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Ways to Start Studying Philosophy at Penn

There are many ways to begin your studies of Philosophy at Penn. Believe it or not, you DON’T need to start with “PHIL 1000 (001): Introduction to Philosophy”. While this course indeed introduces students to a wide range of topics, approaches, and historical periods in philosophy, it is neither required for future study in philosophy nor the only sensible first course for students to take in philosophy. Virtually any course at the 2000-level or below will function as a good introduction to the field. For example:

  • Students thinking about pursuing a philosophy major (or just curious about the origins of the Western Philosophical Tradition) are encouraged to start with the two-course introductory sequence: PHIL 1110 (003): Ancient Greek Philosophy and PHIL 1170 (004): History of Modern Philosophy.
  • Students interested in ethics or politics would do well to start with PHIL 1330 (002): Ethics, PHIL 1342 (072): Bioethics, PHIL 1433 (008): The Social Contract or PHIL 2450 (277): Justice, Law, and Morality.
  • Students interested in the relation between mind and world could start with PHIL 2640 (244): Philosophy of Mind, PHIL 1800 (025): Philosophy of Science, or PHIL 2620 (231): Introduction to Epistemology and Metaphysics.
  • Students interested in the arts or religion, or education could start with Phil 1380 (080): Aesthetics, PHIL 2580 (234): Philosophy of Religion, or PHIL 2560 (249): Philosophy of Education.

 For advice about course selection, please contact the undergraduate coordinator at or schedule an advising appointment with Undergraduate Chair Quayshawn Spencer via his email: