Chairperson: Daniel Selcer, Ph.D.

Why should I major in Philosophy?

Philosophy is the art of thinking, and philosophical reflection encourages us to always seek the truth no matter our particular investments in a situation while assisting us to critically examine the ethical foundations of thought and action. Majors in Philosophy ask questions like: What is thinking and what are its limits? Is language a social intervention, an innate ability, or an imitation of nature? Is there a God, and what is this God like? How should we organize our society? Why are there inequalities, and is justice only the law of the stronger? Are the mind and body one thing, two things, or many? Are the elements of complex concepts connected in the same way as natural phenomena? Are standards of beauty objective, or do they depend on the one who experiences, feels, or observes?

Duquesne's Philosophy department is an academically rigorous, critical, intellectually diverse community internationally recognized and committed to teaching and research in Continental philosophy and the history of philosophy. Our major provides an intensive course of study through which students rigorously engage in logical analysis, conceptual interpretation, and critique of arguments, concepts, and their textual articulations. Our philosophy majors and minors deeply engage the history of philosophy to develop a competency to powerfully engage diverse intellectual positions on issues central to human existence. The engaged faculty of the Philosophy Department mentor our students as they develop a broad competence in the history of philosophy and a thorough understanding of diverse philosophical positions so that they may reflectively pursue whatever path in life they choose.

What can I do with a Philosophy major?

Duquesne Philosophy majors major intensively develops highly valued skills and competencies, something recognized both in the job market and in the entry frameworks required for advanced professional and academic degrees. Philosophy majors distinguish themselves as leaders in academia, medicine, politics, journalism, public relations, finance, public interest research, ministry, law, business, and education. They find a broad set of career paths open to them after graduation, as employers value the skills of skillful problem solving, careful thinking, analytical clarity, critical precision, lucid presentation of complex ideas, and innovative thinking that its practitioners become capable of applying in any context.

Recent Wall Street Journal and Forbes studies have also shown that Philosophy majors garner the highest mid-career salaries of any non-STEM major ( Many go on to advanced professional degrees, with those seeking to enter medical school scoring extremely well on the MCAT (the highest among majors in the humanities), those seeking to enter law scoring extremely well on the LSAT (scoring highest among majors in the humanities), and for those who intend to go on to graduate programs in the humanities, receiving the highest composite GRE scores of any major (highest in verbal and analytical writing of any major; highest in the humanities on the quantitative score).

In short, the Philosophy major provides a highly-valued generalist liberal arts degree that opens doors to a myriad of advanced professional possibilities while providing the opportunity for deeply meaningful reflective thinking.

Learning outcomes for the Philosophy major and minor

The goal of our major and minor are to develop the skills crucial to complex forms of inquiry and reflection and the discipline to ask the basic questions about human life in significant and rigorous ways. This goal provides us with the following formal learning outcomes:

Argumentative skill

Philosophy majors and minors will be able to proficiently formulate, and defend complex arguments and concepts about crucial issues concerning the world, articulating clear and valid arguments while engaging in constructive and responsive discourse with peers.

Interpretive finesse

Philosophy majors and minors will critically engage with influential and vibrant concepts, arguments, and approaches drawn from primary texts in the history of philosophy and its contemporary deployment. They will be able to proficiently explain, analyze, interpret, and critique classical philosophical texts and complex conceptual positions. They will be able to distinguish the constituent elements of claims and critically evaluate their coherence.

Historical awareness & contemporary engagement

Philosophy majors and minors will demonstrate proficiency in reading, interpreting, critically rearticulating, and putting to work classic texts and ideas drawn from ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, while also addressing questions and problems from the perspective of contemporary practitioners that engage the world in which we live.

Ethical analysis

Philosophy majors and minors will demonstrate both broad and deep understanding of a comprehensive set of theoretical approaches to ethical analysis as well as develop the skills to apply the forms of judgment they demand to concrete situations.

Reflective self-interrogation

Philosophy majors and minors will be able to critically and rigorously question their own presuppositions and beliefs, identify areas of agreement and points of divergence with the positions of others, and cultivate openness to revising their views in transformative ways.

