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College of Liberal Arts

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Philosophy - Programs

Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (code PHILBA01) (120 units)

The undergraduate Philosophy program challenges students to think rigorously about some of the most profound questions people consider: “What is most important in a human life?”; “What can I know?”; “Does God exist?”; “Do human beings have free will?”; “What are the guidelines for morality?”; “What is ‘the soul?’, or ‘the mind’?” These and other questions are raised in courses in special areas of philosophical concern such as logic, theory of knowledge, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and aesthetics. They are also raised in their historical context in courses which focus on great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, the great “Rationalists” and the great “Empiricists.” In addition, the Philosophy curriculum encourages students to examine our contemporary situation (with such courses as Existentialism, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Language, and Political Philosophy), and to extend their thinking with the philosophies of other cultures (such as those of China, Japan, and India).

The Philosophy Pre-law Program provides undergraduates with a course of study which emphasizes the development of skills in reasoning and argumentation, in linguistic and ethical analysis, and in clear and precise communication. The Department’s Center for Applied Ethics brings guest speakers to the campus and sponsors conferences, research, and new courses in medical ethics and business ethics. The Department’s Center for the Advancement of Philosophy in Schools (CAPS) places advanced philosophy students into area schools to promote philosophy for children. The Department houses the Center for Cognititve Science, an interdisciplinary collaborative project that encourages a wide range of research and instructional resource development such as talks, conferences, and courses. The center is currently participating in the development of an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in Cognitive Science. The MA program prepares students for teaching in the community colleges and for doctoral programs in philosophy.


A minimum of 36 units in philosophy divided as follows:

Lower Division: PHIL 203, 204, and 270.

Up to 12 lower-division units may be counted toward the major, including either PHIL 100 or 160.

Upper Division: A minimum of 24 units in philosophy, including at least two courses (6 units) from each of the following groups:

  • History of Philosophy: PHIL 306, 307, 413, 414, 416, 417, 418, 419, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 490, 491, 492
  • Logic, Metaphysics, Epistemology: PHIL 330, 342, 381I, 382, 482I, 483, 484, 493
  • Values and Evaluation: PHIL 351I, 352I, 361I, 363, 401, 403I, 405I, 451I, 452I, 455, 461I, 489, 496

The required 6 upper-division units remaining are to be selected from philosophy courses with the advice and consent of the student’s departmental advisor, and may include PHIL 497H and 498H.

Pre-Law Emphasis

The pre-law emphasis requires the same minimum 36 units required for the major. Prelaw students should include at least four of the following in their course of study: PHIL 351I, 352I, 363, 451I, 452I, 489.

Honors in Philosophy

The Honors in Philosophy program provides qualified undergraduate philosophy majors with an opportunity to do independent research with a faculty member on a topic of interest to the student and to present the results of that study to other students in a seminar format. The Program has two curricular components:

1. a year-long, two-semester directed studies course (PHIL 498H: Undergraduate Honors Thesis) in which the student learns about advanced research techniques and writes an undergraduate thesis under the close supervision of a faculty member, and

2. a seminar (PHIL 497H: Undergraduate Honors Seminar) in which honors students meet weekly to discuss work in progress and present a final thesis. The Seminar is designed each year with readings, discussions, and critiques of student work around the themes of the honors student theses projects that year.

To be eligible for the program, students must:

  • A. have a 3.3 GPA in the philosophy major and a 3.0 GPA overall;
  • B. successfully complete all lower-division courses for the major (PHIL 203, 204, and 270);
  • C. successfully complete at least nine (9) units of upper-division philosophy courses (at least six [6] units at CSULB);
  • D. obtain written agreement from a philosophy faculty member to serve as the Honors Thesis Advisor.
    Students enroll in PHIL 498H (Undergraduate Honors Thesis) in Fall and Spring (3 units each semester), and in PHIL 497H (Undergraduate Honors Seminar) in Spring (3 units), for a total of 9 units in the program.

tudents who have been admitted to the honors program and have successfully completed these requirements, along with the regular requirements for the Major in Philosophy, will graduate with Honors in Philosophy.

Minor in Philosophy (code PHILUM01)

The minor in philosophy provides a structured yet flexible program for the student majoring in a different discipline, but who is interested in philosophy either as an adjunct to the degree major or as a foundation for the student’s future intellectual life.

The Minor in Philosophy is available to any non-Philosophy major.


A minimum of 18 units in philosophy, divided as follows:

Lower Division: PHIL 203, 204, and 270.

