The Undergraduate Program (Degree offered: B.A., Philosophy)

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy addresses the fundamental questions that engage all reflective people, questions that apparently cannot be answered by the empirical sciences: Are our actions determined by forces over which we lack control, or is free choice possible? Are there objective standards of right and wrong? What are the limits of human knowledge? Can machines think? Is there a god? Majors in Philosophy are trained to think analytically and to engage in rigorous argument, as well as to communicate clearly and effectively in writing.

Philosophy offers two emphases:

Students take courses including Freedom and Determinism, History of Philosophy: Empiricists to Kant, Introduction to Ethics, and Philosophy of Mind.

The UC Education Abroad Program offers students the opportunity to study in the places where the great philosophers lived and taught. Study Confucius and Lao-tsu in China; Nietzsche, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel in Germany; Spinoza in the Netherlands; Descartes in France; or Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Wittgenstein in Britain.

Philosophy and Career Pathways: A Philosophy degree prepares students for graduate and professional training in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. Philosophy consistently places among the top two or three undergraduate majors for performance on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Graduates have gone on to successful careers in law, finance, public policy, public administration, and civil service.

The Undergraduate Major in Philosophy

At UCSB there are two tracks that lead to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. The requirements of each are described below.

Track 1: Core Philosophy (48 total units)

The Core Philosophy Track exposes the student to a wide range of philosophical issues and areas and to the major philosophers in the tradition. It is designed for students with a general interest in philosophy and also for those considering going on to do graduate work. In preparation for the major the student must take either Critical Thinking (Philosophy 3) or Beginning Modern Logic (Philosophy 183). Requirements for the Upper Division Major are of two kinds. In the major areas of Philosophy (Ethics, Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, and Metaphysics) you take three courses. And you are required to take three courses on important individual philosophers.

This track is designed for students who seek thorough and rigorous training in philosophy either as a step towards graduate study in philosophy or as a way of mastering a discipline at the undergraduate level. All courses that apply to the major must be completed on a letter-grade basis.


Students preparing for graduate study in philosophy are encouraged to supplement this minimal program with additional courses in individual historical figures and/or courses from Philosophy 150A, B, C, D, E, and 184.

Track 2: Ethics and Public Policy Track (48 total units)

The Ethics and Public Policy Track is designed for students who intend to pursue careers in law, government, and medicine, and in general for those who are interested in moral and legal problems confronting the community and in the responsibilities of the various professions. In preparation for the major the student must take a logic course (either Critical Thinking or Beginning Modern Logic). For the upper division major you will take Introduction to Ethics (Philosophy 100A), one course from major areas of Philosophy (Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, and Metaphysics), and at least four courses (selected from a list) on moral, political, and legal philosophy and related areas.

In each track you must take 48 units, so a good deal of elective work is required. For your elective work there are many options. Some of you will want to take more advanced courses in the major areas or study more of the major philosophers. Since philosophy is a discipline that shares the interests and concerns of many other fields, you may want to pursue your interests in these other areas philosophically; you may study Philosophy of Religion, of Science, of History, of Mathematics, and of Law; Aesthetics, Philosophical Psychology, and Philosophy in Literature. You may also want to take courses on issues of special interest, such as the freedom of the will, or punishment and responsibility; or to study areas such as Existentialism. Additionally up to 4 units in the Core track and 8 units in the Ethics and Public Policy track may be taken from courses in a cognate department, subject to the approval of the undergraduate adviser. Normally, your upper division work will be done in small classes where the emphasis will be on class discussion and on writing.

All courses that apply to the major must be completed on a letter-grade basis.


The Undergraduate Minor in Philosophy


Honors Program

Students who meet either of the following requirements may apply to join the Philosophy Department Honors Program:

Students are urged to apply as early as possible so that a meaningful honors curriculum can be developed at an early stage of their work in the major. Students in the Honors Program are expected to meet with the Undergraduate Advisor to discuss their progress and to plan their subsequent course work in philosophy; in order to remain in the Honors Program, students are normally expected to maintain a 3.5 GPA in Philosophy. In order to graduate with distinction in philosophy, the following requirements must be met:

Distinction in major is announced in the commencement program and is noted on the diploma.

Phi Sigma Tau

The department at UCSB has become affiliated with the national honors society of Phi Sigma Tau, and has been given the chapter name of California Mu. The object of the California Mu chapter is to be affiliated with Phi Sigma Tau, whose objects are to serve as a means of awarding distinction to students having high scholarship and personal interest in philosophy. Phi Sigma Tau publishes the journal Dialogue for its members in order to promote student interest in research and advanced study in the field, and to provide opportunities for the publication of student research papers of merit. Students are eligible to join Phi Sigma Tau after completing four quarters at UCSB and after having taken three philosophy courses with a grade average of 3.0. Officers of the chapter are elected by the members of California Mu and serve one year. If you are interested in becoming a member of Phi Sigma Tau, please contact the advising office.

Prizes and Awards

Each academic year, one or more Ralph W. Church Undergraduate Fellowships may be awarded for outstanding scholarship in philosophy. To be eligible for this award a student must be a philosophy major and complete a minimum of 16 upper-division units in philosophy at UCSB. This fellowship is based on academic merit. During spring quarter the department recognizes the outstanding graduating senior by awarding the Harry Girvetz Memorial Prize. This award is announced in the commencement program.

Contact Information

For questions and concerns regarding your undergraduate study, please refer to the Humanities South Administrative Support Center Staff Contact Info page.

