The joint major in Philosophy & Neuroscience enables students to employ cutting-edge work in the sciences to address seminal questions in philosophy. The major provides a solid foundation in both disciplines with an interdisciplinary focus on understanding the mind. Through rigorous training in both philosophy and neuroscience, students gain the knowledge and skills required for in-depth exploration of fundamental questions concerning human nature. What is mind? What is consciousness? And how do they emerge from the intricate interplay of chemicals and electricity? The joint degree will appeal especially to students who expect to pursue graduate study in the cognitive or neurosciences, law school, medical school, education, public policy, communication, public health, or who generally enjoy asking both big and small questions that inform one’s own personal growth.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the Philosophy & Neuroscience program are expected to demonstrate:

  • The conceptual ability and communication skills needed to comprehend and investigate the central philosophical issues in neuroscience and philosophy of mind.
  • Mastery of the fundamentals of neuroscience spanning the breadth of the field, from the theoretical to the experimental, and across multiple levels of analysis.
  • Competency in evidence-based reasoning and experimental design—for example, identifying manipulated and measured variables, measurement metrics, experimental controls, power, validity, and reliability.
  • Skills of critical and analytical thinking, as expected for majors in Philosophy.


All first-year, first-time students will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major and, in some cases, through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Philosophy & Neuroscience will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in areas such as Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Communication; and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements may be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

A total of eighteen 4-credit courses are required, all completed with a grade of C or higher, and distributed as follows:

Philosophy Courses (7)

  1. One logic course: CAS PH 160 Reasoning and Argumentation or CAS PH 360 Symbolic Logic
  2. CAS PH 300 History of Ancient Philosophy
  3. CAS PH 310 History of Modern Philosophy
  4. One course in moral, political, or legal philosophy at or above the 200 level, chosen from the following:
    • CAS PH 234 Wealth, Ethics, and Liberty
    • CAS PH 244 Ethics in Action
    • CAS PH 250 Environmental Ethics
    • CAS PH 251 Medical Ethics
    • CAS PH 253 Social Philosophy
    • CAS PH 254 Political Philosophy
    • CAS PH 255 Philosophy of Law
    • CAS PH 256 Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality
    • CAS PH 272 Science, Technology, and Values
    • CAS PH 350 History of Ethics
    • CAS PH 436 Gender, Race, and Science
    • CAS PH 450 Types of Ethical Theory
    • CAS PH 451 Contemporary Ethical Theory
    • CAS PH 452 Ethics of Health Care
    • CAS PH 453 Theories of Political Society
    • CAS PH 454 Community, Liberty, and Morality
    • CAS PH 455 Legal Philosophy
    • CAS PH 458 Crime and Punishment
    • CAS PH 459 Political and Legal Philosophy
    • CAS PH 481 Topics in the Philosophy of Law
    • CAS PH 485 Topics in the Philosophy of Value
  5. One course in philosophy of mind at or above the 200 level, chosen from the following:
    • CAS PH 260 Knowledge and Reality
    • CAS PH 265 Minds and Machines
    • CAS PH 266 Mind, Brain, and Self
    • CAS PH 443 Philosophy of Mind
  6. One course in philosophy of science at or above the 200 level, chosen from the following:
    • CAS PH 270 Philosophy of Science
    • CAS PH 487 Topics in the Philosophy of Science
  7. One additional philosophy course at the 400 level, which can include the following, as well as any 400-level PH course not used to satisfy requirements #4–6 above:
    • CAS PH 440 Metaphysics
    • CAS PH 460 Epistemology
    • CAS PH 463 Philosophy of Language

Neuroscience and Related Science Courses (11)

8–11. Four foundational neuroscience courses: CAS NE 101, 102, 202, 203
12. One course in programming and statistics: CAS NE 212 (or CAS PS 212 or one of the following two-course sequences: CAS MA 115 and 116; or MA 213 and 214)
13. One general chemistry course: CAS CH 171 (may be replaced by one of the following two-course sequences: CAS CH 101 and 102; or CH 109 and 110; or CH 111 and 112)
14–15. Two physics courses: CAS PY 105 and PY 106 (may be replaced by one of the following sequences: CAS PY 211 and 212; PY 241 and 242; or PY 251 and 252)
16. One calculus course: CAS MA 121 or MA 123
17. One upper-level neurobiology elective
18. One upper-level cognitive elective

Honors in the Joint Major

Students with a cumulative 3.30 GPA in all required courses for the joint major may elect to complete an approved two-semester Senior Thesis in Philosophy & Neuroscience during the senior year. A student completing a project rooted in philosophy or whose primary thesis advisor is a member of the Department of Philosophy will enroll in CAS PH 401 and 402 (fall/spring, 4 cr each); for a neuroscience project or project to be mentored primarily by Neuroscience faculty, students will enroll in CAS NE 401 and 402 (fall/spring, 4 cr each). At least one member of the thesis committee must come from the secondary discipline.