ALAN BAKER, Professor and Chair
PETER BAUMANN, Professor3
GRACE LEDBETTER, Professor
TAMSIN LORRAINE, Professor3
CHARLES RAFF, Professor
KRISTA THOMASON, Associate Professor
SABEEN AHMED, Assistant Professor
ROSANNA PICASCIA, Visiting Assistant Professor
DONNA MUCHA, Administrative Assistant
3 Absent on leave, 2023-2024
Philosophy analyzes and comments critically on concepts that are presupposed and used in other disciplines and in daily life: the natures of knowledge, meaning, reasoning, morality, the character of the world, God, freedom, human nature, justice and history. Philosophy is thus significant for everyone who wishes to live and act in a reflective and critical manner.
The Academic Program
The Philosophy Department offers several kinds of courses, all designed to engage students in philosophical practices.
- There are courses and seminars to introduce students to the major systematic works of the history of Western philosophy: works by Plato and Aristotle (Ancient Philosophy); Descartes, Hume and Kant (Modern Philosophy); Hegel and Marx (19th-Century Philosophy); Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, de Beauvoir (Existentialism); Russell and Wittgenstein (Contemporary Philosophy).
- There are courses and seminars that consider arguments and conclusions in specific areas of Philosophy: Theory of Knowledge, Logic, Moral Philosophy, Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Social and Political Philosophy.
- There are courses and seminars concerned with the conceptual foundations of various other disciplines: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Philosophy of Psychology, and Philosophy of Religion.
- There are courses and seminars on meaning, freedom, and value in various domains of contemporary life: Values and Ethics in Science and Technology, Feminist Theory, and Post- Modernism.
Members of the Philosophy Department emphasize the engagement of philosophy with other disciplines and recognize that philosophical inquiry is naturally related to concerns in other areas of study. They attempt to make these relations explicit, and so course and seminars are designed to be accessible to a broad range of students, not just those who intend to major in philosophy. Various courses and seminars in philosophy appear in concentrations in gender and sexuality studies, German studies, medieval studies, interpretation theory, and environmental studies.
Satisfactory completion of either any section of PHIL 001 Introduction to Philosophy, or PHIL 012 Logic, or any First-Year Seminar (numbered 002-010) is a prerequisite for taking any further course in philosophy. Sections of Introduction to Philosophy and First-Year Seminars are intended to present introductions to philosophical problems and techniques of analysis. There are no prerequisites for these entry-level courses. Students may not take more than one introductory level course (First-Year Seminar or Introduction to Philosophy), with one exception: students may take Logic either before or after taking any other introductory course.
Juniors and seniors may enter intermediate courses in philosophy without having taken an introductory level course in philosophy.
One can major in philosophy in either the Course Program or the Honors Program. Internal distribution requirements are the same for both programs. Only students who will have satisfactorily completed two philosophy courses by the end of their sophomore year will be considered for acceptance as majors. Normally, applications to complete a major in philosophy will not be accepted after the add/drop period in the fall term of a student’s senior year.
Philosophy students changing their program from course to honors (or honors to course) must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of senior year.
In addition to having completed two courses, majors must meet the general requirements for remaining in good standing at the College and have the ability to satisfy the department’s comprehensive requirements. They must further normally have at least a B- average in all philosophy courses taken at Swarthmore. For double majors, the standard is somewhat higher, and the philosophy faculty determines whether the student has the ability to complete the comprehensive requirements of two departments satisfactorily.
Students majoring in philosophy must earn a total of eight credits, exclusive of senior work and complete at least the following requirements:
- One course or seminar in logic and
- Two credits in history: of these 2 credits, at least 1 must be in either ancient or modern (17th and 18th century) philosophy and
- Two credits in at least one course covering one or more of the following areas: Advanced Logic, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind and
- Two credits in at least one course covering one or more of the following areas: Moral Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Feminism, Aesthetics.
Note: With the exception of Logic (PHIL 012) - introductory level courses and First Year Seminars (PHIL 001-010) do not count toward the distribution requirements.
In addition, students majoring in philosophy are urged to take courses and seminars in diverse fields of philosophy. Prospective majors should complete the logic requirements as early as possible. Course majors are encouraged to enroll in seminars. Mastery of at least one foreign language is recommended.
