To complete a B.A. in philosophy, students must fulfill both Philosophy major requirements and UIS requirements. The latter requirements vary slightly between freshmen and transfer students and may depend on the amount and type of transfer credit. Students should consult with their academic advisor. UIS requirements fall into three groups.
- Lower division general education. This includes composition, math, speech, science, humanities and social science, and can often be satisfied by transfer credit.
- Upper division general education, or ECCE (Engaged Citizens Common Experience). This is a 10 credit hour requirement that must be taken at UIS.
- Credit hour requirements. Students must earn a total of 120 credit hours (including transfer credit), of which at least 48 credit hours must be from courses numbered 300 and above.
ECCE courses are offered throughout the year, including the summer. On the other hand, very few philosophy courses are offered in the summer. For this reason, philosophy majors often use the summer to work on their ECCE requirements.
Planning is especially important for online students. You should start by forming an idea of how many courses per semester you wish to take. For students with full time jobs, a full course load is usually not practical. If this is your situation, you may find that one course per semester is appropriate. (Please note, however, that taking too few course per semester may have financial aid ramifications, so please consult with your academic advisor before proceeding.)
Online students should also be aware that not all courses at UIS are available online. Fortunately, UIS has a strong commitment to online education, and there are enough online offerings to complete all degree requirements.
Choosing Your Courses
Most degree requirements can be fulfilled by more than one course, so you have the freedom to take whatever course you want, as long as it fulfills the requirement. Having said that, there are a few points to keep in mind when selecting your courses.
First, most courses are not offered every semester. Some courses are not offered every year. Courses whose number ends in 0 are one-time special topic courses, and are not likely to be repeated. So when you see a course that interests you, you should seriously consider taking it because it may be a while before it is offered again.
Second, some courses assume more background in philosophy than others. Unless you already have a strong background in philosophy, it is highly advisable to start with the more accessible courses and work your way up to the more advanced courses.
An Example Degree Plan
The following is one possible approach to fulfilling the philosophy major requirements. It does not include University requirements.
- Start by taking care of the logic/critical thinking requirement. There are two courses that satisfy this requirement: PHI 401, Logic, which is usually offered each fall semester, and PHI 301, Critical Thinking, which is usually offered each spring. Of the two, PHI 401 is more serious, and is highly recommended for those who may want to pursue further work in philosophy.
- Next, take care of the ethics sub-requirement of the Values area. Online students should take PHI 341, Ethics, or PHI 447, Rationality and Moral Choice. On campus students may take either of these classes, but may also take the on campus course PHI 242, Ethics, Love, and the Goals of Life. We try to offer these courses every year.
- Next, take care of the History of Philosophy requirement. Students usually do this by taking PHI 421, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, and PHI 425, History of Modern Philosophy. PHI 421 and PHI 425 are usually offered in the fall and spring semesters, respectively.
- Move on to the remaining area requirements: Values (area 3) and Core Analytic (area 1). There are quite a few offerings in each area, so just take what you want as long as it adds up to 8 credit hours in each area. Please note that some courses in this category are not offered every year. Most courses in this area are 4 credit hours each, though there are some exceptions. See below for more on how to choose these courses wisely.
- Take your Specialization course. Currently, this requirement is satisfied by the special topic courses PHI 460, PHI 470 and PHI 480, and by the courses PHI 481, Philosophy of Language; PHI 482, Metaphysics of Things; and PHI 485, Social Philosophy. Note that the Specialization courses also count toward the area requirements. Thus, if you like you can take two Specialization courses, using one for Specialization and the other for an area requirement. Please note that most courses in this category are not offered every year.
- Take PHI 495, Senior Seminar in Philosophy, which takes care of the Capstone requirement. This course is offered every year in the fall semester. Ideally, you should take it in the fall of your last year, though this is not strictly required. If you plan on applying to a graduate program in philosophy, the Senior Seminar is a great opportunity to compose a writing sample.
- Finally, take any additional philosophy course and take care of the Elective requirement. Please note that there are some philosophy courses that only count as Electives.
Choosing Area Courses Wisely
There are many courses in Area 1 (Core Analytic) and Area 3 (Values), and the choice can be bewildering. Some courses are pitched at a more advanced level than others, and the level is not always obvious from the course number. Courses in Area 1 can be roughly divided into two tiers:
- More basic: PHI 353, Person, Identity and Dignity; PHI 472, Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology
- More advanced: PHI 470, Topics in Analytic Philosophy; PHI 471, Philosophy of Science; PHI 473, Philosophy of Mind; PHI 481, Philosophy of Language; PHI 482, Metaphysics of Things
Likewise, Area 3 (Values) can be roughly divided into two tiers:
- More basic: PHI 242, Ethics, Love and the Goals of Life; PHI 336, Contemporary American Political Philosophy; PHI 341, Ethics; PHI 432, Philosophy of Art; PHI 447, Rationality and Moral Choice
- More advanced: PHI 434, Aesthetics; PHI 441, Moral Theory; PHI 448, Moral Values in Political Philosophy; PHI 460, Topics in Normative Philosophy; PHI 485, Social Philosophy
In general, it’s a good idea to take at least one “more basic” course before taking any “more advanced” courses.
On Campus Students
On campus philosophy majors should follow the same basic guidelines as online students, with a few exceptions. Specifically, on campus philosophy majors may want to take the following on ground courses:
- PHI 101, Introduction to Philosophy, or PHI 252, Science Fiction and Philosophy; use either course as a Philosophy Elective.
- PHI 242, Ethics, Love and the Goals of Life; use for the Ethics requirement and toward the Values area.
On campus students also have a wider choice of courses offered by other departments and cross-listed with philosophy.
Advising guides are also available for on campus students; please consult your academic advisor.
Philosophy Courses and University Requirements
In some cases, philosophy courses may be used toward University requirements. Specifically:
- All of the following courses count toward the General Education Humanities requirement: PHI 101, Introduction to Philosophy; PHI 242, Ethics, Love and the Goals of Life; PHI 252, Science Fiction and Philosophy; PHI 315, Comparative Philosophy of Religion; PHI 341, Ethics; and PHI 353, Person, Identity and Dignity. Each course can be counted simultaneously toward General Education Humanities and the philosophy major.
- PHI 336, Contemporary American Political Philosophy, counts toward the General Education Social Science requirement. It can simultaneously count toward the Values area of the major.
- Once you have taken care of General Education, ECCE, and philosophy program requirements, you still have to satisfy the 120 credit hour requirement (which includes 48 hours at the upper division). These left-over credit hours are called general electives. You can use any courses whatsoever as general electives, including philosophy courses if you so desire.
Putting together a degree can be daunting, but we are here to help! Every student is assigned both an Academic Advisor and a Faculty Advisor. Online students and declared on campus philosophy majors work with the the Philosophy Online Coordinator/Academic Advisor from day one, from applying to program right through to graduation. On admission, each student is also assigned to a member of the philosophy department faculty, to provide additional advice about the major, course selection, and career planning. Your advisors are committed to your academic success.