Philosophy Major Program

Department/Program Description

Doing philosophy means reasoning about questions that are of basic importance to the human experience—questions like, What is a good life? What is reality? How are knowledge and understanding possible? What should we believe? What norms should govern our societies, our relationships, and our activities? Philosophers critically analyze ideas and practices that often are assumed without reflection. Wesleyan’s philosophy faculty draws on multiple traditions of inquiry, offering a wide variety of perspectives and methods for addressing these questions.


Majors in philosophy must take at least ten courses in  philosophy, numbered 201 or higher. Of these ten at least eight must be offered by the Philosophy Department; as many as two may be given in other departments or programs (e.g., COL, Religion) that are relevant to the student's program of studies in philosophy and are approved as such by the philosophy faculty. Of the ten courses, no more than four can be introductory level (201-249) courses.

In addition, students must satisfy the following: 

  • Philosophical reasoning requirement. All introductory courses, except where explicitly noted, fulfill this requirement; completion of any such course with a grade of B- or above fulfills the requirement.
  • History of Philosophy requirement. All students must complete two courses from among the Introductory Historical courses (201, 202, and 205).
  • Value requirement. All students must complete at least one Introductory or Intermediate Value course.
  • Mind and Reality requirement. All students must complete at least one Introductory or Intermediate Mind and Reality course.
  • Advanced course requirement. All students must complete at least two advanced courses, in any area, during their Junior or Senior years.

Prospective majors should pay particular attention to the prerequisites for Intermediate and Advanced courses when planning their schedules. Among other courses, Philosophy 201, 202, 205, and 231 are required for a variety of subsequent courses.

Because philosophy ranges over subjects in other disciplines, such as economics, government, mathematics, physics, psychology, and religion, students considering philosophy as a major field are strongly advised to choose a balanced combination of solid liberal arts courses conforming to Wesleyan expectations for generalization. Knowledge of foreign languages is particularly useful for the study of philosophy and indispensable for serious study of the history of philosophy. It is therefore strongly recommended that students achieve reading fluency in at least one foreign language. 

Departmental Honors

In order to qualify for departmental honors in philosophy, a student must achieve an honors level of performance in courses in the department; must declare the intention to work for departmental honors at the beginning of the senior year; must register for senior thesis tutorials in each semester of the senior year; and write a thesis at an honors level.  . Theses must be submitted in accordance with  Honors College procedures and will be judged by a committee made up of members of the department.

Majors Committee, Philosophy Club, and Director of Undergraduate Studies

The Department encourages its majors and other interested students to participate actively in the life of the department. To this end, each year one member of the faculty will be designated as Director of Undergraduate Studies, and this individual will be responsible for encouraging the organization of a major's committee and/or a broader Philosophy club, will facilitate these organizations' presentations of philosophy-related events, and will help to coordinate between the Department's Colloquia and Proseminar, and the student-organized events.