Why major in philosophy?

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(December 2015)

For Students Entering the Four-Year Curriculum

Students wishing to major in philosophy at HKU must fulfill the requirements explained below. Besides these requirements, there are several important recommendations associated with the philosophy major. These are also explained below.

Prerequisite Introductory Courses

All majors must complete at least one of the following 6-credit introductory courses. You are welcome to take more than one. These courses are usually taken in Year 1, but may be taken in any year.

  • PHIL1012 Mind and Knowledge

  • PHIL1034 Ethics and Politics, East and West

In Year 1, you must also take a total of 18 credits from any Arts programmes. The 6 credits from PHIL1012 or PHIL1034 counts toward this total of 18.

Logic

The department does not require majors to complete a course in logic. However, doing so is recommended. Studying logic sharpens your analytical and critical thinking skills and helps you become familiar with many important philosophical concepts. It is a crucial part of basic philosophical training. Philosophy majors should strongly consider completing PHIL1068 Elementary Logic. (However, PHIL1068 does not count among the nine upper-level courses required for the major.)

Elective Courses

Majors are required to complete at least nine six-credit upper-level courses (54 credits total). These nine courses plus the 18 credits of introductory courses (from any Arts subject) completed in Year 1 give a total of 72 credits. The nine include the "capstone course" (see below).

In choosing courses, you should take at least one from each of the four thematic groups into which our upper-level courses are divided. The groups are:

  • Group I: Knowledge and Reality

  • Group II: Mind and Language

  • Group III: Moral and Political Philosophy

  • Group IV: History of Philosophy

You can learn about the courses offered in each group by browsing this page.

"Capstone" Courses

Fourth-year majors must complete a senior "capstone" course giving them the opportunity to apply disciplinary knowledge and methods learned in the first three years of study. Three capstone courses are available, among which students choose one. The courses are PHIL3920 Senior Essay (6 credits, one semester), PHIL4920 Senior Thesis (12 credits, two semesters), and PHIL4810 Senior Seminar. These courses count toward the nine upper-level courses (54 credits) required for the major. Students who wish to write a senior essay (6 credits) or senior thesis (12 credits) should discuss their capstone project with one or more professors in the Philosophy Department and find a professor to supervise them. For details, see the Philosophy Syllabus.

Summary

To sum up, philosophy majors should take the following:

  • At least one of PHIL1012 or PHIL1034 (compulsory)

  • Nine electives, including at least one from each of the four groups (compulsory)

  • A capstone course (compulsory) (counts as one or two of the nine electives)

  • A logic course (recommended but not required)

Minoring in Philosophy

Students minoring in philosophy must complete at least one introductory course (PHIL1012 or PHIL1034) and at least five upper-level courses (30 credits). Again, a course in logic is recommended but not mandatory. If you qualify, you may also be invited to take the senior seminar.

Double Majors

Philosophy students may and are encouraged to complete a double major. Double majors typically combining philosophy with another Arts or a Social Science discipline, but may combine it with other disciplines as well. If the second major is in another Faculty, be sure to fulfill the separate degree requirements of that Faculty.