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Kalamazoo College
Convocation-004

Shaping Your Philosophy Major

When to begin

As with any major, the earlier you start studying philosophy, the greater the opportunities will be for you to build a strong background in the field before you graduate.  However, many of our majors do not take their first philosophy course until winter quarter of their sophomore year.  It is also possible for students who have been taking philosophy courses without intending to build a major to declare a major or a minor relatively late in their careers at the College, depending upon their progress towards fulfilling the requirements of the major or minor.

What courses to take first

Nearly all of the Department's courses are open to all students.  However, students are strongly encouraged to begin their study of philosophy with one of the following: Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics, Introduction to Philosophy: Theories of Knowledge, or Introduction to Philosophy: Logic.  The logic course is required of all philosophy majors and should be taken as early as possible.  Majors must also take at least one of the other Introduction to Philosophy courses.  The Ethics and Theories of Knowledge courses are both required to complete the minor in philosophy.  Students who are unsure of whether they want to major in philosophy or minor in it are therefore encouraged to take both of these courses early on in order to keep these options open.

What other courses to take in philosophy

When satisfying the requirement that majors take at least two courses in historical periods/traditions of philosophy, it is often helpful to study earlier periods first.  For instance, students are encouraged to take Ancient Philosophy before taking Early Modern Philosophy, and 19th-Century Philosophy before Contemporary Continental Philosophy.

Students with special interests in other disciplines or specific historical periods should look for philosophy courses that address these.  For instance, double majors in chemistry and philosophy are encouraged to take Philosophy of Science.

Study abroad and language study

Students with a serious interest in philosophy are advised to consult members of the Department before choosing a study abroad program.  Students may complete a philosophy major without having taken philosophy while on their international study programs.  However, many of the study abroad programs have strong course offerings in philosophy.  Remember that studying philosophy in an international program will require a very high level of competence in the language of instruction.

Many of the texts that we read in the philosophy courses at Kalamazoo College are translated from French, German, or ancient Greek.  Students who are particularly interested in philosophy and have no strong preference concerning which language they study are encouraged to choose one of these.

Senior Individualized Projects (SIPs), Senior Seminar and Comprehensive Examinations

Philosophy majors are encouraged to complete a two-unit SIP in philosophy.  The SIP may count towards the credits required for the major.  Philosophy SIPs usually address a particular philosophical question or issue, often addressed in the context of a particular period, text or philosopher's work.  Students should begin discussing a preliminary topic for their SIP no later than the quarter before the start of their senior year.  A strong SIP is usually on a topic in which the student already has some grounding through the coursework she has taken.

Philosophy majors are required to attend the Department's Senior Seminar for all three quarters of their senior year.  The senior seminar meets once each week and students earn one unit of credit upon completion of the three quarters.

The Comprehensive Examinations are taken in the seventh seek of Spring Quarter in the senior year.  The exams are based primarily on material from the courses offered in the Department, but students will need to engage in independent study and review to prepare for the examinations.