Philosophy Major

Students must also complete the Undergraduate Registration Requirement and the degree requirements of their home school.

Because the study of philosophy involves the critical discussion of the most fundamental questions asked by human beings, it helps develop breadth of understanding and clarity of thought. This character of philosophical inquiry makes choosing philosophy as a second major attractive to many students. Moreover, with appropriate supporting courses, a philosophy major can be a sound preparation for many careers, whether or not they involve further study.

The core of the program is a firm grounding in the history of philosophy. Against this background, students may tailor a program that meets their particular interests.

Course Title
Major Requirements (13 units)
2 core history of philosophy courses: 1,2
PHIL 210-1
PHIL 210-3
History of Philosophy - Ancient
and History of Philosophy - Early Modern
1 core logic course: 1,2
PHIL 150-0Elementary Logic I
or PHIL 250-0 Elementary Logic II
1 core course in moral or political philosophy: 2
PHIL 260-0Introduction to Moral Philosophy
or PHIL 261-0 Introduction to Political Philosophy
9 additional courses: 3
At least 6 must be at the 300 or 400 level. A student who is admitted to and completes 1 or more 400-level courses may apply such courses toward this requirement.
Up to 3 of the following courses offered by the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life may be counted: 4,5
The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Life
and The Brady Scholars Program: The Moral Life
and The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Society
1 of the 9 electives may be from outside the department if it has substantial philosophical content. Course approval must be obtained from the director of undergraduate studies by submitting a petition that includes the course syllabus. 4
At most 2 eligible PHIL 399-0 may count toward the major. See department website for criteria. Approval must be obtained in advance from both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies.

Should be completed as early as possible, since the material is required to do well in more advanced work (although not formally prerequisite) and only offered in specific quarters during the academic year.


NOTE: Core requirements for the major cannot be replaced by courses taken outside the specified offerings of the Philosophy Department. This includes courses completed on study abroad programs, online courses, courses transferred from other institutions, and courses offered by other departments at Northwestern. Only in cases of established exceptional hardship will the Philosophy Department undergraduate committee be able to consider a request to substitute a core credit (see department website FAQ for further details). A student who might be facing such circumstances needs to immediately contact the department advisor or the director of undergraduate studies to find out more about the possibilities.


None may be a first-year seminar, the ISEN course PHIL 270-0, the Brady Scholars coures PHIL 373-1 and PHIL 373-2, or senior tutorial courses PHIL 398-1 and PHIL 398-2.


Students who apply courses offered in the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life towards the major may not petition to count another course offered outside the department towards the major.


Students in the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life who have completed the sequence of PHIL 273-1, PHIL 273-2, & PHIL 273-3 may petition with their department advisor to substitute the core requirement to take one of PHIL 260-0 or PHIL 261-0 by the whole sequence. Approval of such replacement will be conditional on such students' counting at least one additional PHIL-course at the 200-level toward the major.

​Honors in Philosophy

Majors with strong academic records (GPA in the major of 3.5) and an interest in pursuing honors should have project proposals approved by a faculty supervisor and the director of undergraduate studies or the philosophy department honors convenor before the end of winter quarter of junior year. They then take PHIL 398-1 in spring quarter of junior year and PHIL 398-2 in fall quarter of senior year; neither counts toward major requirements. (Students may petition to begin this thesis sequence in fall quarter of senior year, so that their sequence moves forward a quarter, respectively.) Near the end of the second quarter (i.e. PHIL 398-2), students submit completed senior theses, which are evaluated by the Honors Committee in terms of level of research and philosophical reflection. In the spring, students present their research results at a conference open to the public.

Students whose papers, presentations, and grades meet department criteria are recommended to the college for graduation with honors. For more information see the department website and Honors in the Major.