Philosophy

Professor Edward J. Hall, Head Tutor

Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions. These questions concern the nature of reality (e.g., Is there an external world? What is the relationship between physical stuff and mental stuff? Does God exist? Does language play a role in constructing reality?), the nature of ourselves as rational, purposive, and social beings (e.g., Do we act freely? Where does moral obligation come from? What is justice?), and the nature and extent of our knowledge about these things (e.g., What is it to know something, rather than merely believe it? What are the limits of knowledge? Does all of our knowledge come from sensory experience or are there truths we know independently of experience?). Many of these questions come from everyday life, but some come from other disciplines (e.g., What is a scientific explanation? What is a biological function? What is a mental representation?). Philosophers examine these questions in a disciplined and systematic way, aiming not simply to answer them but also to understand just what is being asked in the first place.

OPTIONS

REQUIREMENTS
Basic Requirements: 12 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. One introductory half-course in philosophy, which may be either an introduction to the problems of philosophy, an introduction to the history of philosophy, or a cross-listed Moral Reasoning course.

    2. One half-course in each of the following four areas, taken by the end of the first term of senior year and passed with a grade of C– or better:

      1. Logic.

      2. Contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language.

      3. Ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics.

      4. History of ancient, medieval, or modern pre-20th-century philosophy.

    3. Four additional half-courses in philosophy; tutorials count toward this requirement.

    4. Three additional half-courses in philosophy or approved related subjects. Related courses are approved individually by the head tutor, in many cases depending on the interests and overall program of the student. They count for concentration credit only if they are needed to reach the minimum number of concentration courses required.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97, group tutorials at the introductory level on different philosophical topics, required. Letter-graded. A one-semester course typically taken in the spring of the sophomore year.

    2. Junior Tutorial: Philosophy 98hf, group tutorials at the advanced level on different philosophical topics, required. Letter-graded. Two semesters, half time (one semester’s credit). Tutorial 1 is prerequisite.

  3. Thesis: None.

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Philosophy courses include all courses listed under philosophy in Courses of Instruction, regardless of title, but no others.

    2. Pass/Fail: All courses counted for concentration must be letter-graded.

    3. No more than four half-courses numbered lower than 97 may be counted for concentration.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 13 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. One introductory half-course in philosophy, which may be either an introduction to the problems of philosophy (Philosophy 3), an introduction to the history of philosophy (Philosophy 7 or 8), or a cross-listed Moral Reasoning course.

    2. One half-course in each of the following five areas, taken by the end of the first term of senior year and passed with a grade of C– or better:

      1. Logic.

      2. Contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language.

      3. Ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics.

      4. History of ancient or medieval philosophy.

      5. History of modern pre-20th-century philosophy.

    3. Five additional half-courses in philosophy; tutorials count toward this requirement.

    4. Two additional half-courses in philosophy or approved related subjects. Related courses are approved individually by the head tutor, in many cases depending on the interests and overall program of the student. They count for concentration only if they are needed to reach the minimum number of concentration courses required.

  2. Tutorials:

a-b.Same as Basic Requirements.

c.  Senior Tutorial: Philosophy 99, individual supervision of senior thesis. Permission of the head tutor is required for enrollment. Letter-graded. Honors candidates ordinarily enroll in both fall and spring terms. Enrolled students who fail to submit a thesis when due must, to receive a grade above E for the course, submit a substantial paper no later than the beginning of the spring term Reading Period.

  1. Thesis: Required of all senior honors candidates. Due at the Tutorial Office on the Friday after spring recess. No more than 18,000 words (approximately 65 pages). Oral examination on the thesis, by two readers, during the first week of spring Reading Period.

  2. General Examination: None.

  3. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Mind, Brain, and Behavior Track
15 half-courses

Students interested in studying philosophical questions that arise in connection with the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior may pursue a program of study affiliated with the University-wide Mind/Brain/Behavior (MBB) Initiative, that allows them to participate in a variety of related activities. MBB track programs must be approved on an individual basis by the Philosophy MBB adviser. Further information can be obtained from the undergraduate coordinator.

  1. Required courses:

    1. Three basic MBB half-courses:

      1. Science of Living Systems 20 (or Science B-62 for classes of 2012 and 2011; or Science B-29 for classes of 2010 or earlier).

      2. Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 (formerly Biological Sciences 80).

      3. Junior year seminar in Mind, Brain, and Behavior.

    2. One introductory half-course in philosophy, preferably an introduction to the problems of philosophy (Philosophy 3).

    3. Philosophy 156.

    4. One half-course in logic.

    5. Two further half-courses in contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of language.

    6. Two half-courses covering two of the following three areas: history of ancient philosophy, history of modern philosophy, ethics.

    7. Two further MBB-listed half-courses from outside the philosophy department, to be selected in consultation with the MBB adviser.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Tutorial 1: Same as Basic Requirements.

    2. Senior Tutorial: Same as Requirements for Honors Eligibility.

  3. General Examination: None.

  4. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Joint Concentrations: Philosophy as Primary Concentration
9 half-courses in Philosophy

  1. Required courses:

    1. One introductory half-course (see item 1a of Requirements for Honors Eligibility).

    2. One half-course in four of the five areas (see item 1b of Requirements for Honors Eligibility).

    3. Four additional half-courses in philosophy; tutorials count toward this requirement.

    4. At least four half-courses in the other field. Many departments require more; consult head tutor of other field.

  2. Tutorial: Tutorial 1, Philosophy 97 (usually taken in the sophomore year). Normally a tutorial is also required in the other field.

  3. Thesis: Required as for honors eligibility in Philosophy, but must relate to both fields. Oral examination by two readers, one from each department.

  4. General Examination: None required in philosophy.

  5. Other information: See Basic Requirements. Joint concentrations: with Classics, Government, History, Mathematics, Religion, and occasionally others by special arrangement.

Another Field as Primary Concentration
6 half-courses in Philosophy

  1. Required courses:

    1. One introductory half-course (see item 1a of Requirements for Honors Eligibility).

    2. One half-course in three of the five areas (see item 1b of Requirements for Honors Eligibility). The introductory course (item 1a) also counts toward this requirement.

    3. Three additional half-courses in philosophy; tutorial counts toward this requirement.

  2. Tutorial: Tutorial 1, (Philosophy 97), usually taken in the junior year.

  3. Thesis: Required. Must relate to both fields. Directed in the primary field; one reader from Philosophy.

  4. General Examination: None required in philosophy.

  5. Other information: See Basic Requirements. Primary fields: Classics, Government, History, Mathematics, Religion, and occasionally others by special arrangement.

ADVISING

Advising is done by the head tutor, Professor Ned Hall, and other faculty in the department. The head tutor's hours are posted outside the tutorial office.

For up-to-date information on advising in Philosophy, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The Department of Philosophy is housed in Emerson Hall, which contains the department and tutorial offices, the offices of faculty members and teaching fellows, and the Robbins Library of Philosophy.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Further information may be obtained from Ms. Nanette de Maine, undergraduate coordinator, in the tutorial office, Room 303 Emerson Hall (617-495-2153); philtut@fas.harvard.edu.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

†Foreign Cultures

Literature and Arts C

†Historical Study A

Moral Reasoning

†Historical Study B

Quantitative Reasoning

†Literature and Arts A

ONE of the areas marked †.

†Literature and Arts B

 

Science A

 

Science B

 

†Social Analysis

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Philosophy

62

56

47

43

48

Philosophy + another field

8

9

4

1

1

Another field + Philosophy

10

9

6

6

8