is restricted to students who have already completed a 3000-level philosophy class (unless they get special instructor permission).

Finally, there are two other restrictions. No more than 15 hours in transfer credit can count toward the degree, and no more than three hours of individual work (PHI 4905 or PHI 3905) can count toward the required minimum.

Notes on earlier catalog years:

Students with a catalog year of 2011 and earlier were required to take PHI 3300: they did not have the option of taking PHI 3500 to satisfy that requirement. The department allows students from those catalog years to use PHI 3500 to satisfy their PHI 3300 requirement. To do so, they must contact the undergraduate coordinator.

Students with a catalog year of 2008 and earlier were originally required to take PHI 3950, Philosophical Writing, as one of the area distribution requirements. Present majors under these catalog years have had that requirement waived, though it should be noted that they still need a total of 33 credits, so that in place of taking PHI 3950, they need to take another 3 hours at the 3000-level.

Students with a catalog year of 2006 and earlier require only three hours (not six) in philosophy at the 4000-level, excluding PHI 4905 and PHI 4912.

Students with a catalog year of 2003/04 and earlier can meet the logic requirement by taking either PHI 2100 or PHI 3130.

Students with a catalog year of 1996/97 are required to take 30 hours of philosophy, the history sequence, and meet the logic requirement. Level distribution requirements are as above.

Students with a catalog year of 1995/96 and earlier are required to take 27 hours of philosophy, the history sequence, meet the logic requirement, and take at least two 4000-level courses. Level distribution requirements are otherwise the same as above.

(c) Double majors

A number of students decide to pursue a double major combining philosophy with some other area. Applications should be picked up at the CLAS Advising Center. An application for a double major needs the support of the Undergraduate Coordinators from both majors. Students who plan to double major need to plan ahead with some care to ensure they can complete the requirements for both majors within a reasonable amount of time, aiming not to go too far over the standard 120 credit hours required for a CLAS Bachelor’s degree. In many cases, this is quite feasible. In the past we have seen students combine philosophy with a variety of other majors, including, for example, economics, English, business administration, history, psychology and political science.

There are three variations on the theme of a double major. If your other major leads to a BA in CLAS, your option is a double major. If your other major leads to something other than a BA, there is the option of a dual degree. Students whose other major is outside CLAS can choose between a dual degree and a second major. With the dual degree option, you have to satisfy CLAS college requirements as well as those of your other college. With the second major option, you do not have to satisfy CLAS college requirements, just those for the philosophy major. This can be a useful option if you are, for instance, an engineering major.

Details of these options and the application process are available at Advising Center’s double-major/dual-degree page. That page also describes the possibility of pursuing three majors.

(d) Honors

To graduate cum laude (with honors), a student must achieve the honors threshold 3.5 upper-division GPA. This honors threshold GPA is calculated based on the grades a student earns after he or she has achieved “3LS” status, that is, beginning the semester after the student earns his or her 60th credit. (“Upper division” in this instance refers to the student’s status (3LS or 4LS) when taking any courses, not to the upper-division courses (3000- or 4000-level) the student has taken.) The honors threshold GPA is conveniently calculated toward the bottom of a student’s degree audit. Students who achieve the honors threshold GPA upon graduation will automatically graduate cum laude.

To graduate magna cum laude or summa cum laude (with high or highest honors), a student must, in addition to achieving the 3.5 honors threshold GPA, complete an honors thesis while taking PHI 4912. Evaluation of the honors thesis determines whether a student graduates magna or summa cum laude.

The honors thesis: The honors project involves independent research under the supervision of a faculty director. The goal is to give you an opportunity to write a large-scale paper and investigate a single philosophical issue in more depth than you may have had an opportunity to do in course work. Doing such a thesis can be a very rewarding experience, although you should understand that it is not a project to be undertaken lightly. The rules below are designed to ensure that you will be sufficiently prepared to succeed in the project.

Overview of the process: The process of undertaking an honors thesis will take nearly two semesters. In the first semester you need to research your topic and form a reasonably specific plan as to what you will do in the thesis. Ideally you will do this by working with the faculty member who will be your supervisor in a 4000-level course he or she is teaching or in PHH 4911 Undergraduate Research in the History of Philosophy or PHI 4911 Undergraduate Research in Philosophy. In the second semester, you actually write the thesis while enrolled in PHI 4912 Honors Thesis. In both semesters you need to work with a faculty director who officially sponsors your thesis. When the thesis is completed, you will be subjected to an oral examination and defense of your work.

The proposal: In order to register for PHI 4912, it is mandatory that you submit and have approved a proposal for the thesis by the end of the preceding semester. More precisely, the proposal must be submitted by no later than the last day of classes of the semester preceding that during which you hope to take PHI 4912. The proposal, which you should develop in consultation with a faculty director, is to be submitted to the Undergraduate Coordinator by that date.

The proposal will primarily consist in a description of the project, including a statement of thesis you hope to defend, where that statement must be relatively specific. The following two statements, for example, are not adequate specifications of your thesis:

  • My goal is to argue against utilitarianism.
  • My thesis is that mind-body dualism can be defended against materialist attacks.

By contrast, the following two statements display an appropriate scope and specificity:

  • My goal is to argue that utilitarianism cannot account for the value of friendship or other personal relationships.
  • The most common objection against mind-body dualism is the claim that it cannot account for causal interaction between the mental and the physical. My thesis is that this objection can be successfully answered.

The statement of the thesis should be accompanied by a discussion (750–1000 words) of the issue in which you explain your preliminary thoughts on the matter, which questions you plan to pursue, what arguments you expect to address, and so on. While it is not required that the completed thesis adhere strictly to what you provide in the proposal, we do insist on a proposal that will give you a substantial starting point in your investigation.

When the proposal is submitted, it must be accompanied by three further things: (i) the explicit approval of the faculty director who agrees to work with you on the project (this may be provided simply by having the faculty member email his or her approval to the Undergraduate Coordinator); (ii) a bibliography of relevant readings, accompanied by a brief statement of which items you’ve already read and which you plan to read in the near future; and (iii) an indication of what courses you have taken or are taking that provide you with relevant knowledge in the field.

Completion and oral defense: A completed thesis, approved by the faculty director, needs to be handed in to the Undergraduate Coordinator (who distributes it to the undergraduate studies committee) at least two weeks before the last day of classes in the semester you’re writing your thesis. The two week time period is needed in order to allow that committee to review the thesis and to schedule an oral examination. At the same time that you submit your thesis to the Undergraduate Coordinator, you should also submit an electronic copy of your completed thesis to UF's Institutional Repository. You will find guidance on how to do through IR@UF Honors Thesis page. Please see the instructions listed under the tab labeled, "How do I submit?"

After the oral exam the committee will arrive at a judgment as to whether the thesis merits awarding honors, high honors, or highest honors. The Undergraduate Coordinator will notify you of your level of honors by email, and will also alert the college of your honors designation.

© University of Florida, 1997–2015, vers. 15.7 Prepared by the undergraduate committee of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Florida.