Undergraduate Studies

Philosophy investigates fundamental questions about the nature of things — about the universe as a whole, about human beings, society, science, ethics and art.

Philosophy pays careful attention to its own long history, spanning more than 2,500 years, going back to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and beyond. These early investigations are the focus of the department’s courses on ancient, early modern, late modern and 20th-century philosophers and philosophical movements.It continues to be concerned with the nature of reality in general (metaphysics), mental reality (philosophy of mind), truth and knowledge (epistemology), virtue, justice and freedom (ethics), beauty and art (aesthetics) and reason (logic). Knowledge of logic is important for all students regardless of major, since whatever the topic, one should think and write logically about it. Knowledge of metaphysics and epistemology is important for an assessment of the claims of all disciplines and professions. The value oriented courses are important for any social or personal criticism as well as life planning.

The Department of Philosophy offers an opportunity for students to seek answers which fall outside the scope of any particular science because they are about values, or simply because they are at a higher level of generality. Students will be involved in critical thinking. They will learn to raise questions, to think independently and to reject unfounded values.

As a philosophy student, you will learn about the basic intellectual foundation for our political, social and legal systems, as well as our understanding of the principles of modern science and technology. You will explore deep theoretical, practical and moral issues that do not easily fit into more specialized disciplines. Philosophy will challenge you with its reflective and critical approach to important, often puzzling, questions about the nature of right and wrong, time and space, perception and the human mind.

At the U of L, above the 1000 Level, students will find themselves in seminar and lecture discussion classes. Readings will range from the ancient to the contemporary, the historical and the problem oriented. To round out further the student's academic studies, a minimum of one independent study must be completed. This course is designed by the student in cooperation with a professor and is intended to expand a student's program beyond the limits of the regular curriculum.

We are very proud of our students and their contributions to our university and to our community, and we do our best to support them in their studies. Undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science have several special opportunities available, including:

Ten Good Reasons to Study Philosophy

  1. Philosophy offers a friendly format for questions from many perspectives.
  2. Philosophy helps you develop logic and thinking skills.
  3. Philosophy helps you organize information, ideas, and arguments.
  4. Philosophy improves reading, writing, and communication skills.
  5. The study of philosophy provides a good preparation for careers in such areas as journalism, politics, medicine, and the ministry.
  6. Philosophy teaches open-mindedness and gives you experience in looking at a situation from various different perspectives.
  7. Philosophy provides a good framework for learning about the history of ideas.
  8. Central philosophical problems arise in many other subjects, including science, mathematics, history, psychology, and literature.
  9. Philosophy provides you with an opportunity to reflect on fundamental questions about the universe and our place in it.
  10. The study of philosophy can be part of your quest for meaning in life.

What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree?

The first answer is short: Think.

You can use the knowledge and awareness gained from pursuing this degree to understand yourself and the world around you, including the ideas, cultures, and religions of other times and places. The capacities for understanding, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and writing you will develop through the study of philosophy are useful for virtually any professional occupation or academic role.

A philosophy degree helps build many valuable skills, including careful, critical reading, clear and effective writing, and the skills to evaluate and effectively criticize arguments and construct strong arguments of your own. These skills make philosophy an excellent background for many careers, including law: the department offers a concentration in legal reasoning, focusing on philosophy of law and social and political philosophy.

You might be surprised to learn that the American Philosophical Association’s survey of philosophy graduates has found that mid-career earnings for philosophy majors are among the highest of all undergraduate majors. Our graduates have gone on to many different careers, including studying philosophy at the graduate level at some of the best philosophy departments in the world, becoming lawyers, and working in government and in business. Our students have been admitted to graduate programs at Calgary, Columbia, Dalhousie, Oxford, Pittsburgh, Princeton, Toronto, University of Alberta, Waterloo and Western Ontario. Former students include philosophy professors Barry Allen (McMaster) and Cheryl Misak (Queens), Gary Gleb (Rutgers), and numerous professionals.