120 Cocke Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400780
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4780
(434) 924-7701 Fax: (434) 924-6927
Overview The main areas of study in philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy. In addition to these areas of study, the department also offers courses in aesthetics, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, biomedical ethics, and philosophy of law.
Some courses in these areas aim to acquaint the students with the most important intellectual traditions of our civilization, while others emphasize the characteristically philosophical activity of exposing and analyzing the arguments for and against the positions under discussion. Quite often, these two approaches are combined in the presentation of the material. Students of philosophy should have the desire to investigate some of the most fundamental and perplexing problems in the history of thought. The abilities and skills inculcated by a philosophical education are of lasting intellectual and personal value, for the ability to form one’s own views in a reasoned and rigorous manner forms the foundation of our democratic society, and the critical and analytical skills fostered by philosophy are valuable across a wide variety of other subjects. As part of a complete education, every student should take at least one philosophy course.
Faculty The interests of the faculty members cover all the principal areas of philosophy noted above. The department has a long tradition of commitment to undergraduate teaching, and a number of the faculty have achieved national and international prominence in their fields. All faculty in the department, including its most senior members, regularly teach undergraduate courses and seminars, including the large introductory lecture courses.
Students Approximately one hundred twenty students are currently pursuing a major in philosophy. Students can choose from over forty courses in the field. Introductory lecture courses are usually designed as broad surveys of intellectual thought; these survey courses usually have enrollments of between fifty and two hundred students. Introductory seminar courses, on the other hand, are limited to between fifteen and twenty students and focus on much more specific topics. Upper-level courses typically enroll thirty to forty students. Majors seminars and honors seminars are also offered; enrollment in these courses is limited to twenty. Some advanced students may prefer to pursue independent study with a faculty member. Because philosophy is not usually taught in high schools, students would do well to begin with a 100-level or 200-level course before trying a 300-level or higher course.
Students who graduate with a philosophy major do so with the knowledge that they are well prepared for graduate work (more than 50 percent go on to graduate work) or the job market. Many attend law school. According to a recent study by the University’s Office of Career Planning and Placement, the average LSAT score for a philosophy major was significantly higher than the average score for any other major. It is also worth noting that, according to a study recently completed by the American Medical Association, philosophy majors have the third highest acceptance rate into American medical schools. Those who do not attend graduate school often go into corporate work, with investment banking being the most popular career choice. Students who have studied philosophy are characterized by an independence and rigor of thought which serves them well in a wide variety of careers.