2014-15 General Catalog

220 Cowell College
(831) 459-2070

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

Philosophy investigates fundamental questions about the most basic facets of human thought, e.g., concerning knowledge and belief (epistemology), the nature of reality (metaphysics), and morality and aesthetics (value theory). Such questions can be studied by looking at answers that contemporary philosophers propose, by investigating the principles that other disciplines use to legitimate claims, or by learning how, historically, philosophers approached these issues. In this respect, “philosophy” names not only a historically defined subject matter, but also inquiry into any of the fundamental determinants of rational thought. Thus, students of philosophy can pursue a broad range of topics of the greatest historical, intellectual, and personal interest.

The department offers courses that relate these traditional philosophical questions to contemporary work in literature and the social and natural sciences. In addition, the department offers several courses that make a careful study of the classic texts in philosophy, ancient and modern. Moreover, the curriculum covers all the dominant contemporary schools of philosophy in the Anglo-American and European traditions.

The study of philosophy enables students to expand their abilities in critical thinking and reasoning as well as to improve their skills in verbal and written communication. Students may major or minor in philosophy.

Philosophy prepares students for many careers as well as for most professional schools, including law. Students who wish to go to graduate school in philosophy are encouraged to study logic at both the introductory and intermediate levels and any languages that are necessary for advanced scholarship in the different historical eras of philosophy.

Major Requirements


Eleven courses are required: two at the introductory level, two in the history of philosophy sequence (100A, 100B, 100C), and seven additional upper-division courses (including one advanced seminar). For some of the lower-division required courses, students may petition to substitute courses taken at other institutions (please note that logic classes offered at community colleges will NOT fulfill the department’s logic requirement). These 11 courses must meet the following distribution requirements:

Introductory. Course 9 and at least one of courses 11, 22, or 24.

History of philosophy. Two of 100A, 100B, or 100C (all three strongly recommended for students who anticipate graduate work in philosophy). Taking any two from the sequence Philosophy 100A, 100B, and 100C will satisfy the Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement.

Upper Level. Six courses numbered 100A or above, at least one in value theory and two in metaphysics and/or epistemology. Note that the two courses counted toward fulfilling the history of philosophy requirement cannot be counted among these six additional courses.

Courses satisfying the value theory requirement: 137, 140, 142, 143, 144, 147, 148, 152, and 153.

Courses satisfying the metaphysics and epistemology requirement: 114, 115, 121, 122, 125, 126, 127, 133, 135, and 171.

Courses 195A, 195B, and 199 also cannot be counted among these six courses. All upper-division courses must be completed at UCSC unless a petition for an exception is approved by the undergraduate program director.

Senior Seminar. One advanced seminar numbered 190.

Courses must be satisfied in the following sequence. Before being eligible to enroll in any course in the history sequence (Philosophy 100A-100C), a student must have completed all required introductory courses, i.e., Philosophy 9 and at least one from Philosophy 11, 22, or 24. Before being eligible to enroll in any philosophy course above Philosophy 100C, prospective majors must have taken at least one of the required history of philosophy courses (i.e., either Philosophy 100A, 100B, or 100C). Transfer students wishing to major in philosophy should consult with the Philosophy Department undergraduate adviser as soon as possible.

Declaring the Major or Minor

Students must have taken or currently be enrolled in at least one philosophy course in order to declare the major or minor. Students declare by visiting the undergraduate adviser, who will develop an individual academic plan and complete a Petition for Major/Minor Declaration form.

Disciplinary Communication Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC Requirement in philosophy is met by completing any two from the sequence Philosophy 100A, 100B, and 100C.

Comprehensive Requirement

In the fourth year, students satisfy the comprehensive (exit) requirement by taking one course numbered 190. This advanced seminar meets the standards of the senior-year level of achievement in philosophy. Students who do superior work in an advanced seminar can be awarded a notation of Honors in the evaluation for that course. In addition to Honors in an advanced seminar, graduating seniors with a distinguished record of achievement in their philosophy courses may be awarded Honors or Highest Honors in the philosophy major.

Graduation with Honors in Philosophy requires at least a 3.7 average in all philosophy courses taken at UCSC. Graduation with Highest Honors in Philosophy requires at least a 3.9 average in all philosophy courses taken at UCSC. Students with an average between 3.8 and 3.9 may be awarded Highest Honors by vote of the Philosophy Department.

Minor Requirements

A minor in philosophy consists of any nine of the 11 courses required for the major. At least five of these must be upper-division. There is no senior exit requirement for the minor.

Program Planning Notes

When a faculty member thinks that a student has done exceptional work that could be carried to a more advanced level, the student may be given the option of writing a senior essay (course 195A). Normally, the senior essay is completed in one quarter; in unusual circumstances, it can be continued for a second quarter (course 195B), but only if the writing requirements for course 195A are completed successfully and on time. The senior essay, like individual studies more generally, does not count toward the 11 courses required for the major.

After undergraduates have taken the requisite introductory courses, they have a wide range of upper-division courses from which to choose. Those who are considering advanced study are encouraged to consult regularly with any member of the philosophy faculty about the courses that would best prepare them for graduate work. Preparation for graduate work ought to begin before senior year. The Philosophy Department sponsors workshops in the fall quarter for students contemplating graduate school in philosophy.

