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 whose research profile is well balanced, and whose faculty is committed 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)
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 four undergraduate minors for students majoring in other fields: a minor in Ethics, a minor in Philosophy, a minor in Philosophy of the Arts, and a minor in Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.
For most majors, course work begins with one of the 100-level Philosophy introductory courses. Some good options include:
- PHIL-P 106 Introduction to Problems of Philosophy provides a taste of central issues in philosophy.
- PHIL-P 105 Critical Thinking 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 141 Introduction to Ethical Theories and Problems 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 106 and PHIL-P P 141 emphasize learning to read carefully and critically, to think clearly and rigorously, and to write precisely.
Students with some background in philosophy or with a particularly strong academic profile may choose to begin the major by taking one of the 200-level classes, such as PHIL-P 201 Ancient Greek Philosophy.
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 Philosphy major. These classes 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, Criminal Justice, English, Economics, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, History, Mathematics, Political Science, Psychology, and Religious Studies.
Likewise, the most common minors are: Business, French, History, International Studies, Law and Public Policy, Music Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Spanish, and Sociology. Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.
- 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.
You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming first-year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
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.
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.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The Department of Philosophy rewards outstanding majors by selecting them as recipients of several awards and scholarships:
- Academic Excellence Award
- Biddle Scholarship
- Betty Neal Hamilton Memorial Award
- Ewing Essay Prize
- Jean Derdula Mick Award
Other scholarships and awards that relate to Philosophy include:
- Boren Awards for International Study
- Palmer-Brandon Prize in the Humanities
- Service Learning Scholarship
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 first 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 internships a philosophy student might undertake:
- With a political campaign, state or federal legislator, or 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 for 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 80 languages.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
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 programs:
- Adelaide Semester Program - Australia
- Aix-en-Provenence-IU - France
- Barcelona-CIEE (Advanced Liberal Arts) Semester Program - Spain
- Bologna-IU - Italy
- Buenos Aires-CIEE (Liberal Arts) - Argentina
- Canberra Semester Program - Australia
- Canterbury-IU - England
- Cape Town-CIEE (Arts & Sciences) Semester Program - South Africa
- Copenhagen-DIS - Denmark
- Freiburg-AYF Academic Year Program - Germany
- Legon-CIEE (Arts & Sciences) Semester Program - Ghana
- Lima-IU - Peru
- Madrid-IU - Spain
- Oxford-St Anne's Academic Year Program - England
- Perth Semester Program - Australia
- Santiago (Chile)-CIEE (Liberal Arts) - Chile
- Vienna-IES - Austria
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.
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:
- Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research
- IU Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Team
- Philosophy Club
- Minorities and Philosophy (MAP)
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
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:
- Bridges: Children, Languages World
- IU Corps
- Monroe County History Center
- VITAL - Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners
- Women Writing for (a) Change Bloomington
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and 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
- The International Association of Computing and Philosophy
- Philosophy of Education Society
- Philosophy of Science Association
- Society for Business Ethics
- 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.
- 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.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
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.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Philosphy majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Arts and Humanities provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
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!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
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:
- American Red Cross
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- General Motors
- Group Dekko
- Pen and Publish, Inc.
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. House of Representatives
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:
- Daland Fellowships
- Franklin Research Grants
- Fulbright Grants
- Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research
- Phillips Fund Grants
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 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:
- Cognitive Science - Ph.D.
- College + Kelley program - M.S.
- Comparative Literature - M.A. and Ph.D.
- Economics - M.A., Ph.D.
- English - M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D.
- History and Philosophy of Education - M.S.Ed.
- History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine - M.A., Ph.D.
- Law - J.D., LL.M., M.C.L., S.J.D., Ph.D
- Medicine - M.D., Ph.D.
- Public Affairs - M.A.
- Philosophy - M.A., Ph.D.
- Political Science - P.h.D.
- Religious Studies - M.A., Ph.D.
- Sociology - Ph.D.
The College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the 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?
The Department of Philosophy attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Intellectual curiosity, with a willingness to question what is ordinarily taken for granted
- Desire to learn how to think, speak, and write clearly, how to understand difficult texts, and how to construct cogent, persuasive arguments.
- Open-mindedness, with the ability to offer and accept criticism without personalizing it
- Interest in understanding our social, political, and ethical obligations to one another
- Desire to develop a broad skillset, applicable to any career requiring analytical skills and the ability to consider issues from diverse viewpoints
- Aspiration to pursue graduate study, law, medical school, social policy and public affairs, or business administration
- Desire for a major that enriches and fits with any other course of study, including any other major
- Interest in the deepest questions that we can raise about ourselves and our world
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