Senior Course Study work
A student will complete a course major in philosophy by registering for a single credit of Senior Course Study in the spring term of the senior year. Senior Course Study does not count toward fulfilling the eight credit requirement for the major. Under this heading, the student will produce two independent essays, each of no more than 4,000 words, based on problems or texts considered in seminars or courses that they have already completed, and in response to questions set by the department faculty. These two independent essays must fall in two different areas of philosophy from the following list:
- History of Philosophy: Ancient Philosophy; Modern Philosophy; 19th-Century Philosophy; Existentialism and Phenomenology; and Contemporary Philosophy;
- Value Theory: Moral Philosophy; Social and Political Philosophy; Aesthetics; Feminist Theory; Philosophy of Law
- Logic, Metaphysics, and Epistemology: Logic, Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Psychology, Philosophy of Language
Students should inform the chair about the general areas in which they wish to write their essays by the 10th week of the fall term. The faculty of the Philosophy Department will then set questions and specify additional readings (1-3 articles or book chapters) for each area. These questions will be available to students by the end of the fall term.
It is expected that these essays will demonstrate initiative in engaging with problems and texts and that they will develop lines of argumentation beyond what is normally expected of course or seminar papers. Conversation among students who are preparing these essays is encouraged, but each student must produce an independent, original essay. After completing these essays, each course major will be examined orally on both essays by two members of the department.
Students may complete a minor in philosophy by earning any 5 credits in philosophy courses. There is no distribution requirement for the minor.
Students undertaking to pursue honors in philosophy should have B+ grades in philosophy courses and a B+ average overall. The opinions of the philosophy faculty concerning the philosophical ability of students weigh heavily in borderline cases.
Only students who have already completed two philosophy courses will be considered for admission to the Honors Program.
Philosophy students changing their program from honors to course (or course to honors) must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of senior year.
Students will normally prepare for external examination in a given field in philosophy by completing a double-credit seminar at Swarthmore. With the approval of the department, it is possible to combine one-credit courses or attachments, taken either at Swarthmore or elsewhere, to form a preparation. With the approval of the department, a double-credit thesis may be counted as one preparation and submitted to an examiner.
Honors majors will register for one-credit of Seniors Honors Study in philosophy during the spring term of their senior year. Senior Honors Study does not count toward fulfilling the eight credit requirement for the major. External examiners will set questions and specify additional readings (3-4 articles or book chapters) for each preparation that is to be examined. These questions will be available to students by the end of the fall term. Honors majors will choose one question for each preparation.
Senior Honors Study
Honors majors will then produce for each preparation an independent essay of no more than 4,000 words in response to the question they have chosen.
It is expected that these essays will demonstrate initiative in engaging with problems and texts and that they will develop lines of argumentation beyond what is normally expected of papers produced for seminar discussion. The preparation of the essays will not be supervised by members of the faculty. Conversation among students who are preparing these essays is encouraged, but each student must produce an independent, original essay. The essays must be submitted to the department to be sent to the external examiners by the beginning of the written examination period. There will be no further written examination of preparations beyond these independent essays. An examiner will conduct a 60 minute oral examination for each preparation on both the independent essay and the materials considered in the preparation (typically all the materials listed on the syllabus for the related seminar).
Honors minors must complete six credits of work in philosophy. Minors in philosophy will register for 0.5 credit of Senior Honor Study in the spring term of their senior year. Senior Honors Study does not count toward satisfying the six credit requirement for the minor.
Senior Honors Study
Students will prepare one independent, original essay of no more than 4,000 words in response to a question set by an external examiner (as above with majors). An external examiner will conduct a 60 minute oral examination on both the independent essay and the materials considered in the preparation (typically all the materials listed on the syllabus for the related seminar).
Application Process Notes for the Major or the Minor
Follow the process described by the Dean’s Office and the Registrar’s Office for how to apply for a major. Submit application, with transcript, plan of study, and if applicable, honors application.
Transfer students will be deferred until they have obtained at least 1 philosophy credit from Swarthmore.
Students who are deferred may apply again after addressing the reason(s) for being deferred.
With prior approval from the Chair, a student may take philosophy courses abroad for a semester or year and have them count both toward a major and as part of an Honors Program. Courses abroad do not, however, always fit neatly into a philosophy major and are not always suitable for full course credit. Full consultation with the Chair about study abroad is essential for constructing a viable program.
Students wishing to add a major or minor in Philosophy must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year.
Philosophy students changing their program from course to honors (or honors to course) must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year.
Philosophy honors students must declare their honors preparations by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of senior year.
Philosophy students wishing to drop an honors major or minor must do so by the end of the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year.
Philosophy students wishing to drop a course major or minor after the add/drop period of the fall term of the senior year should speak to the chair of the department.