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Department Overview

361 Savery

Philosophy is the study of the most fundamental issues concerning reality, knowledge, and value, and of the basic concepts, principles, and arguments of the major intellectual disciplines. Its fields include metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, history of philosophy, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of law, and philosophy of religion.

Undergraduate Program

361 Savery, Box 353350
(206) 543-5855

The Department of Philosophy offers the following programs of study:

  • The Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy
  • The Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and philosophy of science, offered jointly with the Department of History
  • A minor in philosophy

The Department of Philosophy also administers the interdisciplinary minor in ethics.

Bachelor of Arts


Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: Introductory courses in symbolic logic, social philosophy, major problems of philosophy, and history of philosophy. Courses to develop writing, language, and analytic skills.

Department Admission Requirements

Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA and completion of 10 credits of philosophy coursework

Major Requirements

50 credits, to include:

  1. One course from PHIL 115, PHIL 120, or an upper-division course in logic
  2. One course from PHIL 320, PHIL 330, PHIL 335, or PHIL 340 (undergraduate adviser must approve substitutions)
  3. One course from PHIL 322, PHIL 332, PHIL 342, or 400-level courses in the same areas (undergraduate adviser must approve substitutions)
  4. At least four UW philosophy courses at the 400 level, excluding PHIL 484
  5. At least 25 credits at the UW
  6. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA for all philosophy courses taken

History and Philosophy of Science

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: PHIL 120, PHIL 160. Courses that develop writing skills. Introductory science courses and mathematics courses through calculus.

Department Admission Requirements
  1. HSTCMP 311, HSTCMP 312; PHIL 160 or PHIL 460; PHIL 120, each with a minimum 2.0 grade
  2. Completion of 10 credits toward the Natural World (science) requirement (see below), each course with a minimum 2.0 grade
  3. Minimum UW 2.00 GPA
  4. Completion of 10 credits of composition/writing courses with a minimum 2.0 grade for each course. This requirement may be met by freshman English composition courses, "W" courses, or any courses in which the student has written a graded paper (to be reviewed by HPS faculty) of at least 10 pages.
Major Requirements

85 credits as follows:

  1. Core Courses: HSTCMP 311, HSTCMP 312, HSTCMP 390; PHIL 160 or PHIL 460; PHIL 120 (25 credits). A minimum 2.0 grade in each course and an overall minimum 2.50 GPA.
  2. Electives: 25 credits from the following, of which at least 10 must be PHIL courses and at least 5 must be HIST courses (or others upon petition): ESS 404, HIST 211, HIST 215, HIST 310, HIST 313 (or ASTR 313), HIST 314, HIST 315, HIST 316, HIST 317 (also MHE 422), HIST 318 (also MHE 424), HIST 412; PHIL 243, PHIL 350, PHIL 360, PHIL 406, PHIL 450, PHIL 460 (if PHIL 160 has been taken), PHIL 464, PHIL 466, PHIL 473, PHIL 481, PHIL 482, PHIL 483. A minimum 2.0 grade in each class.
  3. Capstone: Completion of HPS 400, with a minimum 2.0 grade (5 credits)
  4. Science Component: 30 credits of Natural World (NW) courses from anthropology, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, biology, chemistry, computer science, earth and space sciences, economics, environmental studies, mathematics, physics, psychology, and sociology, with a minimum 2.50 GPA in these courses and a minimum 2.0 grade in each course. At least 15 of the credits must be outside mathematics.


Minor Requirements: 30 credits, to include:

  1. PHIL 115 or PHIL 120, or an upper-division course in logic
  2. At least 15 UW philosophy credits at the 300 level or above, excluding PHIL 484.
  3. 10 philosophy elective credits at any level

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: Graduates of the Department of Philosophy acquire considerable skills in abstract thinking, analysis, and critical writing (constructing and critiquing arguments). Because of these skills, philosophical training is invaluable in almost any area of life. Recent graduates have been successful in software development, financial planning, journalism, teaching, and law. A few go on to graduate school and become professional philosophers.

    Students' work is subjected to careful critical scrutiny. As a result, students benefit from philosophy courses with an increased competence in expository clarity, logical rigor, and analytical skill.

    Philosophy is an excellent undergraduate major for pre-professional students. It is perhaps ideal for those who aspire to work in the legal profession. The history and philosophy of science major is of particular interest to those planning careers in the sciences. Courses in ethics offer students in any field the opportunity to think clearly about the normative dimensions of their career choices. Because the skills of philosophical analysis can be applied widely, philosophy is always a good complementary second degree for any major, whether it is in the physical sciences, social sciences, arts, or humanities.