Upper Division: A minimum of 9 units in philosophy, including at least one course (3 units) from each of the following groups:

  • History of Philosophy: PHIL 306, 307, 413, 414, 416, 417, 418, 419, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 490, 491, 492
  • Logic, Metaphysics, Epistemology: PHIL 303, 342, 381I, 382, 482I, 483, 484, 493
  • Values and Evaluation: PHIL 351I, 352I, 361I, 363, 401, 403I, 405I, 451I, 452I, 455, 461I, 489, 496

Master of Arts in Philosophy (code PHILMA01)

The Department of Philosophy offers graduate study leading to the Master of Arts degree. The candidate must satisfy the general requirements stated in this Catalog as well as the specific departmental requirements described here and more fully in the Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook (available upon request). Applicants must submit to the University’s Office of Admissions and Records a graduate application (available at that office or on-line). Applicants must also submit two sets of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. One set must be submitted to the Office of Enrollment Services and another set must be sent directly to the Department of Philosophy. Prospective students should see the Graduate Advisor for assessment and to plan a program of study. Departmental reader positions are sometimes available for qualified persons, as are Graduate Assistantships. A reader works closely with a member of the faculty, but is not responsible for instruction. Application for these positions can be made to the Chair of the Philosophy Department.


Admission with Classified Status

An applicant may be admitted to the M.A. program in Philosophy in classified status (see the relevant sections in the Catalog under “Graduate and Post-baccalaureate Applicants”) only after satisfying University requirements for admission and the following prerequisites to this degree:

1. A bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 24 units of upper division philosophy courses. These courses must be comparable to those required for the B.A. in philosophy at this University, and must indicate proficiency in the general areas of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and symbolic logic. Deficiencies to be rectified will be determined by the Graduate Advisor after consultation with the student and after study of transcript records.

2. Satisfactory performance on the Department’s Basic Qualifying Exam (BQE).

Admission with Conditionally Classified Status

Until students have met the requirements for classified status, they may be admitted and attend the university with conditionally classified status. Conditionally classified students who at entry to the philosophy program as a graduate student have been determined to have no deficiencies in prerequisite preparation must attempt the Basic Qualifying Exam (BQE) by the end of their second (academic year) semester in the program and pass it by the end of their third (academic year) semester in order to achieve classified status. Conditionally classified student who must rectify a deficiency must attempt the BQE by the end of their third (academic year) semester in the program and pass it by the end of their fourth (academic year) semester in order to achieve classified status. (Winter Term and Summer Session do not count as academic year semesters.)

Basic Qualifying Exam

The BQE comprises two sections that assess the graduate student’s philosophical foundation and knowledge. There is a Text portion and an Analytic portion. The analytic section of the BQE assesses the student’s ability to extract, explain, and evaluate arguments from short passages. In reconstructing and evaluating these arguments, the student must demonstrate an understanding of basic logical concepts, such as validity, soundness, and cogency. The text section of the BQE assesses the student’s ability to read, interpret, and critically evaluate a more lengthy philosophical text. Successfully passing the text section also requires general philosophical and historical knowledge, insofar as these are relevant to the contextual understanding of the text.

Students may attempt one or both sections of the BQE on those occasions when it is administered. Normally, students must pass both parts of the BQE by their second attempt. The BQE must be passed in order for students to achieve classified status in the graduate program.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy is the next step after acquiring classified status (and cannot take place until then) and confers catalog rights to graduate students. Advancement to Candidacy also signifies approval of a plan of study by the student’s department and college. The requirements for advancement, which must be achieved at least one semester before graduation can occur and can only occur in a semester in which the student is enrolled, are:

  1. Fulfillment of the CSULB Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)
  2. The student must maintain a minimum 3.0 overall grade point average in all units undertaken in the philosophy program
  3. Approval of a program of study by the Graduate Advisor, and approval by the department faculty of either a thesis proposal or a proposed set of three comprehensive examinations (see the Graduate Student Handbook for details).
  4. Although there is no formal language requirement, the philosophy department may require the student to demonstrate a foreign language proficiency if a language proficiency is appropriate to the area of study.

Requirements for the Degree

1. The student’s graduate program must consist of not less than 30 units of acceptable upper division and graduate courses, of which at least 24 units must be in philosophy. The remaining 6 units must be chosen in conference with the student’s faculty advisor and may be taken either in philosophy or in another field of study closely related to the candidate’s educational objectives. The program must include a minimum of 18 units of philosophy graduate courses, with a minimum of 6 units from the 600 series. PHIL 697 and 698 may not count toward fulfillment of the 600 series minimum requirement. Undergraduate level courses in Philosophy do not count toward the MA degree requirements. However, under special circumstances and at the discretion of the Graduate Advisor, undergraduate level courses from outside the major may count toward the MA in Philosophy when such work is essential to the successful completion of the student's proposed MA thesis or comprehensive examination preparation.

2. A thesis and oral defense thereof, or a set of three comprehensive examinations.

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies offers two programs to students who want to study medieval and Renaissance political and social history, art, literature, philosophy, religion, music, and drama. Undergraduate students can pursue a Certificate or a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Graduate students can pursue a Certificate in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Interested students should turn to the catalog section entitled “Medieval and Renaissance Studies” and/or contact the program directors in MHB 512.