The practice of philosophy is a careful, in-depth study of humanity's most basic ideas, presuppositions, and beliefs. Its goal is to understand as clearly as possible one's conception of the world and humanity's place in it, and to see to what extent one's beliefs are justified. Some topics in philosophy include the nature of morality, the justification of law, the possibility of free will, the nature of beauty, the place of mind in a physical world, the nature of perception, the justification of our beliefs, the possibility of knowledge, the social construction of gender, the understanding of the self, the understanding of time and space, the possible existence of god, the nature and possibility of truth, the purpose and proper understanding of language, and the nature of emotions, as well as the point and value of philosophical inquiry.

Beginning students can get a sense of the historical development of the current philosophical context by taking either CM/PL 271 (Ancient Greek Philosophy) or PHIL 272 (Philosophy from Descartes to Kant). Those beginning students interested in a more topically organized presentation of this field may take PHIL 150 (Introduction to Philosophy). Students new to philosophy are also encouraged to start out with 200-level courses that focus on particular problems of philosophical interest. Although critical reading, thinking, and writing skills are developed in all philosophy classes, PHIL 195 (Introduction to Logic) provides a more focused study of proper reasoning that is beneficial to majors and nonmajors alike. The study of philosophy, with its creative interplay of insight and reason, has ancient roots, yet the subject remains in continual ferment. The Bates philosophy curriculum emphasizes both the history of philosophical thought and the striking innovations, insights, and relevance of contemporary philosophy.

The philosophy department welcomes students from all backgrounds and identities, and encourages all students to take a philosophy course and to consider a philosophy major or minor. The department faculty strive to ensure that all courses are inclusive and welcoming to students of all backgrounds and identities. A number of courses focus on non-Western approaches to philosophy; many courses consider how oppressions have influenced or determined the nature of philosophical questions; and many courses include a focus on issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and ableism. Finally, all courses welcome a diversity of views in class. Students are encouraged to examine the reasons for (and against) views they encounter and are taught to think critically about all views and hold views themselves only when and if the reasons for them stand up to careful, reflective, sympathetic scrutiny.

Information on the benefits and opportunities open to philosophy majors is outlined at "Why study philosophy?" on the department website (

Major Requirements. Students who major in philosophy are expected to complete eleven courses in the field. Eight of the eleven courses must meet the distribution requirements indicated below. Students are urged to take the courses listed in 1) and 2) below as soon as possible after they decide to major in philosophy. The philosophy faculty has structured these requirements to allow students the flexibility to plan their own programs within the constraints of a broad philosophical education. Philosophy courses offered in the Short Term count toward the eleven required courses. First-year seminars taught by philosophy faculty count toward the eleven required courses. In addition, students may, with departmental approval, fulfill one of the eleven courses with a course from another field. Study-abroad courses and transfer courses may satisfy major or minor requirements with the approval of the department chair. Students arrange their programs in consultation with their departmental advisor. Those considering graduate or professional school are encouraged to consult with their advisor in order to design an appropriate course of study.

1) Logic.
PHIL 195. Introduction to Logic.

2) History of Philosophy. Both of the following:
CM/PL 271. Ancient Greek Philosophy.
PHIL 272. Philosophy from Descartes to Kant.

3) Ethics and Political Philosophy (the good, the right, and community). One of the following:
PHIL 112. Contemporary Moral Disputes.
ESPL 214. Environmental Ethics.
PHIL 255. Human Nature and Perfectibility.
PHIL 256. Moral Philosophy.
PHIL 257. Moral Luck.

4) Metaphysics and Epistemology (being, meaning, knowledge). One of the following:
PHIL 210. Philosophy of Cognitive Science.
PHIL 211. Philosophy of Science.
PHIL 234. Philosophy of Language.
PHIL 235. Philosophy of Mind.
PHIL 236. Theory of Knowledge.
PHIL 245. Metaphysics.
PL/RE 260. Philosophy of Religion.

5) Seminars.
Two courses at the 300 level.

6) Senior Thesis.
PHIL 457 or PHIL 458.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.

Minor. The minor in philosophy consists of six courses. A coherent program for each student's minor is designed in accordance with program guidelines and in consultation with a member of the philosophy faculty who is chosen or appointed as the student's departmental advisor for the minor. Among the six courses there should be at least four courses related in a coherent group. Examples might include a group of courses relevant to philosophical reflections about the student's major field, or a group of courses on ethical and political questions, or a group of courses on a specific historical period. This group of courses should be designated, in consultation with the departmental advisor. The minor may include one first-year seminar and up to two Short Term courses in philosophy.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may be elected for only one course applied toward the minor.