Philosophy Major Program

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.


The philosophy major at Wesleyan offers two tracks: a general philosophy track and a social justice track. Both tracks require at least ten courses, including eight PHIL courses.

  • The general philosophy track encourages students to explore a range of issues and approaches from various historical periods and cultural traditions.
  • The social justice track emphasizes philosophers’ roles not only as theorists but also as agents of social and political change. Philosophical methods of conceptual and contextual analyses and careful argumentation provide important tools for grappling with real-world injustices. The social justice track supports students in tailoring their philosophical understanding and skills around a particular concern in an area of social justice, such as human rights, equality, social responsibility, environmental justice, etc.


1 History
1 Value
1 Mind & Reality
None required
2 seminars taken as juniors/seniors
5 electives, including up to 2 non-PHIL
Thesis Project
Of the ten courses counted toward the general-track major, at least eight must be offered by the Philosophy Department; as many as two may be given in other departments or programs (e.g., College of Letters, Religion) that are relevant to the student’s program of studies in philosophy and are approved as such by the philosophy faculty.

In addition, students must satisfy the following:

  • Distribution requirement. Students must count at least one course from each of the thematic areas (history, values, mind and reality).
  • Advanced course requirement. All students must complete at least two advanced philosophy courses, in any philosophical area, during their junior or senior years.


1 History -or- 1 Mind & Reality
5 - course concentration, including 2 beyond PHIL
2 seminars taken as juniors/seniors
2 electives from PHIL
Thesis project

At the core of the social justice major track is a social justice concentration that brings together a student’s specific interests in social justice. Majors will submit proposals for acceptance to the track that will include three philosophy courses and two non-philosophy courses that fit together in a coherent concentration. 


Sample Concentration 1: Human Rights in China
Human Rights Across Cultures
Political Philosophy
Political Economy of Developing Countries
Chinese Politics
Modern Chinese Philosophy
Sample Concentration 2: Challenging The Carceral State
Reasoning About Justice
The Ethics of Captivity
Critical Perspectives on the State
Critical Philosophy of Race
The Moral Basis of Politics

In addition to the five-course concentration, students must satisfy the following:

  • One core course in either history or mind and reality.
  • Advanced course requirement. All students must complete at least two advanced philosophy courses, in any area, during both their junior or senior years.
  • Two other philosophy electives.

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.