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Academic Program

Beardsley Hall

The Philosophy Department offers several kinds of courses, all designed to engage students in philosophical practices:

  • There are courses and seminars to introduce students to the major systematic works of the history of Western philosophy: works by Plato and Aristotle (Ancient Philosophy); Descartes, Hume and Kant (Modern Philosophy); Hegel and Marx (Nineteenth Century Philosophy); Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, de Beauvoir (Existentialism); Russell and Wittgenstein (Contemporary Philosophy).
  • There are courses and seminars that consider arguments and conclusions in specific areas of philosophy: Theory of Knowledge, Logic, Moral Philosophy, Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Social and Political Philosophy.
  • There are courses and seminars concerned with the conceptual foundations of various other disciplines: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Philosophy of Psychology, and Philosophy of Religion.
  • There are courses and seminars on meaning, freedom, and value in various domains of contemporary life: Values and Ethics in Science and Technology, Feminist Theory, and Post-Modernism.

Members of the Philosophy Department emphasize the engagement of philosophy with other disciplines and recognize that philosophical inquiry is naturally related to concerns in other areas of study. They attempt to make these relations explicit, and so course and seminars are designed to be accessible to a broad range of students, not just those who intend to major in Philosophy. Various courses and seminars in philosophy appear in concentrations in Women's Studies, German Studies, Medieval Studies, Interpretation Theory, and Environment Studies.

With prior approval from the Chair, a student may take philosophy courses abroad for a semester or year and have them count both toward a major and as part of an Honors Program. Courses abroad do not, however, always fit neatly into a philosophy major and are not always suitable for full course credit. Full consultation with the Chair about study abroad is essential for constructing a viable program.

Prerequisites and Requirements

Satisfactory completion of either any section of Philosophy 1-- Introduction to Philosophy, or Philosophy 12--Logic, or any First Year Seminar (FYS numbered 2-10) is a prerequisite for taking any further course in philosophy. Sections of Introduction to Philosophy and First Year Seminars are intended to present introductions to philosophical problems and techniques of analysis. There are no prerequisites for these entry-level courses.

Students may not take more than one introductory level course (FYS or Introduction to Philosophy). If there is an exception and a student does take two introductory level courses, only one credit will count towards the major/minor requirements, but both credits will count towards graduation. Students may take Logic either before or after taking any other introductory course.

Juniors and seniors may enter intermediate courses in Philosophy without having taken an introductory level course in Philosophy.

Major Requirements

One can major in philosophy in either the course program or the Honors program. Internal distribution requirements are the same for both programs. Only students who will have satisfactorily completed two philosophy courses by the end of their sophomore year will be considered for acceptance as majors.

Normally, applications to complete a major in philosophy will not be accepted after the add/drop period  in the Fall term of a student's senior year.

Transfer students will be deferred until they have obtained at least 1 Philosophy credit from Swarthmore.

In addition to having completed two courses, majors must meet the general requirements for remaining in good standing at the College and have the ability to satisfy the Department's comprehensive requirements. They must further normally have at least a B- average in all philosophy courses taken at Swarthmore. For double majors, the standard is somewhat higher, and the philosophy faculty determines whether the student has the ability to complete the comprehensive requirements of two departments satisfactorily.

Students majoring in philosophy must earn a total of eight credits, exclusive of senior work and complete at least

  • One course in Logic and
  • Two credits in history: of these 2 credits, at least 1 must be in either Ancient or Modern (17th and 18th century) Philosophy and
  • Two credits in at least one course covering one or more of the following areas: Advanced Logic, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind and
  • Two credits in at least one course covering one or more of the following areas: Moral Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Feminism, Aesthetics,.

Note:  With the exception of Logic (PHIL 12) - introductory level courses and First Year Seminars (PHIL 1 - 10) do not count toward the distribution requirements.  Distribution requirements can be taken pass/fall (C/NC).   But, students cannot use a pass/fail (C/NC) course/seminar as an honors preparation.

In addition, students majoring in philosophy are urged to take courses and seminars in diverse fields of philosophy. Prospective majors should complete the logic requirements as early as possible. Course majors are encouraged to enroll in seminars. Mastery of at least one foreign language is recommended.

Majors, both Honors and Course, need at least 4 of their Philosophy credits from Swarthmore.


Student wishing to add a major or minor in Philosophy must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the Fall term of the senior year.

Philosophy students changing their program from course to honors (or honors to course) must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year.

Students wishing to drop an honors major or minor must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year.

Philosophy honors students must declare their honors preparations by the end of the add/drop period of the Fall term of senior year.

Students wishing to drop a course major or minor after the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year should speak to the chair of the department.