Philosophy B.A.

Philosophy explores important questions about existence, knowledge, reasoning, language, and ethics. What is the nature of reality? What really exists? What can be known and how? What makes an argument valid? What rules must be followed to produce effective argumentation? What is moral value? The Department of Philosophy enables students to consider these questions, and to evaluate the range of answers that have been offered throughout history.

At IUB, you have the opportunity to study philosophy in a department that is perennially ranked among the top 25 in the country. The department's research profile is well balanced, and the faculty distinguishes itself from other top programs with its commitment to integrating serious work in the history of philosophy with central methods and issues of contemporary analytic philosophy. 

The Department of Philosophy has strengths in:

  • Action theory, decision theory, epistemology, metaphysics, modern logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of psychoanalysis, and philosophy of religion
  • Aesthetics, ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law
  • Ancient philosophy (especially Aristotle and the presocratics), medieval philosophy (especially Duns Scotus and Ockham)
  • Eighteenth century philosophy (especially Hume and Kant)
  • Nineteenth century philosophy (especially Hegel and Marx)
  • History of analytic philosophy (especially Frege, Carnap, Quine, Wittgenstein, Austin, Putnam, and Davidson)

It also has strong research ties with the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and with the Cognitive Science Program.

In its emphasis on the study of the history of philosophy and training in contemporary philosophical research, the requirements for the Philosophy major are flexible enough to meet the needs and interests of a wide range of students. Those who are planning to pursue graduate studies in philosophy or related areas will be well prepared to do so.

Through the study of formal logic, intellectual history, value theory, and theories of reality, students develop the ability to analyze and critically evaluate arguments, think independently and creatively about problems, and write clearly and persuasively.

In addition to core requirements, Philosophy majors choose from a diverse array of elective courses that address topics ranging from business and biomedical ethics, to philosophies of India and philosophy of mind.

The Department of Philosophy offers three undergraduate minors for students majoring in other fields: a minor in Philosophy, a minor in Philosophy of Arts, and a minor in Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.

The department also offers two interdepartmental majors with the departments of Political Science and Religious Studies, respectively.

Coursework

Getting started

For most majors, course work begins with one of the 100-level Philosophy introductory courses. Some good options include:

  • PHIL-P 100 Introduction to Philosophy provides a taste of central issues in philosophy.
  • PHIL-P 105 Thinking and Reasoning focuses on critical thinking, exploring what is involved in reasoning well and on the quirks of the human mind that can get in our way.
  • PHIL-P 140 Introduction to Ethics provides an overview of major ethical theories, focusing on the rich historical and contemporary theories that aim to help us figure out what we should do, how we should live, and why.
  • Other introductory courses are offered on a less frequent basis but also provide a good first step in the major.

Note: both PHIL-P 100 and PHIL-P P 140 emphasize learning to read carefully and critically, to think clearly and rigorously, and write precisely.

Student with some background in philosophy or with a particularly strong academic profile may choose to begin the major by taking PHIL-P 201 Ancient Greek Philosophy or PHIL-P 250 Introductory Symbolic Logic.

Tracks and concentrations

The major does not have any official tracks or concentrations, but students often cluster their courses to suit their interests. An exemplary plan of coursework for majors who are considering graduate study in Philosophy might be:

  • At least two courses in Logic, including PHIL-P 250, which should be completed at the earliest opportunity
  • At least four courses in History of Philosophy, such as PHIL-P 201, PHIL-P 211, PHIL-P 301 or PHIL-P 304, and PHIL-P 401
  • At least two courses in Epistemology and Metaphysics, such as PHIL-P 310 and PHIL-P 312
  • At least one course in Ethics and social-political philosophy, such as PHIL-P 340 or PHIL-P 342

Plan to meet with the department's academic advisor early and often to discuss your specific interests and develop a specialized route through the major requirements.

