The Major in Philosophy

Philosophy’s questions are always controversial and they are always timely. The Department of Philosophy offers an exciting and cutting-edge major program that leads to a BA in Philosophy. Not surprisingly, every semester several hundred Rice students enroll in our courses. And our undergraduate program is consistently ranked among the very top of all philosophy programs in the U.S.

The major in philosophy covers the entire range of philosophical topics and traditions, from Ancient Greece to the present, from ethics and metaphysics to philosophy of mind and cognitive science. We deal with tricky moral problems and ask ourselves how consciousness should even be possible. Recently, we have also added new courses on non-European philosophical traditions, such as Chinese philosophy.

Rice’s Department of Philosophy has two particular research strengths. In the field of ethics, the department has an international reputation in areas such as moral psychology, blame, justice, achievement, medical ethics, and the ethics of marriage and reproduction. In the philosophy of mind, the department has leading philosophers of consciousness, who are also interested in the philosophical interpretation of neuroscientific findings. Faculty in the Department of Philosophy are also closely involved in a number of interdisciplinary programs, such as Politics, Law & Social Thought, Medical Humanities, the Study of Women, Gender & Sexuality, Cognitive Sciences, and Neuroscience.


The detailed requirements for the philosophy undergraduate program are outlined in Rice University’s General Announcements.

Philosophy majors must complete a total of 10 courses (30 credit hours) in Philosophy. At least five courses must be at the 300-level or above. No more than two courses at the 100-level may be used to fulfill major requirements.

Philosophy majors must complete the following courses:

  • PHIL 281 History of Philosophy I
  • PHIL 283 History of Philosophy II
  • Either PHIL 210 Logic or PHIL 310
  • Mathematical Logic
  • Two courses from a group of courses covering metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of art, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language
  • Two courses from a group of courses covering ethics, metaethics, philosophy of law, and social and political philosophy
  • Three elective courses

Majors are encouraged to enroll in Undergraduate Research Seminars (PHIL 400 level courses). These are organized around varying themes aimed at deepening awareness of current work in philosophy, developing advanced research skills and fostering intellectual community. Qualified undergraduates may choose to write a senior honors thesis in addition to their normal major requirements.

Some departmental funds are available for attendance at conferences in the United States for students who have had papers accepted for presentation.

Transfer Credits

No more than 4 courses (12 credit hours) of transfer credit from U.S. or international universities of similar standing as Rice may apply towards the major. Requests for transfer credit will be considered by the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies on an individual basis.

Distinction in Research

To be considered for “Distinction in Research in Philosophy,” students must submit an application by April 1 (for May graduation) or by November 1 (for December graduation). Minimum qualifications are a 3.5 GPA in philosophy courses and enrollment in the Honors Thesis course PHIL 498 or 499 or the Research Seminar for majors PHIL 400.

The student work to be considered must be submitted by May 1 or December 1 to a committee appointed by the Chair, which will include the Director of Undergraduate Studies, any Honors Thesis supervisors and the instructor(s) of the Research Seminar. The recommendation of that committee will be communicated to the department by May 10 or December 10 for the final decision of the department.

Further questions?

Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Charles Siewert, the Robert and Kathryn Hayes Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, at