Overview

Descartes

The department offers several options for those interested in philosophy: a primary concentration in Philosophy (including Honors eligibility); the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Track; and Joint Concentrations with Philosophy.

Below you will find a detailed description of the requirements for each of these offerings. Questions regarding them may be directed to the Department Coordinator.

Students interested in pursuing a secondary in Philosophy are advised to consult the requirements in the Harvard College Handbook for Students.

Philosophy Basic Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. One course in each of the following four areas, taken by the end of the first term of senior year and passed with a grade of C– or better:
        1. Logic.
        2. Contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language.
        3. Ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics.
        4. History of ancient, medieval, or modern pre-20th-century philosophy.
    2. Tutorials: Two courses. See item 2 below. 
    3. Six additional courses in philosophy, up to three of which may be in approved related subjects. Related courses are approved individually by the Head Tutor, in many cases depending on the interests and overall program of the student. They count for concentration credit only if they are needed to reach the minimum number of concentration courses required.
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Tutorial I: Philosophy 97, group tutorials at the introductory level on different philosophical topics, required. Letter-graded. A one-semester course typically taken in the spring of the sophomore year.
    2. Tutorial II: Philosophy 98, group tutorials at the advanced level on different philosophical topics, required. Letter-graded. A one-semester course typically taken fall or spring of the junior year.
  3. Thesis: None.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information:
    1. Philosophy courses may include courses listed under Philosophy in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu.
    2. Pass/Fail: All courses counted for the concentration must be letter-graded.
    3. No more than four courses numbered lower than 91 may be counted for the concentration.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. One course in each of the following five areas, taken by the end of the first term of senior year and passed with a grade of C– or better:
        1. Logic.
        2. Contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language.
        3. Ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics.
        4. History of ancient or medieval philosophy.
        5. History of modern pre-20th-century philosophy.
    2. Tutorials: Four courses. See item 2 below.
    3. Four additional courses in philosophy, up to two of which may be in approved related subjects. Related courses are approved individually by the Head Tutor, in many cases depending on the interests and overall program of the student. They count for concentration credit only if they are needed to reach the minimum number of concentration courses required.
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Same as Basic Requirements.
    2. Same as Basic Requirements.
    3. Senior Tutorial: Philosophy 99, individual supervision of senior thesis. Permission of the Head Tutor is required for enrollment. Letter-graded. Honors candidates ordinarily enroll in both fall and spring terms. Enrolled students who fail to submit a thesis when due must, to receive a grade above E for the course, submit a substantial paper no later than the beginning of the spring term Reading Period.
  3. Thesis: Required of all senior honors candidates. Due at the Tutorial Office on the Friday after spring recess. No more than 20,000 words (approximately 65 pages). Oral examination on the thesis, by two readers, during the first week of spring Reading Period.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Mind, Brain, and Behavior Track: 15 courses (60 credits)

Students interested in studying philosophical questions that arise in connection with the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior may pursue a program of study affiliated with the University-wide Mind/Brain/Behavior (MBB) Initiative, which allows them to participate in a variety of related activities. MBB track programs must be approved on an individual basis by the Philosophy MBB advisor. Further information can be obtained from the Undergraduate Coordinator.

  1. Required courses:
    1. Three basic MBB courses:
        1. Science of Living Systems 20.
        2. Molecular and Cellular Biology 80.
        3. Junior year seminar in Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
    2. Philosophy 156.
    3. One course in logic.
    4. Three further courses in contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of language.
    5. Two courses covering two of the following three areas: history of ancient philosophy, history of modern philosophy, ethics.
    6. Two further MBB-listed courses from outside the Philosophy department, to be selected in consultation with the MBB adviser.
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Tutorial I: Same as Basic Requirements.
    2. Senior Tutorial: Same as Requirements for Honors Eligibility.
  3. General Examination: None.
  4. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Joint Concentrations: Philosophy as Primary Concentration

8 courses in Philosophy (36 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. One course in four of the five areas (see item 1a of Requirements for Honors Eligibility).
    2. Four additional courses in philosophy; tutorials count toward this requirement.
    3. At least four courses in the other field. Many departments require more; consult the Head Tutor of other field.
  2. Tutorial: Tutorial I, Philosophy 97 (usually taken in the sophomore year). Normally a tutorial is also required in the other field.
  3. Thesis: Required as for honors eligibility in Philosophy, but must relate to both fields. Oral examination by two readers, one from each department.
  4. General Examination: None required in Philosophy.
  5. Other information: See Basic Requirements. Joint concentrations: with Classics, Government, History, Mathematics, Religion, and occasionally others by special arrangement.

Joint Concentrations: Another Field as Primary Concentration

6 courses in Philosophy (24 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. One course in three of the five areas (see item 1a of Requirements for Honors Eligibility). The introductory course (item 1a) also counts toward this requirement.
    2. Three additional courses in philosophy; tutorial counts toward this requirement.
  2. Tutorial: Tutorial I, (Philosophy 97), usually taken in the junior year.
  3. Thesis: Required. Must relate to both fields. Directed in the primary field; one reader from Philosophy.
  4. General Examination: None required in Philosophy.
  5. Other information: See Basic Requirements. Primary fields: Classics, Government, History, Mathematics, Religion, and occasionally others by special arrangement.
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