Upper level coursework

Many of the courses at different levels emphasize the same skills and even some of the same topics. The difference is the higher level of sophistication in upper level courses. It probably wouldn't be wise to take a 400-level course immediately after taking PHIL-P 105 and PHIL-P 250, for instance. One would first want to take some courses that address central philosophical topics and emphasize philosophical writing.

300-level courses are the core courses for the department's major and minor programs. They focus on various topics (metaphysics, philosophy of mind, aesthetics, ethics, philosophy of language) or on particular historical periods or philosophers. Most of a philosophy major's electives are taken at this level, providing an opportunity to explore and follow your interests. These courses emphasize student engagement with the course topics through critical papers.

400-level courses are small seminars that address more advanced topics or problems. They are intended to provide a capstone experience in which you work closely with a faculty member, developing a significant piece of philosophical writing over the course of the semester. All majors are required to take at least one 400-level course, but many students take more than one.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your Philosophy B.A. major requirements represent about one quarter of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates. Recently, the most commonly paired majors have been: Cognitive Science, Computer Science, English, Economics, History, Mathematics, Political Science, Psychology, and Religious Studies.

Likewise, the most common minors are: Business, Creative Writing, Cognitive Science, French, German, Nonprofit Management, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.

Students also regularly pursue both the Liberal Arts Management Program (LAMP) certificate and the Public and Civic Engagement (PACE) certificate.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in Philosophy, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals. 

As your interests develop, you might want to take an independent readings course under the guidance of faculty. PHIL-X 490 Independent Readings is a popular option among majors, providing them space for intensive study of an author or topic of their choosing. Talk with the academic advisor or your instructors about this possibility.

Honors

The Philosophy Honors Program allows outstanding majors to explore the skills and independence needed to craft and complete advanced scholarly work. It culminates with the production of a formal written project and a defense before two members of the Philosophy faculty.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

The Department of Philosophy rewards outstanding majors by selecting them as recipients of several awards and scholarships:

  • Dona Roberts Biddle Scholarship
  • Betty Neal Hamilton Academic Excellence Award
  • Undergraduate Academic Excellence Award
  • Undergraduate Ewing Essay Prize

Other scholarships and awards that relate to Philosophy include:

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Philosophy majors can do internships through the department in almost any field or career area. To receive credit through PHIL-X 473, you must have a philosophy faculty member supervising the internship experience, and you must write a reflective paper discussing ways in which philosophical issues arose in relation to the internship or ways in which you drew upon skills developed by studying philosophy.  Since philosophy concerns foundational issues relating to just about any field of human life, these connections are readily made. Below are some examples of nternships a philosophy student might undertake:

  • With a political campaign, state or federal legislator, state legislative caucus
  • With a law firm, public defender, judge, or prosecutor’s office
  • With a business, focusing upon problem-solving, communications, or research and analysis
  • With a non-profit, focusing upon problem-solving, communications, or research and analysis
  • With municipal government
  • With a local social services agency
  • With an organization providing medical care to those in need

The faculty supervisor will assist the student in identifying philosophical themes and appropriate philosophical readings relating to the internship experience.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.

Foreign language study

Proficiency in at least one foreign language is required for admission to some graduate programs in philosophy. Regardless of minimum admission requirements, students in Ph.D. programs are often expected to develop proficiency in one or two foreign languages to aid in their dissertation research.

For these reasons, it is a good idea of undergraduate philosophy majors interested in graduate study to develop language skills as they progress through the program. Indeed, a common strategy amongst philosophy majors at IU Bloomington is to double-major in philosophy and a foreign language.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Philosophy students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • Australian National University in Canberra, Australia
  • Vienna-IES in Vienna, Austria
  • Copenhagen-DIS in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • London School of Economics in London, England
  • University of Oxford - St. Anne's in Oxford, England
  • Paris-IES in Paris, France
  • University of Freiberg in Freiberg, Germany
  • University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy
  • University of Madrid in Madrid, Spain
  • Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey

The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Philosophy faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participation in a student group is a good way to make connections between your coursework and co-curricular activities. Student organizations that are especially relevant to students in Philosophy include:

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of living learning centers and thematic communities, which allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest. 

