Philosophy addresses a wide range of questions in areas such as:

  • Metaphysics and Epistemology (What is the fundamental nature of reality, and what is our place in it? What can we know, and how can we get that knowledge?)
  • Mind (What is consciousness? How it is related to brain activity? Can we have free will?)
  • Science (How do the sciences yield knowledge? How does scientific explanation work? What sets good science apart from bad science or pseudoscience?)
  • Ethics (What is good, and how should we live? Are there objective moral standards?)
  • Politics (What makes for a just society? What are the conditions for global justice?)
  • Logic (What are the basic principles underlying good reasoning and argumentation?)
  • Math (What is the nature of mathematical knowledge? How is mathematics related to logic?)
  • Language (What is linguistic meaning? How do words refer to things in the world? How is language related to thought?)
  • Religion (Is there a supreme being? Is faith compatible with science and reason?)
  • Aesthetics (e.g., What is beauty? What is art? Can aesthetic judgment be objective?)

The techniques brought to bear on these issues are analytical, formal, and historical.

The undergraduate program stresses Western philosophy, ancient and modern, and gives particular emphasis to recent and contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. The department's course offerings provide excellent foundations for graduate work in law and cognitive science, as well as in philosophy itself.

Explore the many practical benefits of studying philosophy here.

The philosophy major requires 10 courses, including PHIL 101, two core courses in the history of philosophy, one course in logic, and an undergraduate major seminar. Many philosophy majors are double majors, combining a philosophy major with majors in the sciences and engineering, the social sciences, or other humanities. Concentrators wishing to emphasize a particular subfield of interest may make use of optional guidelines for ways of satisfying the major that emphasize either Law and Ethics, History of Philosophy, or Logic and the Philosophy of Science. Majors who qualify may participate in the philosophy Honors program. (For more information about requirements and guidelines, click here.

The Department of Philosophy also offers four different minors: the general Philosophy Minor (PH); Ethics Minor in Philosophy (ET); History of Philosophy Minor (HP); and Philosophy of Science Minor (PS). There are also six clusters in philosophy: Ethics and Values (H1PHL001); History of Philosophy (H1PHL002); Knowledge, Mind, and Nature (H1PHL003); Philosophy and Law (H1PHL004); Ethics of Technology (H1PHL006), and Logic (N1PHL001). All except the logic cluster are in the humanities; the logic cluster is in the natural sciences. Many introductory courses may be used as the first course in a cluster. For more information on our minors (each of which requires only five courses, meeting various conditions) and clusters, click here.

 Many philosophy majors go on to law school, where they find the analytic and critical skills emphasized in philosophy most useful. Others go on to medical school, business school, graduate school in other fields, or various professions. Some go on to do graduate work in philosophy.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Philosophy—Students who receive a higher-level exam score of 5 or better are awarded credit for PHIL 101. No credit is granted for subsidiary-level exams.

Departmental Advice for Undergraduate Students

All students who wish to take a philosophy course--whether for a cluster, minor, major, or just to explore the area--should begin with any of our introductory courses, which are the 100-level courses along with 201 and 202.  PHIL 101 is our broadest survey of philosophy and is also a requirement for the major, so that is an excellent way to begin.  But if you are interested in the topic of another introductory course then you are welcome to start there as well.  Once you've taken at least one introductory-level course you may explore more advanced-level courses according to your interests (keeping in mind relevant cluster, minor or major requirements).

For advising on majors, minors, and clusters, contact William FitzPatrick.

Get Involved

The department hosts several Philosophy Colloquia throughout the semester that are open to all students. Once a semester advanced undergraduates students help coordinate a colloquium.

Colloquia begin at 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons and consist of a philosophy talk, usually given by a distinguished philosopher from outside the university, a question period, and a reception.

Students can also join the Undergraduate Philosophy Council, which meets regularly for informed discussion and refreshments. All interested students are encouraged to attend.


Contact William FitzPatrick, the undergraduate advisor at william.fitzpatrick@rochester.edu.

Philosophy on the Web

There are many useful philosophical resources available for free online.  Here are a few to check out:

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

David Chalmers's List of Online Philosophy Resources

Daily Nous

PEA Soup (Philosophy, Ethics, Academia)

Public Reason (Political Philosophy)

PhilPapers is a comprehensive index and bibliography of philosophy maintained by the community of philosophers. Includes research content in philosophy, including journals, books, open access archives, and personal pages maintained by academics.

Finally, try your hand at these Puzzles and Paradoxes.