Graduate Program

The department’s graduate program profile emerges from its distinctive approach to the study of philosophy, including an interest in the history of philosophy as an indispensable background to the main areas of contemporary concern in the discipline. More specifically, the department’s characteristic and compelling strength lies in its attitude towards the two current traditions in philosophy—the so-called analytic and continental traditions. While analytically trained, the majority of the faculty has research or teaching interests in some major 19th and 20th century European figures, including, among others, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, and Foucault.

Among the faculty’s main contemporary interests are those topics commonly pursued in any high-ranking research and teaching program, including for example research and teaching interests in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, logic, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, moral psychology, and ethics, including environmental ethics.  The faculty’s research and teaching in these areas is informed by leading historical figures, including especially Kant, Aristotle, Hume, Wittgenstein and—again, uniquely for such a small department—leading figures from the Middle Ages and late antiquity (including medieval Islamic figures).

Graduate students are therefore able to take advantage of a wide range of courses in the history of philosophy, including ancient, early modern, Kant, 19th-century, and the history of 20th-century philosophy (analytic, continental, and combined).

Both the master of arts (M.A.) and the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) programs encourage interaction with other fields.

Graduate Program Requirements

Breadth Requirements in the First Year

During their first year, all graduate students are expected to fulfill a set of breadth requirements. These requirements are designed to provide both a common experience on which students can build their individual projects and a shared framework within which they can exchange ideas. Six courses, to be completed in the first year, are required of every graduate student in philosophy. These six core courses will constitute the bare minimum required for the M.A. or Ph.D.

This minimal core set of courses will consist of (i) three graduate seminars, designated by the department each year as mandatory for every first year student, and (ii) three electives (any three graduate seminars in philosophy). Of the three required seminars, one will be in metaphysics/epistemology, one in the history of philosophy, and one in moral philosophy.

No courses labeled Philosophy 294 or higher will satisfy any of these minimum core requirements. This restriction is redundant for 299 (since that course is open only to students who have advanced to candidacy). The point of this restriction is to limit the use of independent studies, reading groups or student seminars for graduate seminar credit.

During their first year of study all students must pass a logic competency examination with a grade of B or better. This examination will cover material typically taught in a first course in formal logic.

Before the end of the third year, all Ph.D. students must complete Philosophy 270, a research seminar. A substantial paper is required prior to enrollment. The course may be taken earlier than the third year and is optional for M.A. students. Philosophy 270 is only offered in winter quarter.

For further details, see the graduate program statement on the department’s web page or consult with the department’s graduate adviser.

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program provides students with closely monitored training in philosophy. The program is designed to be completed in six years or less. Graduate work in philosophy can lead to careers both inside and outside academia. Because most doctoral students will be preparing for a career that involves teaching philosophy, they are encouraged to be teaching assistants for at least three quarters.

Courses. A minimum of 12 graduate courses. Up to two courses may be taken from the offerings of other departments, and up to two courses may be independent studies.

Language requirement. The foreign language will be individually determined based on the relevance of such linguistic skills to the research interests of the student. Proficiency can be demonstrated either by passing a written examination administered by the department or by successfully completing a language course approved by the graduate committee.

Qualifying examination and Research Seminar. The qualifying examination, normally taken during the third year of enrollment, is centered on a qualifying essay that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do extended, dissertation-level research and analysis relevant to the proposed thesis topic and dissertation plan. The examination focuses on the student's research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes.

Near the end of the required coursework, doctoral students will develop a research project resulting in a substantial paper. The paper is required to enroll in the research seminar, Philosophy 270, which must be completed during or before winter quarter of the third year. The seminar will allow students to make substantial progress on a qualifying essay and cultivate their ability to assess and provide critical feedback on another author’s philosophical work.

Dissertation. The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is a dissertation representing a contribution to philosophical research.

M.A. Program

Applications to the M.A. program are welcomed from talented students with diverse academic backgrounds. The program is open not only to applicants who majored in philosophy as undergraduates, but also to applicants from other disciplines, who have a significant background in philosophy and who now want to study philosophy more intensively. The program is designed to be completed in one or two years.

Courses. A minimum of nine graduate courses. Up to two courses may be taken from the offerings of other departments, and up to two courses may be independent studies.

Languages. There is no foreign language requirement for M.A. students.

Master's paper. By the end of the second year of study and the completion of 45 credits, M.A. students will submit a master's paper, which will normally be defended orally before a committee of two faculty members.

Relationship of the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs

Students in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs will be in the same classes and work on the same course distribution requirements. Enrollment in the M.A. program confers no advantage for admission to the Ph.D. program.

Applications and Admissions

Application materials are available online at Further information regarding the program may be requested from the Department of Philosophy at (831) 459-4578, fax: (831) 459-2650. Visit the web site at

Designated Emphasis

To receive a designated emphasis in philosophy, graduate students from other departments must complete the following requirements in addition to degree requirements for the doctorate in their home department.

The following are required for the emphasis:

  1. Department approval: The primary faculty adviser is to be consulted about the intention to pursue a Philosophy Designated Emphasis.

  2. Philosophy adviser: A core philosophy faculty member is required to act as an adviser and serve on both the qualifying examination committee and the dissertation reading committee.

  3. Coursework: Students must complete four graduate courses in philosophy selected in consultation with the philosophy faculty adviser. One of the four may be an independent study approved by the philosophy faculty adviser.

  4. Writing: Students must submit a significant piece of writing that demonstrates competency in the field. The writing could take the form of a seminar paper or dissertation chapter. The essay must meet the approval of the philosophy adviser.

Guidelines and application forms are available in the Philosophy Department office.

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Revised: 09/01/14