Courses of Study 2021-2022 
    Oct 23, 2021  
Courses of Study 2021-2022


In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  

The study of philosophy provides students with an opportunity to become familiar with some of the ideas and texts in the history of thought while developing analytical skills that are valuable in practical as well as academic affairs. It affords the excitement and satisfaction that come from understanding and working toward solutions of intellectual problems. The curriculum includes offerings in the history of philosophy, logic, philosophy of science, ethics, social and political philosophy, metaphysics, and theory of knowledge. Any philosophy course numbered in the 1000s or 2000s is suitable for beginning study in the field. Sections of PHIL 1110 , PHIL 1111 , and PHIL 1112  are part of the first-year writing seminar program; they are taught by various members of the staff on a variety of philosophical topics, and because of their small size (17 students at most) they provide ample opportunity for discussion. Students who want a broad introduction to philosophy may take PHIL 1100 , but many students with special interests may find that the best introduction to philosophy is a 2000-level course in some particular area of philosophy; such courses have no prerequisites and are usually open to first-year students.



R. Kamtekar, interim chair; S. MacDonald, interim director of undergraduate studies; K. Hübner, interim director of graduate studies; E. Atiq, T. Brennan, C. Brittain, J. Doris, H. Hodes, A. Kocurek, M. Kosch, K. Manne, J. Markovits, A. Marmor, S. Nichols, C. Pavese, D. Pereboom, D. Shoemaker, N. Silins, W. Starr. Emeritus: G. Fine, C. Ginet, T. Irwin, R. Miller, S. Shoemaker

The Major

Students expecting to major in philosophy should begin their study of it in their freshman or sophomore year. Admission to the major is granted by the director of undergraduate studies of the department on the basis of a student’s work during the first two years. Normally the student must have completed two philosophy courses with grades of B or better.

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements . 

Requirements for the major

A minimum of eight philosophy courses taken for a letter grade and a minimum of 29 total credit hours


  • at least one course on ancient philosophy (PHIL 2200 , or a course with a large component on Plato or Aristotle)
  • at least one course on the history of modern philosophy before 1900 (e.g., PHIL 2220  or a course with a large component on some figure(s) in the history of philosophy before 1900)
  • a minimum of six philosophy courses numbered 2000 or above
  • a minimum of three philosophy courses numbered above 3000

Important note: the eight courses satisfying the major may NOT include:

In addition:

  • Students must take at least 8 credits of course work in philosophy or related subjects, approved by the student’s major advisor if not offered by the Philosophy Department.
  • A grade of B- or better is required for any course to count toward satisfaction of major requirements.
  • A course in formal logic (e.g., PHIL 2310 ), while not required, is especially recommended for majors or prospective majors.

The Minor

The Philosophy minor is designed for students who would like to formally pursue focused studies in Philosophy, receiving recognition for this work, along with their major in another field. The minor is open to any undergraduate student in any college at Cornell.

Admission to the minor is based on a student’s work in Philosophy; students would be expected to have completed two philosophy courses (or at least 3 credits each) with grades of B or better prior to applying.

A minimum of five philosophy courses (or a minimum of 3 credits each, with a total of at least 17 credits) taken for a letter grade (B- or better)


  • no more than one course numbered below 2000
  • at least two must be numbered above 3000
  • at least one must be in the history of philosophy before 1900, including study of ancient or modern philosophy before 1900
  • no more than one semester of First-Year Writing Seminar (PHIL 1110, PHIL 1111, PHIL 1112) will be accepted.

Important note: PHIL courses numbered 1900-1999, 4900, 4901 (or any courses with the digit “9” in the second place) will NOT be accepted for the minor.

For more information or to apply, email


Honors in the philosophy major are awarded on the basis of an assessment of the student’s overall performance in the major, taking into account their grades in philosophy classes, and also their oral performance in class and their departmental citizenship.  A primary factor will be the faculty’s assessment of the student’s philosophical writing, as evidenced by the production of one or more substantial pieces of writing, such as seminar term papers, an (optional) senior thesis, or the equivalent.


Students interested in being considered for honors should be philosophy majors and normally, by the time they graduate:

  • will have a GPA  (Grade Point Average) of at least 3.5 in the major, and a minimum overall GPA in all courses taken at Cornell of 2.7 (B-);
  • must have taken at least ten philosophy courses (these may not include any PHIL courses with a 9 in the second digit, with the exception of PHIL 4900  and PHIL 4901 –the senior thesis);
  • will have taken at least two courses at the 4000/6000 level, with the aim of producing substantial pieces of philosophical writing (e.g. seminar term papers), or the equivalent; this requirement can, but need not be, satisfied by undertaking the (optional) senior thesis (see below);
  • will have taken at least four courses at the 3000 level or above;
  • will have taken a minimum of 36 credits hours in philosophy.

The faculty will consider all eligible students for honors, so there is no need for students to declare themselves interested in being considered for honors.  However, we recommend that you speak with your faculty advisor about course selection, particularly with regard to upper-level seminars or the senior thesis, at the start of your junior and senior years, to ensure that your coursework will provide you with sorts of samples of written work that could form the basis of an award of honors. 

The Senior Thesis

Students who wish to undertake a substantial, specialized, in-depth independent research project under the supervision of a member of the Sage School faculty may choose to enroll in the optional senior thesis. Students typically devote two courses (PHIL 4900 /PHIL 4901 ) in consecutive terms of their senior year to writing a satisfactory thesis (although some students have completed a thesis in a single term). Neither PHIL 4900  nor PHIL 4901  counts towards the eight philosophy courses required for the major, though they can count towards the ten courses required for honors. Enrollment in the thesis project is dependent on finding a suitable faculty advisor. The senior thesis is one route, but not the only route, to producing the substantial pieces of philosophical writing needed for honors consideration. (Candidates whose theses are judged by the faculty not to merit the award of honors may nonetheless, at the discretion of the faculty, be awarded a passing grade for PHIL 4900 /PHIL 4901 .

NOTE:  The senior thesis is no longer required for honors in philosophy, and in many cases, students may find it preferable to enroll in two upper level or graduate seminars, and benefit from the greater structure and philosophical community such seminars offer, rather than undertaking the thesis project. 

Honors Awards

The decision to award a degree in philosophy with honors (cum laude), high honors (magna cum laude), or highest honors (summa cum laude) is made jointly by the faculty of the Sage School.  Every spring, the faculty will hold a meeting to review each of the graduating majors (including multiple majors) who meet the numerical criteria in order to consider whether they should be awarded departmental honors.  No student will be awarded honors unless at least two faculty members are willing to advocate for the honors on the basis of their assessment of at least one substantial piece of work such as a seminar paper or the equivalent.  As noted, students will be considered for honors without needing to put themselves forward for consideration.  It will fall to the faculty to recruit second readers for seminar papers and theses as necessary.

First-Year Writing Seminars

Consult the John S. Knight Institute for course times, instructors, and descriptions.