  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The Philosophy Writing Center provides a free tutoring service to any student writing a philosophical paper.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: The department offers internship credits for students participating in the philosophy of children program. Students may also arrange for internship credit with individual faculty. See adviser for details.
  • Department Scholarships: The Kenneth Clatterbaugh scholarship acknowledges a student with financial need who has outstanding academic merit and commitment to philosophy. The Kenneth R. Parker Award for Excellence in Community Service award honors an undergraduate philosophy major or minor who has blended her or his studies in philosophy with a volunteer-based community project. The recipient receives a $500 scholarship. A donation of $250 is made on behalf of the recipient to a community organization of the student's choice. See adviser for details.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: The undergraduate student club, Lyceum, is dedicated to the informal discussion of philosophical issues.

Of Special Note: The department offers a new majors seminar for those wishing to explore the major.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
361 Savery, Box 353350
(206) 543-5855

The Department of Philosophy offers programs of study leading to the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, the MA program serving as the initial stage of the PhD program. The department's program on values in society offers an interdisciplinary graduate certificate.

The master of arts program option is a two-year non-thesis program which may be extended to three years depending on the outcome of the spring research papers. The student must take twelve courses in philosophy, satisfy a logic requirement, and at the end of the second year, submit three research papers for evaluation by the graduate faculty of the department. The courses and the papers must satisfy a distribution requirement. The departmental evaluation of the student's papers and coursework determines whether an MA degree is awarded and also whether admission to the PhD program is granted. The MA portion of the program serves as the initial stage of the PhD program.

The PhD program, which normally requires at least two years of study beyond the MA, has three general requirements: (1) general examination, (2) dissertation, and (3) final examination.

Master of Arts

Admission Requirements

In evaluating applications, the Department of Philosophy takes the following factors into account: the philosophical potential displayed in a sample of the applicant's written work, letters of recommendation, undergraduate record, and GRE scores.

  1. Three letters of recommendation written on the recommender's departmental letterhead and addressed to the Graduate Admissions Committee. Recommenders may send their letters directly to the department, or the applicant may include the letters in sealed envelopes with the other application materials.
  2. A sample of the applicant's written philosophical work, normally an essay or paper (approximately 8-15 pages) written for a course in philosophy. Applicants are allowed one writing sample only.
  3. Official GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytic).
  4. A 200-300 word statement of the applicant's reasons for doing graduate work in philosophy and his or her professional objectives.
  5. A complete set of official college transcripts.
  6. An undergraduate major in philosophy is recommended although not required.
  7. International applicants should refer to UW Graduate School policies.

Degree Requirements

The Philosophy Department at the University of Washington does not offer a terminal MA degree.

This is a non-thesis program. There is no language requirement for the MA degree.

The following requirements supplement the general requirements set forth by the UW Graduate School in the General Catalog (see the Graduate School admissions page for further information). All students, whether or not they have earned an MA at another institution, must complete the MA requirements before entering the PhD program.

36 credits minimum, as follows:

