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Degrees Offered: BA MA PhD Minor

Philosophy investigates basic and very general assumptions that are normally taken for granted. For example, philosophy asks whether there are any rational grounds for distinguishing between what is really the case and what is simply thought to be the case or seems to be the case; whether there is a genuine difference between knowledge and mere opinion; whether it’s reasonable or unreasonable to think that God exists; whether the sense we sometimes have of acting of our own free will is illusory and whether consciousness itself is an accidental result of neurochemical processes in our brains; and whether there is any objective validity to the moral codes people live by. It also brings techniques developed in discussion of these questions to bear on the pressing moral, social and political issues of the day. Philosophy majors develop critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as an appreciation of the history of philosophical discussion and the ability to formulate sophisticated views about philosophical problems. 

Philosophy graduates are adaptable to a variety of careers. The ability to work on abstract problems, to understand the interrelationships between various fields and to clarify basic concepts enables students to assume entry­level positions in business, government, public service, mass communication, banking, personnel, advertising and numerous other fields. A philosophy major is also excellent preparation for law school or graduate study in humanities disciplines such as literature, classics and theology.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The department offers a comprehensive program of philosophical study that provides graduates with an opportunity for self­exploration as well as a foundation in the application of philosophical skills to real­world situations. The curriculum leads to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.

Students choose to follow a general philosophy major or choose from one of two topically­oriented programs that are interdisciplinary in nature. These include values and social policy and law and society. The general major in philosophy involves course work in the three main areas of the subject: 1) metaphysics (concerning what exists) and epistemology (the nature of knowledge and the methods by which it is acquired); 2) ethics; and 3) the history of philosophy. In the Values and Social Policy Program, students study the many contemporary issues that present difficult and fundamental questions about value, including individual rights versus the public good, freedom versus security and economic values versus environmental values. The Law and Society Program appeals to students interested ethical, political and social issues relating to law and other institutions. The program helps students obtain a deeper understanding of the nature and functions of law and its relation to other institutions of society. It is also designed to promote the development of intellectual skills that are of value in the study of law, such as the ability to evaluate the soundness of arguments.

Graduate Studies

The graduate program in philosophy at the University of Colorado Boulder is designed to provide students with a broad and intensive training in philosophy. It focuses on the careful philosophical development and professional preparation of its students. The department is also one of a few elite programs in the country that balance strength in contemporary philosophy with a serious interest in the history of philosophy, with faculty spanning the whole history of Western thought, from Plato and Aristotle, through the middle ages, to Kant and his successors. In the 2014­-2015 Philosophical Gourmet Report, the department was ranked #31 among PhD programs in the United States.

The graduate program contains separate tracks for MA and PhD students. The MA program is intended for students who wish to explore advanced study in philosophy in a two-­year graduate program, which will prepare students for further study at the doctoral level. The MA program intends to provide students with a solid foundation in all the core areas of philosophy, together with a thorough grounding in the history of philosophy, in preparation for more advanced and specialized work at the doctoral level; to provide philosophical training for those who intend to go on to work in interdisciplinary areas bordering with philosophy, such as cognitive science or applied ethics and public policy; to provide an opportunity for those who wish to explore more advanced study of philosophy for personal enrichment and satisfaction; and to provide the education needed for teaching philosophy at the secondary school level or at a community college. The department offers MA students not only an outstanding education in philosophy, but also all the benefits of being in a large, active and collegial department, with numerous colloquia, conferences, workshops and reading groups in many areas of philosophy. 

The PhD program is intended for those who aspire to a career of teaching and research at the college or university level, and has good success placing PhD students. Recent graduates have received tenure­track jobs at both leading research universities and smaller colleges, and it has been rare for a graduate not to receive any offers (tenure-track or temporary) at all. Graduates have also gone on to successful professional careers outside academia.

Research Opportunities

The department’s Center for Values and Social Policy engages in research and sponsors lectures, conferences and programs. Convinced that philosophy can make important contributions to ongoing debates about issues and public policy, the center’s activities bring the methods and insights of philosophy to bear on critical issues of public concern. Quality of life, environmental ethics, energy policies and human rights are among the topics of interest.

Every week, there are numerous events sponsored by the department, including talks in the department colloquium series, lunchtime talks hosted by the Center for Values and Social Policy, talks hosted by the Center for History and Philosophy of Science, as well as talks in the Works­ In­ Progress series. In addition, there are numerous reading groups organized informally by faculty and graduate students on topics of common interest, ranging from Kierkegaard and non­conceptual content, to philosophical works in Latin and Greek.

The Rocky Mountain Graduate Student Philosophy Conference is an open­submission conference held each spring, run by graduate students in the department. It is one of the longest running graduate student conferences in the country. Student organizers gain valuable experience not only in running a conference, but they also develop connections with fellow PhD students across the country. 

The department also sponsors the Morris Colloquium, which is a multi­day conference that has focused on topics such as human rights, environmental ethics, human nature, philosophy and film, human cloning, consumerism, global justice and balancing liberty with security (in the wake of the Patriot Act).

Each year, the department is home to the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, an international conference geared to offer the highest quality, highest altitude discussion of ethics, broadly conceived.