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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 offers the following programs of study:

  • Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy and an option in ethics
  • 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 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

  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 through the UW
  6. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA for all philosophy courses taken

Ethics Option

Minimum 50 credits

  1. Minimum 25 credits from approved list of ethics and justice-related courses. See department for approved course list.
  2. One from PHIL 115, PHIL 120, or upper-division course in logic (5 credits)
  3. One from PHIL 320, PHIL 330, PHIL 335, or PHIL 340. Adviser must approve substitutions (5 credits)
  4. One from PHIL 322, PHIL 332, PHIL 342, or 400-level course in the same areas. Adviser must approve substitutions (5 credits)
  5. Minimum four UW 400-level philosophy courses, excluding PHIL 484, two of which must be from approved list of ethics and justice-related courses (12-20 credits)
  6. Minimum 25 credits taken through UW
  7. 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

  1. Core Courses (25 credits): HSTCMP 311, HSTCMP 312, HSTCMP 390; PHIL 160 or PHIL 460; PHIL 120. Minimum 2.0 grade in each course and 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 taken), PHIL 464, PHIL 466, PHIL 473, PHIL 481, PHIL 482, PHIL 483. Minimum 2.0 grade in each class.
  3. Capstone (5 credits): Completion of HPS 400, with a minimum 2.0 grade
  4. Science Component: 30 credits 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

  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 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 Adviser
361 Savery, Box 353350
(206) 543-5863

The department 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 (POV) offers an interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Ethics.

Master of Arts

Admission Requirements

Fulfilling requirements below guarantees consideration but not acceptance.

  1. Three letters of recommendation written on the recommender's departmental letterhead.
  2. Writing sample of academic philosophical work (approximately 8-15 pages; 2500-5000 words) written for a course in philosophy. Applicants are allowed one writing sample only.
  3. Official GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing).
  4. Personal 300-500 word statement of the applicant's reasons for doing graduate work in philosophy at the UW and his or her professional objectives
  5. Complete set of unofficial college transcripts (official transcripts required upon matriculation)
  6. Undergraduate major in philosophy recommended although not required.
  7. International applicants refer to UW Graduate School policies (including English proficiency required for employment as a teaching assistant).

Degree Requirements

All students, whether or not they have earned an MA at another institution, must complete the MA requirements before entering the PhD program.

A two-year, non-thesis program; no language requirement.

36 credits minimum

  1. Formal Methods Requirement: Either a minimum 3.0 grade in a graduate-level logic or inductive reasoning course (PHIL 470, PHIL 471, PHIL 472, PHIL 474, PHIL 483, or PHIL 570; or a 400-level course in another department with suitable formal content. Part-time students must satisfy this requirement by the time they submit master's papers.
  2. Distribution Requirement: At least three courses in each of the following three areas:
    1. Area One
      1. Greek Philosophy -- PHIL 430, PHIL 431, PHIL 433, PHIL 520
      2. Modern Philosophy -- PHIL 422, PHIL 436, PHIL 437, PHIL 438, PHIL 522
      3. Recent Philosophy -- PHIL 426, PHIL 526
    2. Area Two
      1. Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics -- PHIL 470, PHIL 471, PHIL 472, PHIL 473, PHIL 474, PHIL 570
      2. Philosophy of Science -- PHIL 459, PHIL 460, PHIL 466, PHIL 481, PHIL 482, PHIL 483, PHIL 560, PHIL 564, PHIL 566, PHIL 574
      3. Philosophy of Mind -- PHIL 463, PHIL 464, PHIL 563
      4. Philosophy of Language -- PHIL 453, PHIL 479
      5. Epistemology -- PHIL 450, PHIL 490, PHIL 550
      6. Metaphysics -- PHIL 456, PHIL 556, PHIL 587
    3. Area Three
      1. Ethics -- PHIL 412, PHIL 413, PHIL 415, PHIL 416, PHIL 417, PHIL 418, PHIL 440, PHIL 538, PHIL 540
      2. Philosophy of Art -- PHIL 445, PHIL 446, PHIL 545
      3. Philosophy of History -- PHIL 465, PHIL 565
      4. Social and Political Philosophy -- PHIL 406, PHIL 407, PHIL 408, PHIL 409, PHIL 410, PHIL 411, PHIL 414, PHIL 461, PHIL 510, PHIL 514
      5. Philosophy of Religion-- PHIL 467
  3. Course Requirement: Students complete 11 courses (numbered 400 or above) in philosophy, with a minimum 3.0 grade in each course. At least four courses must be seminars. (12 courses including 6 seminars are required for the PhD. Students should if possible complete all course requirements during the master's portion of the program.)
  4. Master's Qualifying Papers: Students submit a qualifying paper at the end of the second year. (Part-time students submit their paper for evaluation upon completion of 11 courses in philosophy.)
  5. Evaluation: Students completing the above requirements are (a) awarded an MA and admitted to the PhD program; (b) awarded an MA and invited to revise and resubmit a qualifying paper a second time, or prepare a new qualifying paper; (c) awarded a terminal MA; or (d) dropped from the program without a degree.
  6. Satisfactory Progress: Students not yet admitted to the PhD program must take at least two courses (10 credits) per quarter with a minimum 3.0 grade.
  7. Other Courses: Students may use up to three approved courses outside philosophy. (Such courses do not automatically satisfy the twelve-course requirement.)

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

Based on level of performance with the MA requirements. (See above.)

Degree Requirements

Minimum 90 credits (60 credits minimum beyond the master's degree)

  1. General Requirements:
    1. General written examination (dissertation proposal, from master's qualifying papers)
    2. General oral examination (defense of the dissertation proposal)
    3. Dissertation
    4. Final examination

    Master's papers constitute the written portion of the general examination.

  2. Course Requirement: Minimum 12 graduate-level courses in philosophy (six of which are seminars) with a minimum 3.0 grade in each (courses and seminars taken to fulfill MA requirements may count toward this total).
  3. Proseminar and Literature Review: PHIL500, proseminar, autumn and spring of third year; literature review, autumn quarter
  4. Language Requirement: Determined by the student's Supervisory Committee. No departmental language requirement. However, in writing a dissertation a student must be able to deal with primary sources in the original language. Also, for particular areas of study, language courses or demonstration of proficiency may be required.
  5. Satisfactory Progress: Determined by the student's Supervisory Committee.

Financial Aid

Graduate students are admitted only if they can be offered some financial support. Typically students receive teaching assistantships, and the Graduate School makes some research assistantships available on a competitive basis. Funding packages are typically for five years and require satisfactory academic progress.

Graduate Certificate in Ethics

Facilitates graduate research in ethics. Designed to provide non-philosophy graduate or professional students the knowledge and skills necessary for integrating ethics and ethics scholarship into their chosen field.

Open only to students already enrolled in other graduate degree programs at the University of Washington.

Certificate Requirements

15 credits

  1. Selection of a faculty adviser from the Program on Values in Society (POV) core faculty
  2. One core course
  3. VALUES 511 or VALUES 512 (5 credits)
  4. Two other approved graduate level values-laden courses specific to the student's field of study (6-8 credits). Elective courses from the student's home department may be eligible (maximum 6 credits of overlap, but no core courses overlapped).
  5. VALUES 513 (2 credits)