The Graduate Program In Philosophy (Apply Online)

The Graduate Program in Philosophy offers students informality and close interaction with a faculty whose work has been published by the leading presses and journals. We are basically an analytic department, but we certainly do not have a formal orientation. A result of the close interaction between faculty and students has been that many of our recent PhD’s have had papers accepted by highly respected journals while they were graduate students in our program. This, along with the breadth of teaching experience available and required of qualified students, and the department’s commitment of effort to the placement of its PhD’s has resulted in a good placement record in recent years.

Requirements for Graduate Degrees in Philosophy (MA, C.Phil, Ph.D)

The specific departmental requirements are set out below. The applicant for admission to the Philosophy PhD program should have completed an undergraduate Philosophy major, or a sufficiently close equivalent, in the judgment of the Graduate Admissions Committee, to make possible the successful pursuit of graduate studies in the department. (If an application shows exceptional promise, an exception may be made to this general policy.) A writing sample, GRE scores, official transcripts, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation must be submitted with the application for admission. The deadline for fellowship competition is December 15 of every year. A completed application and all supporting documents must be received by the December 15 deadline, or the next working day, if it falls on a weekend or holiday, in order to be considered for fellowship support.

Master of Arts (MA)

The graduate program in Philosophy is a PhD program. However, the MA is a part of the PhD program and is awarded upon Advancement to Candidacy for the PhD. In addition to the graduate division requirements, the master’s degree candidate will take courses so that the total course work will satisfy the Course and Seminar Requirement of the PhD program.

Graduate Division thesis and examination requirements under Plan I and Plan II may be satisfied as follows.

Plan 1

A Qualifying Paper, as specified in the PhD Program requirements, that is passed at the PhD or MA level. (Usual choice of this department.)

Plan 2

A comprehensive examination in a major area of philosophy, administered by a committee selected by the Graduate Advisor.

Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil)

The degree of C.Phil is awarded when students have satisfied requirements 1-3 of the PhD Program and are thereby advanced to Candidacy for the PhD.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

Course Requirements

A total of 14 graduate courses and seminars must be taken (for letter grades, not S/U) and these courses must be distributed as follows:

  1. PHIL 284G (Intermediate Modern Logic).

  2. At lease five seminars.

  3. At least three courses in the history of philosophy.

  4. At least three courses chosen from: metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

  5. At least two courses from: ethics, social and political philosophy, and value theory (broadly construed).

Requirements (3)-(5) may be satisfied by either seminars or lecture courses listed as graduate courses. A given course may be used to satisfy at most one of the requirements (3)-(5).

A student may be exempted from requirement (1) by passing an examination (given only at the time of entrance into the PhD Program) designed to demonstrate training in logic equivalent to that provided by 283G and 284G.

A maximum of one Independent Study course may count towards the 14 course requirement provided that the content of the independent study does not significantly overlap the content of any other course used to satisfy the 14 course requirement.

Undergraduate courses will not count towards the 14 course requirement. Graduate students may be allowed to take undergraduate courses, but only in their first year and only on the recommendation of the Graduate Advisor, with the permission of the Instructor.

Students who pass the Qualifying Paper Requirement (see below) prior to completing their course requirements must complete the course requirements by the end of their third year.

Qualifying Paper

A student must write a successful qualifying paper of at most 35 pages. The paper is to be an original work and should present a philosophical thesis and defend it by argument. A successful qualifying paper is a paper that is judged by a majority of the faculty to demonstrate the ability to write a successful dissertation. The faculty will meet at the end of each term to evaluate the papers submitted that term. To be eligible for consideration in a given term, a paper must be submitted by the end of the ninth week of the term. Any paper written while its author was a student in the graduate program may be submitted as a qualifying paper, and the paper may be submitted at any time after enrolling. However, a student is allowed no more than two submissions (that is, two chances to pass). Except for the rare student who writes a successful qualifying paper prior to the completion of the course requirements, the following regulations apply:

While a term paper written for a course may be submitted as a qualifying paper, only rarely will an unrevised term paper be good enough to meet the standard the faculty applies in evaluating qualifying papers. Thus it will be advisable for most students who want to submit a term paper as a qualifying paper to revise and expand it. Normally, this is done by registering for PHIL 597 upon the completion of the course requirements. Furthermore, an Independent Study course (in addition to or as part of the 14 course requirement) may be advisable in some cases as a preparation for attempting the qualifying paper. Students may consult with faculty during the preparation of a qualifying paper, but a successful paper must demonstrate the capacity for independent work.

Oral Examination

The University requirement of a Qualifying examination is satisfied by passing the Oral Examination upon passing the qualifying paper requirement. This exam will be administered by a committee chosen by the student and shall be scheduled immediately after the Qualifying Paper has been passed. The Oral Examination is forward-looking towards the dissertation, and its purpose is to help the student, and the committee, to decide on the feasibility of the proposed topic, as arising either out of the recently completed Qualifying Paper, or out of a brief proposal separately submitted for the Oral.

The Dissertation

Satisfactory completion of a dissertation (and the possibility of an oral defense thereof) will conclude the requirements for the PhD.

Financial Aid & Special Appointments Available to Graduate Students


In addition to UCSB fellowships and grants listed at, the Department has a special endowment fund, the Ralph W. Church Fund, a certain amount of which can be used each year to make the following sorts of awards.

Contact Information

For questions and concerns regarding your graduate study, please:

General Information

For general information and resources (related to incoming students) click the links below: