Philosophy Major, B.A.

Department of Philosophy

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Caldwell Hall, 240 East Cameron Ave., CB# 3125

(919) 962-7291

Marc Lange, Chair

Mariska Leunissen, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The principal goal of the study of philosophy is to enable students to think more clearly, deeply, and appreciatively about themselves and their world. Study of philosophy enhances analytical, critical, and interpretive capacities that are applicable to any subject matter in almost any context. It provides many opportunities for expressing oneself, for reflecting on questions that human beings have pondered for millennia, for exchanging reasoned beliefs and engaging in focused debate, and for learning how to come to terms with problems for which there are no easy answers. A good philosophical education also helps to prepare students for responsible and intelligent participation in political and community affairs.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the philosophy program, students should be able to:

  • Deploy philosophical concepts and terminology correctly, in either a historical or contemporary setting
  • Represent clearly and accurately the views or argument of a particular philosopher, in either an historical or contemporary setting
  • Identify the premises and conclusion(s) of a philosophical argument and assess both its validity and soundness
  • Apply a philosophical theory or argument to a new topic, and to draw and defend reasonable conclusions about that topic
  • Develop an argument for a particular solution to a philosophical problem in either an historical or contemporary setting


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
Nine PHIL courses, at least six of which are numbered above 19927
The nine courses must include at least one course in three of the following four distribution areas:
History of philosophy: courses above 100 with a second digit of 1 or 2
Metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language: courses above 100 with a second digit of 3 or 4
Logic and philosophy of science: courses above 100 with a second digit of 5
Value theory: courses above 100 with a second digit of 6, 7, or 8
Total Hours27

Philosophy (PHIL) course descriptions.

While first-year seminars may be used in the major core, they are numbered below 100, and their second digits do not correspond to the four distribution areas above.

Within the framework of the major, students can elect a prelaw concentration designed specifically for those planning on pursuing a career in law. Professor Postema, who also holds an appointment in the School of Law, is available to advise those electing this concentration.

Special Opportunities in Philosophy

Honors in Philosophy

Students majoring in philosophy who have at least a 3.3 grade point average and a 3.5 grade point average within the major may be eligible to write an honors thesis during their senior year. Students writing honors theses take two semesters of honors thesis coursework; PHIL 691H and PHIL 692H contribute toward fulfilling major requirements but cannot be applied toward a distribution area. Students registered for PHIL 692H will meet periodically as a group, organized by the director of undergraduate studies, to present and discuss their research in progress. Departmental approval is required. Interested students are encouraged to contact the director of undergraduate studies for more information.

Philosophy Outreach Program

The Philosophy Outreach Program provides students with many exciting opportunities to put their philosophical education to use in their communities. Outreach volunteers teach philosophy to students in local elementary and secondary schools, lead discussions with senior citizens in retirement communities, and participate in a variety of topical public events. For more information, please contact Outreach Coordinator Steven Swartzer or visit the Web site.

Undergraduate Philosophy Club

This group meets weekly to discuss topics of interest and the work of current faculty members. The club sponsors an annual undergraduate philosophy symposium. Detailed information is available on the program’s Web site.

Phi Sigma Tau

The Eta Chapter of the international honor society in philosophy is open to students who have completed a minimum of three semesters, have completed at least two philosophy courses, have a minimum 3.5 grade point average in their philosophy courses, and have a cumulative 3.2 grade point average.

Take a Philosopher to Lunch

Every semester, the Department of Philosophy sponsors the Take a Philosopher to Lunch program, where groups of two to three students can invite their philosophy instructor to lunch anywhere within walking distance of the department, and the department will pay the bill (up to $10 per person). To sign up, contact the director of undergraduate studies, Mariska Leunissen, with the names of the two or three students doing the inviting, and she will let you know whether there are still funds left. Then invite the Department of Philosophy member of your choice.

Study Abroad

The Department of Philosophy enjoys close relations with a number of departments in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and is willing and able to work closely with the Study Abroad Office to arrange opportunities for study in these and other countries.

Undergraduate Research

There are opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members in the Department of Philosophy on individual research projects. This usually takes the form of an honors thesis project. It may also be done as a directed readings course.

Speaker Series

The Department of Philosophy sponsors a series of talks given by distinguished philosophers from around the world, as well as work-in-progress talks by faculty members and graduate students. All students are welcome to attend all of these talks. The schedule can be found online.

Undergraduate Symposium

The Philosophy Club and Phi Sigma Tau coordinate a student conference of selected papers. The one-day conference is set in the format of a professional conference during which students have an opportunity to present their research.

Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl provides students with a unique opportunity to practice applying the moral theories and argumentation principles learned in their ethics classes. The team sent to the Ethics Bowl competition will be selected from those registered in the course. For more information, contact Dominique Déry, director of the National High School Ethics Bowl, at (919) 962-2576 or

Lesher Opportunity Fund

The James and Eleanor Lesher Educational Opportunity in Philosophy Fund provides undergraduates with support to attend conferences, study abroad, develop language skills, or pursue other special opportunities.

Thanks to a very generous gift from James and Eleanor Lesher, we now have an endowment to help undergraduates studying philosophy (typically, but not necessarily, philosophy majors) take advantage of special opportunities as they arise. The mandate for the fund is broad in conception.

This year we expect to make either one or two awards, totaling $500 in value, each semester. The exact number and amount of the awards will depend on the applications we receive.

The deadline for fall applications is October 30, and the deadline for spring applications is March 1.

To apply, please send a letter to the director of undergraduate studies, Professor Mariska Leunissen. The letter should include your name, e-mail address, PID number, the amount of funding you would need to take advantage of your opportunity, a description of what you would use the funds for and when, and a description of how taking advantage of this opportunity would support your study of philosophy.