Why study philosophy?

In philosophy we ask big, important questions.  While asking such questions is easy, answering them is difficult.  Because these questions are often abstract and vague, it is necessary to use precise reasoning and analysis to clarify what exactly it is we are asking.  Only then can we attempt to develop answers.

In studying philosophy, you will learn what others have thought about life's big questions.  You will also learn to challenge those views, and to develop your own thoughts in a precise, logical manner.  Philosophy will help you develop critical thinking skills, enabling you to analyze the underlying logic and assumptions in arguments about a variety of topics.  This is a skill that generalizes to virtually every area of life.

Undergraduate Admission

Admission to KU

All students applying for admission must send high school and college transcripts to the Office of Admissions. Unless they are college transfer students with at least 24 hours of credit, prospective students must send ACT or SAT scores to the Office of Admissions. Prospective first-year students should be aware that KU has qualified admission requirements that all new first-year students must meet to be admitted. Consult the Office of Admissions for application deadlines and specific admission requirements.

Visit the International Support Services for information about international admissions.

Students considering transferring to KU may see how their college-level course work will transfer on the Office of Admissions website.

Admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Admission to the College is a different process from admission to a major field. Some CLAS departments have admission requirements. See individual department/program sections for departmental admission requirements.

First- and Second-Year Preparation

Although majors are not required to take courses in philosophy in their first 2 years, the department recommends that they do so. Prospective majors are encouraged to begin with one of the 100-level courses. These courses provide introductions to broad areas of philosophy, and students may apply one 100-level course toward the major requirements. PHIL 310, PHIL 384, and PHIL 386  are required prerequisites for upper-division work and should be taken early. Prospective majors should consult the director of undergraduate studies early to plan course work.

Requirements for the B.A. or B.G.S. Major

Philosophy Major Core Knowledge and Skills (3)3
Majors must complete a course in one of the following areas:
History of Philosophy. Satisfied by either one of the following areas
Ancient Philosophy
Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant
Philosophy Major Required Electives (24)
Symbolic Logic. Satisfied by one of the following:
PHIL 310Introduction to Symbolic Logic3
or PHIL 610 Symbolic Logic
Value Theory. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses:3
PHIL 555Justice and Economic Systems3
PHIL 662Aesthetics3
PHIL 666Rational Choice Theory3
PHIL 668Political Philosophy3
PHIL 670Contemporary Ethical Theory3
PHIL 671Feminist Theories in Ethics3
PHIL 672History of Ethics3
PHIL 676Medical Ethics: Life and Death Issues3
PHIL 677Medical Ethics: Professional Responsibilities3
Theoretical Philosophy. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses:3
PHIL 620Philosophy of Natural Science3
PHIL 622Philosophy of Social Science3
PHIL 630Philosophy of Mathematics3
PHIL 638Philosophy of Language3
PHIL 648Theory of Knowledge3
PHIL 650Metaphysics3
PHIL 654Philosophy of Mind3
History. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses:
PHIL 508Early Greek Philosophy3
PHIL 557Kant3
PHIL 558Seventeenth Century Philosophy3
PHIL 559Eighteenth Century Philosophy3
PHIL 560Nineteenth Century Philosophy3
PHIL 562Kierkegaard3
PHIL 570Nietzsche3
PHIL 580Marxism3
PHIL 582Existentialism3
PHIL 590Phenomenology3
PHIL 592Contemporary Continental Philosophy3
PHIL 605The Philosophy of Plato3
PHIL 607The Philosophy of Aristotle3
PHIL 608Hellenistic Philosophy3
Additional Electives 12
Satisfied by completing 12 additional hours of PHIL courses, not more than 3 credit hours can be below 300 and at least 3 credit hours must be at the 500-level or above.

Major Hours & Major GPA

While completing all required courses, majors must also meet each of the following hour and GPA minimum standards:

Major Hours
Satisfied by 27 hours of major courses, or 33 hours required if completing departmental honors course PHIL 499.

Major Hours in Residence
Satisfied by a minimum of 15 hours of KU resident credit in the major. 

Major Junior/Senior (300+) Hours
Satisfied by a minimum of 24 hours from junior/senior courses (300+) in the major.

Major Junior/Senior (500+) Hours
Satisfied by a minimum of 12 hours from junior/senior courses (500+) in the major.

Major Junior/Senior (300+) Graduation GPA
Satisfied by a minimum of a 2.0 KU GPA in junior/senior courses (300+) in the major. GPA calculations include all junior/senior courses in the field of study including F’s and repeated courses. See the Semester/Cumulative GPA Calculator.

A sample 4-year plan for the BA degree in Philosophy can be found here: Philosophy, or by using the left-side navigation.

A sample 4-year plan for the BGS degree in Philosophy can be found here: Philosophy, or by using the left-side navigation.

Departmental Honors

To graduate with departmental honors, undergraduates must take 6 hours in philosophy in addition to the 27 hours required for the B.A. or B.G.S., for a total of 33 hours. The 6 additional hours include

  • An additional course numbered 500 or above for a total of at least 15 hours at that level, and
  • PHIL 499 Senior Essay.

A committee of 3 faculty members reads the finished essay, gives the candidate an oral examination over the essay, and determines whether it warrants honors. This committee must consist of the instructor in PHIL 499, the departmental honors coordinator, and a third member of the philosophy faculty.

Honors are not awarded to anyone who receives a grade lower than B in PHIL 499, whose final grade-point average in philosophy is lower than 3.5, or whose final KU or cumulative grade-point average is lower than 3.25. To be eligible for departmental honors, students must file a declaration of intent with the departmental honors coordinator no later than enrollment for the final undergraduate semester.

The most important element in departmental honors is the honors essay. Once a student has determined the area in which he or she wishes to work, he or she should arrange to write the essay under the guidance of a faculty member with appropriate expertise. Ideally, this work should be completed during a single semester. However, students often find it difficult to complete the essay in one semester. Therefore, we recommend that the essay be begun in the semester before the one in which the student intends to graduate (typically, in the fall semester of the senior year).

The honors essay should be intermediate between a master’s thesis and a term paper. It should normally be at least 20 pages (6,000 words) long. It should go beyond mere exposition, whether by criticism or by comparison of different works. Interpretations of rare or difficult texts may occasionally be accepted.