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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there prerequisites for Philosophy courses?

Virtually all PHIL-001 through PHIL-296 courses may be profitably taken with no prior experience in philosophy. Indeed, apart from advanced logic courses, advanced philosophy courses tend not to assume much by way of prior knowledge though students are encouraged to take two or three lower-level (PHIL-000-296) courses before enrolling in advanced courses. Such prerequisites as there are can usually be readily acquired by dint of some extra reading. Advanced philosophy courses do presuppose possession in some measure of general reading and writing skills. Your study of philosophy will be enhanced if you do not delay plunging into advanced courses after completing two or three introductory courses. Philosophy majors and prospective majors are urged to complete Phil. 4 and Phil. 5 early in their studies. These two courses are required by all three Major Programs and present material frequently drawn on and elaborated in advanced courses.

How does the course numbering work?

Courses numbered 001 through 296 are introductory courses. (PHIL-297 and PHIL-298 are reserved for transfer credit courses. PHIL-299 is independent study: see below.) Apart from Phil. 6, none of these courses assumes any prior acquaintance with philosophy.

Courses numbered 302-399 are especially designed for philosophy majors. These topical courses cover in depth important issues which arise in central areas of philosophy and are often taught in a seminar format. At least one 300-level course is offered every term. Each year, we aim to offer one such course in each of contemporary theoretical philosophy (e.g. philosophy of mind, of language, of science etc), value theory (e.g. ethics, socio-political philosophy), and history of philosophy.

Courses numbered 400-499 are courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Generally speaking, completion of three undergraduate courses with a grade of B+ or better should prepare you for these courses. You may, however, wish to consult with the instructor of a 400-level course before enrolling in it.

500-level courses are graduate seminars. Undergraduates must obtain the instructor's permission before registering for these courses. Such permission is routinely and enthusiastically granted to advanced undergraduates.

Phil 299 is the Department's independent study course. Students wishing to undertake individually supervised study should make arrangements directly with a faculty member or consult with the Undergraduate Chairperson concerning the choice of a supervisor for a project.

The Philosophy department offers a number of course in Liberal and Professional Studies in addition to regular course offerings in the School of Arts & Sciences. LPS courses carry regular SAS credit and may be used to satisfy the distribution requirement of the Majors. Many LPS courses in philosophy are taught by the Department's graduate students.

How do I declare a major in philosophy?

Application for the Major is made on forms available from the undergraduate chair in philosophy. Please book an appointment with the undergraduate chair to discuss the major and our three possible concentrations as well as course selection. You may fill out our major declaration form at that time.

Who advises undergraduate philosophy majors?

The Undergraduate Chairperson is the official advisor for all philosophy majors. However, we encourage all of our students to consult with any member of the Department they choose for academic advising. Each term majors are advised to consult with the Undergraduate Chairperson concerning changes in their proposed plan of study. It is particularly important that the Undergraduate Chairperson be informed of changes of Philosophy Majors, e.g., a switch from General Major to Philosophy and Science. Should you transfer from Philosophy to another major field, take a leave of absence, or withdraw from The College, we would appreciate your informing the Department office.

What do I need to do prior to graduation?

Graduating seniors are strongly urged to discuss with the undergraduate chair any outstanding requirements two terms before they intend to graduate. Early consultation eliminates unpleasant, disconcerting, and expensive surprises later.

May I petition major requirements?

Philosophy majors may petition the Department for exemption from any of the requirements of a major. Petition forms are available in the Department office. Petitions must be presented in a meeting with the undergraduate chair.

Examples of routinely granted petitions include petitions to count a course outside of philosophy toward the General Major and petitions to replace one 300-level course with a 500-level course toward satisfaction of the level requirement. Examples of routinely denied petitions include petitions for exemption from the logic requirement and petitions to count courses outside of philosophy toward the distribution requirements.

A student may appeal any decision of the Undergraduate Chairperson to the entire Department. A written record is kept of petitions and the action taken on them. Only written records of agreements made with students concerning their Major Program will be honored. Any suggestions, commendations, complaints, or grievances concerning the Department's undergraduate program should be addressed to either the Chairperson or the Undergraduate Chairperson.

Does Philosophy have a sub-matriculation program?

Yes. Submatriculation in Philosophy enables outstanding students to earn an M.A. in Philosophy while completing a B.A. Application for submatriculation should be filed by mid-January in the year prior to the year one expects to receive the submatriculation, a student must have completed at the time of application at least two philosophy courses above 301, and must have a grade point average of 3.5 in all completed philosophy courses above 301. (These are necessary but insufficient conditions for admission into submatriculation). The application for this submatriculation program should include the names of two standing faculty members who have instructed the applicant in philosophy courses above 301, and who are willing to provide a recommendation that the student be admitted to the MA. Applications for submatriculation are carefully scrutinized by the Philosophy Department as a whole. Students interested in submatriculation should see the Undergraduate Chair for further details concerning application to the program. The applicant will typically be a student doing a major in Philosophy. Non-philosophy majors will be considered only in exceptional cases.

How do I prepare for graduate study in Philosophy?

Our undergraduate Major Programs are not designed specifically as preparation for graduate study in philosophy, but any of them can serve that end. The best preparation for graduate study in philosophy is a well-rounded liberal arts education with significant concentration of work outside philosophy. Students considering graduate study in philosophy are advised to consult with the Undergraduate Chairperson or any faculty member about a course of studies suitable for that purpose.

Does the department allow credit to be transferred from other colleges and universities?

The Philosophy Department routinely grants transfer credit for equivalents of Phil. 1 (Introduction to Philosophy), Phil. 7 (Critical Thinking), Phil 73 (Applied Ethics), and Phil. 72 (Biomedical Ethics). Frequently transfer credit is also given for Phil 2 (Ethics), Phil. 3 (Ancient Philosophy), and Phil. 4 (Modern Philosophy). Because of the unique nature of Penn's Phil. 5 (Logic), transfer credit is rarely given for this course. Similarly, because of the unique nature of our 300-level courses, we do not give transfer credit at this level. Transfer Credit is also rarely given for intermediate or advanced philosophy courses, that is, those numbers above 298.

Students should apply through Penn's XCAT system for transfer credit. Applicants should provide as much information about the course as possible, at minimum a catalog description. A syllabus is particularly helpful. Examinations, assignments, texts, and class notes are also useful. Normally, transfer credit will be given only for courses instructed by someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Students planning to transfer summer school courses from other institutions should apply for transfer credit before enrolling in the course. The same applies to students studying abroad, especially in programs not sponsored by the University. Transfer credit is given at the discretion of the Department and is NOT automatic. Transfer credit for study away (or credit away) courses will not be granted for courses taken at a 2-year community college.