Philosophy

Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions. These questions concern the nature of reality (e.g., Is there an external world? What's 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.

The secondary field in Philosophy is designed to offer students both a general introduction to philosophical skills and a more focused exploration of some particular domain of philosophy. We offer six different pathways, all of which will appear as "Philosophy" on the transcript:

General Philosophy

A selection of courses from across the discipline.

  1. One introductory course: These courses have numbers under 100.

  2. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97.

  3. Three courses covering three of the following four areas:

    1. History of Philosophy

    2. Moral and Political Philosophy

    3. Metaphysics and Epistemology

    4. Logic

  4. One other philosophy course, or a related course outside the department that has been approved by the head tutor.

Classics of Western Philosophy

An introduction to some of the classic thinkers and texts of Western thought.

  1. One introductory course: These courses have numbers under 100.  Philosophy 8 is preferred.

  2. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97.

  3. One course in ancient philosophy.

  4. One course in modern philosophy.

  5. One additional course in the history of philosophy.

  6. One other philosophy course, or a related course outside the department that has been approved by the head tutor.

Philosophy of Science

The study of general principles that underlie scientific reasoning and justification.

  1. One introductory course: These courses have numbers under 100.  Philosophy 3 is preferred.

  2. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97.

  3. Philosophy 149: Philosophy of Science.

  4. Two other courses in philosophy of science.

  5. One other philosophy course, or a related course outside the department that has been approved by the head tutor.

Moral and Political Philosophy

Examination of historical and contemporary theories about the basis and content of such moral and political concepts as the good, obligation, justice, equality, rights, and freedom.

  1. One introductory course: These courses have numbers under 100. A Moral Reasoning course cross-listed in Philosophy is preferred.

  2. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97.

  3. Three courses in moral and political philosophy.

  4. One other philosophy course, or a related course outside the department that has been approved by the head tutor.

Philosophy of Mind and Psychology

The philosophy of mind, perception, and psychology.

  1. One introductory course: These courses have numbers under 100. Philosophy 3 and 8 are preferred.

  2. Philosophy 156: Philosophy of Mind.

  3. Tutorial 1: Philosophy 97.

  4. Two other courses in the philosophy of mind or psychology.

  5. One other philosophy course, or a related course outside the department that has been approved by the head tutor.

Special Topic in Philosophy

This option invites students to construct proposals of their own for a secondary field in Philosophy, drawing on their own interests and the courses available. This option must be constructed in consultation with the head tutor, but would require at least the following courses.

Requirements: 6 half courses

  1. One Introductory Course. These courses have numbers under 100.

  2. Tutorial 1.

  3. Three courses chosen from among the department's offerings, along with a proposal for combining these courses into an integrated secondary field.

  4. One other course in the department or a related course outside the department.

Each consists of six half-courses: (a) an introductory level course, (b) a tutorial, and (c) four additional courses, one of which can be a related course outside the department. In all cases, the structure is designed to insure that students have a basic introduction to the subject matter and methodology of philosophy; an intensive discussion-based tutorial in which they have close contact with the instructor and work intensively on they writing; and a selection of upper level courses that develop the student's skills in the area of their interest.

Other Information

All courses must be taken for a letter grade and students must earn a C or higher for the course to count toward the secondary field. No more than two courses may be introductory level (numbered below 97). Typically, all courses but one will be taken in the Philosophy Department. Approval for “related” courses must be obtained from the head tutor.

Advising Resources and Expectations

The head tutor, Edward J. Hall (ehall@fas.harvard.edu), is available for advice about the program and course selection. The head tutor must sign the final form for secondary field credit. The undergraduate coordinator, Ms. Nanette Demaine (demaine@fas.harvard.edu ), is also available for information about the program. All students interested in a secondary field are expected to register their interest with the department early on, and have an initial advising conversation with the head tutor.