  • Logic Requirement: Either a grade of 3.0 or better in one of the graduate-level logic courses or a passing score on the departmental logic examination. The department offers the logic exam once annually upon request. Part-time students must satisfy this requirement by the time they submit master's papers.
  • Distribution Requirement: Graduate courses are divided into three areas. Students must take at least three courses in each of the following three areas:
    1. Area One:
      • Greek Philosophy -- PHIL 430, PHIL 431, PHIL 433, PHIL 520
      • Medieval Philosophy -- PHIL 421
      • Modern Philosophy -- PHIL 422, PHIL 436, PHIL 437, PHIL 438, PHIL 522
      • Recent Philosophy -- PHIL 426, PHIL 469, PHIL 526
    2. Area Two:
      • Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics -- PHIL 470, PHIL 471, PHIL 472, PHIL 473, PHIL 474, PHIL 570
      • Philosophy of Science -- PHIL 459, PHIL 460, PHIL 466, PHIL 481, PHIL 482, PHIL 560, PHIL 566, PHIL 574
      • Philosophy of Mind -- PHIL 463, PHIL 464, PHIL 563
      • Philosophy of Language -- PHIL 453, PHIL 479, PHIL 553
      • Epistemology -- PHIL 450, PHIL 490, PHIL 550
      • Metaphysics -- PHIL 456, PHIL 556, PHIL 587
    3. Area Three:
      • Ethics -- PHIL 416, PHIL 417, PHIL 440, PHIL 540
      • Philosophy of Art -- PHIL 445, PHIL 446, PHIL 449, PHIL 545
      • Philosophy of History -- PHIL 465, PHIL 565
      • Social and Political Philosophy -- PHIL 406, PHIL 407, PHIL 408, PHIL 409, PHIL 410, PHIL 411, PHIL 414, PHIL 461, PHIL 510, PHIL 514
      • Philosophy of Religion-- PHIL 467, PHIL 567
  • Courses numbered below 400 cannot be used to satisfy graduate degree requirements.
  • 12-Course Requirement: Students must complete twelve courses (numbered 400 or above) in philosophy, with a minimum grade of 3.0 in each course. At least four of these twelve courses must be seminars.
  • Master's Papers: At the end of their second year, in lieu of a master's thesis, students submit three papers, one in each distribution area. (Part-time students will submit their papers for evaluation upon completion of twelve courses in philosophy. A change of status from full-time to part-time student requires departmental approval.)
  • Evaluation: The graduate faculty of the department evaluates students' progress on the basis of coursework in philosophy and the papers submitted. The graduate faculty then decides whether students are (a) awarded an MA and admitted to the PhD program; (b) awarded an MA and invited to submit papers a second time; · (c) awarded a terminal MA; or (d) dropped from the program without a degree. Students resubmitting papers must provide completely new ones that satisfy the distribution requirements. A completely new paper has not been submitted before and is not a revised version of one previously submitted. These papers are due the following year.
  • Satisfactory Progress: Students not yet admitted to the PhD program must take at least two courses (10 credits) per quarter with a grade of 3.0 or better to be in good standing. An excessive number of incompletes may jeopardize a student's good standing. If a student does not make satisfactory progress in a given quarter, the director of graduate studies recommends to the dean of the Graduate School that the student be placed on probation.
  • Other Courses: Students may use three courses outside philosophy in determining whether they are making satisfactory progress. The courses must be approved by the director of graduate studies as part of a program of specialization. Courses in areas other than philosophy do not normally satisfy the twelve-course requirement.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD program is based on the level of performance with the MA requirements. (See above.)

Degree Requirements

Minimum 90 credits (60 credits minimum beyond the master's degree), as follows:

  • General Requirements: There are four general requirements for the completion of the doctoral degree:
    1. General written examination
    2. General oral examination
    3. Dissertation
    4. Final examination

    The master's papers constitute the written portion of the general examination. The general oral examination is normally a presentation and defense of the student's dissertation proposal.

  • Course Requirement: The only departmental course requirement is that the student must complete a total of at least six seminars with a grade of 3.0 or better in each before being awarded the PhD (seminars taken to fulfill the MA requirements may count toward this total). A student's Supervisory Committee may, however, require additional courses.
  • Language Requirement: There is no departmental language requirement. However, in writing a dissertation a student must be able to deal with primary sources in the original language of the source. All language requirements are determined by the student's Supervisory Committee. A student should develop the needed language skills as early as possible in his or her career. The student should consult with the director of graduate studies during the first and second year in the MA program to insure that he or she is developing any needed language skills.
  • Satisfactory Progress: A student's Supervisory Committee determines whether a student in the PhD program is making satisfactory progress. Satisfactory progress for the PhD program includes steady and substantial progress toward the completion of the dissertation. Sanctions for failure to make satisfactory progress are the same as described for the master's requirements.

Financial Aid

The department has some teaching assistantships available to incoming students and the Graduate School offers some non-teaching assistantships.

Graduate Certificate in Values in Society

The program on values in society aims to facilitate graduate research in ethics as it arises across the disciplines. The program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for integrating ethics and ethics scholarship into their chosen field.

The graduate certificate program is open only to students already enrolled in other graduate degree programs at the University of Washington. Successful completion of the certificate program is noted on official transcripts.

Certificate Requirements

  1. Selection of a faculty adviser from the values in society core faculty
  2. Completion of VALUES 511 and VALUES 512 (10 credits)
  3. Completion of two other graduate-level values-laden courses specific to the student's field of study (6 credits). Courses from the student's home department are eligible. All courses must be approved by the student's faculty adviser and the program director.
  4. Completion of VALUES 513 (2 credits)