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

In the United States, the premier organization for philosophers and philosophy students is The American Philosophical Association. The following professional associations invite undergraduates to consider membership:

  • The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities
  • The American Society for Aesthetics
  • Ancient Philosophy Society
  • The International Association for Philosophy and Literature
  • The International Association of Computing and Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Education Society
  • Philosophy of Science Association
  • Society for Business Ethics
  • Society for Philosophy and Psychology
  • Society for Women in Philosophy

The above list is only intended to highlight some of the major philosophical organizations and to demonstrate the range of options available. The American Philosophical Association provides a more comprehensive list.

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The major in philosophy provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Argument: The ability to read complex texts closely and with sensitivity to their historical and philosophical context; describe accurately and sympathetically the position of the author; identify the main argument for the position; and critically evaluate the argument and position.
  • Independent Thinking: A capacity to think independently, to develop your own views, and to present evidence and argument that supports those views, while being sensitive to and aware of their weaknesses.
  • Analytical Writing: Be able to write clear, well-organized, cogent essays that argue persuasively for a thesis.
  • Formal Logic: Learn and apply some of the basic principles of deductive logic to formalize and evaluate arguments.
  • History: Have an understanding of how Western philosophy developed, including substantive knowledge of some key figures in ancient and modern philosophy.
  • Central Philosophical Topics: Develop a basic understanding of fundamental issues in moral and political philosophy, epistemology, and metaphysics.
  • Creative Critical Inquiry: Develop the capacity to engage in philosophical activities in an open-minded, non-dogmatic way, offering and accepting criticism without personalizing it, and tolerating uncertainty.

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:  

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take Initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. Philosophy students should consider taking:

  • ASCS-Q 294, College to Career I: Explore Your Options
  • ASCS-Q 296, College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience

The job market

The employment outlook for students with the Philosophy B.A. degree is varied, as relatively few become professional or academic philosophers. Most find themselves using their degree in other endeavors, finding that the skills they gained from the study of philosophy uniquely prepared them for their careers.

Philosophy majors take their education in many directions, whether moving directly into a career or going on to graduate or professional studies.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: civil and public service, politics, law, medicine, teaching, government, communications, research and religiously affiliated areas.

Philosophy majors can become researchers, lawyers, professors, physicians, social workers, authors, clergy, administrators, teachers, counselors, managers, public policy analysts, as well as a whole host of other jobs and careers.

 Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!

 The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Talk with Philosophy faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A Philosophy major will also prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as education, ethics, law, medicine, business, religious studies and, of course, philosophy.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Philosophy have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations, media, private entrepreneurship, and the military and intelligence communities.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

Talk with Philosophy faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of this degree.

The IU College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

 


Is it for you?

Philosophy is central to a liberal education that provides both breadth of understanding and versatility in employing ideas. Acquaintance with its great literature is invaluable to understanding our cultural heritage. The department offers a wide variety of courses, relevant to almost anyone's particular interests.

Increasingly, students find it desirable to pursue a double or interdepartmental major, combining philosophy with their other chosen area of study. Philosophy traditionally combines well with English and other studies of literature, History, Classics, Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Religious Studies, Economics, Mathematics, Physics, Linguistics and Journalism.

Philosophy also combines well with some new fields, such as Media, Cognitive Science, Informatics and Computer Science.

Additionally, philosophy makes an excellent undergraduate major for students going on to certain careers typically involving graduate study. These include law, fields relating to social policy and public affairs, and business administration.

Indeed, philosophical training is relevant to any career in which analytic and synthetic skills are required. Such training provides the flexibility and perspective needed in a rapidly changing world.

Learn more

Contact the Philosophy academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
jealmyer@indiana.edu