Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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    • philosophy header
    • philosophy header

Curriculum Overview

Most philosophy fits into one of four loose and overlapping groups. The first studies action: What should we do and how can we get ourselves to do it? This group includes ethics and social and political philosophy. A second group studies the nature and reliability of our knowledge. Here you’ll find epistemology and philosophy of science. A third group investigates the nature of the world and the self: What does it mean for something to exist? What distinguishes things from their properties? What (besides a body and a social security number) is a person? This group includes metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. A fourth group analyzes symbolic systems through which humans represent meaning to themselves and to each other. These are studied in logic and the philosophy of language.

You could easily narrow these four fields to two, or expand them to 17. Philosophy has no single topic, but at the same time every part of philosophy is connected with every other in countless ways. It is hard to talk about what there is in the world without also analyzing how we can know about it, so metaphysics and epistemology often overlap. Some claim that without language humans can’t know anything, so epistemology and philosophy of language come together. If you want to study why people act the way they do, you’ll draw on ethics as well as philosophy of mind; the two merge in moral psychology. And so forth. Philosophy also analyzes the social and historical conditions that make it possible to ask such questions in the first place. Philosophy, therefore, always includes a study of its own history.

The Philosophy program at Franklin & Marshall aims to acquaint students with all of these areas of philosophy by examining the great historical traditions in philosophy as well as a broad range of contemporary issues and topics in philosophy. In addition, students are encouraged to cultivate skills in critical thinking and philosophical argument with the goal of helping them to become participants in the philosophical enterprise. Lower-division courses in the department aim to provide students with a broad background in the history of philosophy and contemporary problems in philosophy, while upper-division courses seek to engage students in discussion concerning cutting edge scholarship in the field. The work of philosophy majors culminates in the senior year when students compose a senior thesis in the context of the Senior Research Seminar. Majors have the further option of expanding senior theses with the goal of presenting the project for departmental honors.

A major in Philosophy consists of 10 courses. Requirements are:

PHI 244.

One core history course from PHI 210, 213, 317.

One value theory course designated (V).

One course in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, or philosophy of mind designated (ME).

PHI 498.

Five electives.

At least four courses besides PHI498 must be numbered 300 or higher. At most, one course may be numbered below 200.

The department’s program heavily emphasizes critical thinking, logically correct reasoning and clear, concise writing. The writing requirement in the Philosophy major is met by completion of the normal courses required to complete the major.

A minor in Philosophy requires six Philosophy courses, which must include: PHI 244; either PHI 210, 213, or 317; and four other Philosophy electives that are approved by the chairperson or designee. At least two courses total must be numbered 300 or above. At most, one course may be numbered below 200.

Majors in the Department of Philosophy have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: Sarah Lawrence College Program, Oxford University; F&M in Italy; F&M Travel Course in Tohoku Gakuin, Japan; SEA Semester; American Jr. Year in Heidelberg Program. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.