The major in Philosophy provides an education that enriches and empowers students by introducing them to rigorous analysis of their ways of thinking and acting. What distinguishes a philosophical mind is a habit of weighing the coherence, completeness, and trenchancy of various beliefs, arguments, and theories, and of doing so self-consciously within the historical context that marks our finite, human condition. The cultivation of these habits of mind enhances students’ abilities to learn across the curriculum, to contribute to the advancement of institutions, from arts and sciences to governments and global relations, and—not least—to grapple with the challenges and wonder of their own lives. For all these reasons, the overriding aim of the Department of Philosophy’s program is to help students develop these philosophical habits. Reflecting its history and the present makeup of its members, the department is in the advantageous position of being able to pursue this aim through six main areas of research: analytic philosophy and logic, ethics and political philosophy, history of philosophy, phenomenology and pragmatism, philosophy of religion, and philosophy and history of science.

The department’s philosophical life is significantly enriched by its close association with Boston University’s Center for Philosophy & History of Science (and its Colloquium); and the Institute for Philosophy & Religion (and its Colloquium).

Learning Outcomes

Students completing a BA in Philosophy are expected to:

  • Demonstrate the conceptual ability and communication skills needed for intensive examination of questions concerning what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with core questions in the main branches of philosophical inquiry (ethics and political philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, logic) and sustain critical reflection on, and discussion of, those questions.
  • Demonstrate acquaintance with the canonical works of both antiquity and modernity, as well as the basic issues and texts of contemporary philosophy.
  • Defend their own views with strong arguments but also remain open to disagreement and critique.
  • Display curiosity about, and interest and engagement in, the world in which they live.


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 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.

All majors have faculty advisors. The Philosophy major requires the student to complete a total of nine 4-credit courses with a grade of C or higher:

  1. One logic course: 160 or higher-level logic course
  2. CAS PH 300 History of Ancient Philosophy
  3. CAS PH 310 History of Modern Philosophy
  4. One moral, political, or legal philosophy course at the 200 level or above
  5. One course in metaphysics, epistemology, or philosophy of science, mind, or language (200 level or higher)
  6. One elective (200 level or higher)
  7. One course from CAS PH 403–430
  8. One additional 400-level course
  9. One PH course other than those taken to fulfill 1–8 above

Please visit the Courses page for a complete list of the courses being offered in the upcoming semester.

College of General Studies students and students who have completed the humanities portion of the Core Curriculum receive major credit for CAS PH 150 or PH 155. Students who complete the social science portion of the CAS Core Curriculum receive major credit for CAS PH 253 or PH 254.

Joint Majors with Other Departments

Students with interdisciplinary interests may choose a joint major combining philosophy with another field: see the eight programs below. Joint majors coordinate courses from two disciplines in an integrated way combining breadth and depth. They have more courses than a single major, but generally fewer than a double major (that is, fewer than two single majors taken together). All joint majors have a faculty advisor in the Department of Philosophy with whom they should consult regularly in planning their program of study. Joint majors take the place of single majors and appear on diplomas. A joint major between Philosophy and another discipline cannot be pursued together with a single major in Philosophy.

Specialized Areas

Students desiring specialized work in addition to the requirements of the regular major are invited to consider the following four areas: philosophy of law, politics, and society; philosophy and history of science; philosophy and the ancient world; and philosophy of the biomedical sciences. These specialized areas do not appear on the diploma. They do, however, serve as valuable guidelines for further work in addition to the major itself. Where alternatives are listed in the four specializations, it is often advisable to take both courses.

Philosophy of Law, Politics, and Society

CAS PH 254 and 277 are suggested, as well as at least two courses in political science, sociology, or economics.

Philosophy and History of Science

Students desiring to specialize further in this area are encouraged to take CAS PH 270; CAS PH 277 or 477; two courses in the history of science; and at least two courses in the natural sciences or the social sciences or both.

Philosophy in the Ancient World

CAS PH 300, 403 or 404, 405 or 406, and CAS CL 101 are suggested.

Philosophy of the Biomedical Sciences

Suggested are CAS PH 251; CAS PH 277, 270, or 472; directed study on philosophy of medicine, and at least two courses in biology approved by the Department of Biology.