Requirements: Philosophy

Humanities Division

The great philosophers seek to answer the most basic questions about the world and our place in it. Can we distinguish between what is real and what is unreal? What is freedom? What is knowledge? What is understanding? What is wisdom? What are the roles of reason, perception, intuition and emotion in shaping our relations with the world and with each other? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be non-human? What is life? What is the value of art? What are we to think about religion?

Many philosophical questions are inescapable. How is one to live one's life? What are good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and vice? How do we acquire obligations? How are we to make moral decisions? In every life, such questions arise and everyone assumes one answer or another. To attempt to articulate your answer and to search for better answers is to become a philosopher.

Original works of the great classical and contemporary philosophers from different traditions are used in all courses. Texts are analyzed critically in order to understand what is being said and judge their merit. In class discussion and written work, we raise questions, develop additional ideas, and construct new arguments. Classes in philosophy are generally small and usually emphasize discussion and dialogue. Students are encouraged to engage in critical thought and to come to their own conclusions.

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The Curriculum

Nearly all courses are designed to be of interest and accessible to both majors and non-majors. Regardless of background, students should normally take the introductory course, PHIL 100, before they take any other philosophy course at Kenyon. Each member of the philosophy faculty offers a section of the course, which serves as an introduction to the subject through the reading of original works by major philosophers. Classroom discussion is emphasized, focusing on interpretation of the texts and consideration of the philosophical issues they raise. We assign several short papers and give a final examination. Other courses especially recommended for first-year students are PHIL 105 and 115.

Courses that may be taken without prerequisites:

  • PHIL 105: Introduction to Logic
  • PHIL 110: Introduction to Ethics
  • PHIL 115: Practical Issues in Ethics
  • PHIL 190: The Anthropocene as a Philosophical Problem
  • PHIL 200: Ancient Philosophy
  • PHIL 208: Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 210: Modern Philosophy
  • PHIL 212: Early Chinese Philosophy
  • PHIL 225: Existentialism
  • PHIL 235: Philosophy of Law
  • PHIL 240: Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL 270: Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 275: Moral Psychology

Intermediate-level courses include:

  • PHIL 201: Symbolic Logic
  • PHIL 245: Philosophy of Natural Science
  • PHIL 270: Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 291: Special Topic

More advanced courses include:

  • PHIL 310: Heidegger's Ontology
  • PHIL 340: Sartre and Merleau-Ponty
  • PHIL 345: Kant

Although the following seminars are primarily for majors, they may be of interest to other advanced students as well:

  • PHIL 400: Ethics Seminar
  • PHIL 405: Epistemology Seminar
  • PHIL 410: Metaphysics Seminar

Requirements for the Major

Students have to take at least nine philosophy courses to complete the philosophy major.

Majors must take both:

  • PHIL 200: Ancient Philosophy
  • PHIL 210: Modern Philosophy

Students must take one logic course:

  • PHIL 105: Introduction to Logic or
  • PHIL 201: Symbolic Logic

To meet the distribution requirement within the philosophy major, the major must take one course from at least four out of the following five divisions:

  • Ethics
  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Great thinkers
  • Philosophical schools and periods

Majors must take one 400-level seminar. This course can count toward the above distribution requirement:

  • PHIL 400: Ethics Seminar
  • PHIL 405: Epistemology Seminar
  • PHIL 410: Metaphysics Seminar

Majors must take at least one elective within the department. This includes any of the above courses, but also "Introduction to Philosophy," special topics courses and an Individual Study.

Majors must complete the Senior Capstone.

Course-Planning Tips

PHIL 100 is normally the first course majors take, but it is not mandatory.

The following courses should normally be taken as early as possible:

  • PHIL 105: Introduction to Logic or PHIL 201: Symbolic Logic
  • PHIL 110: Introduction to Ethics
  • PHIL 200: Ancient Philosophy
  • PHIL 210: Modern Philosophy

The following advanced seminars should normally begin no earlier than the second semester of the junior year:

  • PHIL 400: Ethics Seminar
  • PHIL 405: Epistemology Seminar
  • PHIL 410: Metaphysics Seminar

Students who expect to do graduate work in philosophy are strongly encouraged to take PHIL 201.

Senior Capstone (Non-Honors or Honors)

The Senior Capstone consists of a comprehensive essay examination with questions drawn from ancient philosophy, modern philosophy and one of the core-area advanced seminars of the student's choice.

Honors

Central to the Honors Program is a series of two related courses culminating in a thesis at the end of the senior year. The first, PHIL 497, enables the student to pursue the search for and development of a suitable topic. By the second semester of the senior year, the student should have the background necessary for writing an honors thesis in PHIL 498. Students interested in the Honors Program should submit a written request to the chair of the department before the second semester of their junior year.

In the second semester of their junior year, honors candidates submit a thesis proposal for approval. Upon departmental approval, honors candidates will register for two 0.25-unit courses to be taken senior year, PHIL 497 (fall) and PHIL 498 (spring). Honors candidates write complete drafts of their theses in PHIL 497 and refine and defend their theses in PHIL 498.

Course Requirements for Honors

Honors candidates must complete:

  • PHIL 200: Ancient Philosophy
  • PHIL 210: Modern Philosophy
  • PHIL 201: Symbolic Logic
  • PHIL 400: Ethics Seminar
  • PHIL 405: Epistemology Seminar
  • PHIL 410: Metaphysics Seminar
  • At least one course from the great thinkers category.
  • At least one course from philosophical schools and period category.
  • At least one elective course from the above distribution lists. This can include "Introduction to Philosophy," special topics courses and an Individual Study.
  • PHIL 497: Senior Honors (fall semester, senior year)
  • PHIL 498: Senior Honors (spring semester, senior year)
  • An honors thesis and pass the oral examination.

Honors Thesis and Oral Examination

Upon completion of the thesis, the honors candidate stands for an oral examination, conducted by an outside examiner and the candidate's thesis advisor, in the presence of the entire department.

Divisional Approval

The candidate must meet the requirements of the College and of the Humanities Division for admission to and retention in the Honors Program.

Requirements for the Minor

The minor in philosophy consists of five courses in the department. Students are allowed to take any five philosophy courses to complete the minor, the only stipulation being that no more than two can be 100-level courses.

Graduate School Considerations

Philosophy majors interested in attending graduate school are strongly encouraged to select PHIL 201 to satisfy the logic requirement, and to select PHIL 400, 405 and 410 to satisfy the core-area course requirements. Such students also should consult with a faculty member as early as possible.

Off-Campus Studies

Philosophy majors who wish to do so are generally able to participate in off-campus study programs, particularly if they begin their major programs as sophomores.

Transfer Credit Policy

Students who want to transfer credit to count toward the philosophy major or minor must petition the department with a copy of the syllabus of the course. The department will determine credit on a case-by-case basis.