Requirements for the Philosophy major and minor

Philosophy majors must complete 30 credits in philosophy:

  • at least 9 credits (3 courses) at the 300-level
  • at least 3 credits (1 course) at the 400-level
  • at least 18 credits (6 courses) as electives at any level

Philosophy minors must complete 15 credits in philosophy:

  • at least 3 credits (1 course) at the 200-level
  • at least 3 credits (1 course) at the 300-level
  • at least 9 credits (3 courses) as electives at any level.

Philosophy credits are PHIL and PHL courses. Essential Questions seminars (EQ), Introduction to Ethical Reasoning (BRDG 105P), and Honors College courses (HONR) may also be counted as Philosophy electives if the instructor is based in the Philosophy Department.

Double majors may petition the Philosophy Department to count six philosophically-relevant credits (2 courses) from another major as elective credits. Double minors may petition the Philosophy Department to count three philosophically-relevant credits (1 course) from another minor as elective credits.

The Philosophy major and minor are structured to afford students a maximum of freedom in choosing their own path through our curriculum, with our course topics changing frequently at the 300- and 400-levels. We also provide intensive individual faculty mentorship for majors and minors (or prospective majors and minors) to discuss courses and program structures that may particularly fit their interests.

The Bridges Common Learning Experience general education structure already mandates that all Duquesne students fulfill at least one of their seven required competency area courses with a class taught by Philosophy. Further, a significant number of the Bridges-required Introduction to Ethical Reasoning courses are also taught by the Philosophy Department (look for BRDG 105P sections - the ‘P' designates a Philosophy-taught section), as are a number of Bridges Essential Questions seminars. All these can count toward the major and minor! We also welcome double majors, as the study of philosophy is a useful complement to most other fields of inquiry - double majors may petition to count two philosophically-relevant courses from an appropriate double-major toward our credit requirements. In other words... it's quite likely you may already find yourself further along the path to a Philosophy major or minor than you think!

Philosophy course levels

We suggest that those interested in majoring in Philosophy first begin with any one of our core 100-level courses - PHIL 160 Reality & Illusion, PHIL 170 Who I Am, PHIL 180 Democracy & Justice, or PHIL 190 Global Thought - then progress to any 200-level course, then to a 300-level course, and then structure their own curriculum according to their interests in consultation with a member of the Philosophy Department faculty.

100-level Philosophy courses

In these courses, students discover philosophical themes and how they apply to their everyday experiences. They learn how to argue effectively, think critically about ideas, and approach some of the most important questions in life in new ways. They receive significant guidance from the instructor for understanding the readings and applying these ideas in their work.

200-level Philosophy courses

In these courses, students delve into specific topics and explore systematic introductions to philosophical thinking about them. They formulate philosophical questions, examine them from multiple angles, and consider possible answers from a wide variety of thinkers. They develop their written and oral analysis and argumentation skills.

300-level Philosophy courses

In these courses, students deepen their philosophical knowledge by rigorously investigating a specific period in the history of philosophy or a specific philosophical topic. They sharpen your analytical abilities, stretch their interpretive and argumentative skills, and pursue independent approaches to philosophical writing.

400-level Philosophy courses

In these courses, students engage in small seminar-style discussions of problems and texts from philosophy past or present. They explore the subtleties of philosophical questions and encounter cutting-edge thinking while pursuing independent work and guided research.

500- and 600-level courses

These courses are seminars for our MA- and PhD-granting graduate programs. They are sometimes accessible to advanced Philosophy majors and minors with the permission of the instructor

Philosophy Honors Program

Advanced Philosophy majors are eligible to apply for the Philosophy Honors program, which allows access to two seminars aimed primarily at our MA and PhD program graduate students as well as the opportunity to develop original, independent philosophical research into a BA thesis under the direct mentorship of a member of the Philosophy faculty. More details are available on the Philosophy Honors Program and its application process are available on the Philosophy Department homepage.

Philosophy Student Organizations

Our undergraduate majors and minors have the opportunity to play leadership and organizational roles in three University-recognized student organizations hosted by the department: the Duquesne Undergraduate Philosophy Society (DUPS), Duquesne Women in Philosophy (D-WiP), and the Duquesne chapter of Minorities in Philosophy (MAP). These groups regularly host reading and discussion groups, speaker and debate series, and academic colloquia and conferences.

Philosophy Visiting Speakers Series

The Philosophy Department hosts a vigorous and nationally-recognized visiting speakers series, each year bringing six to eight leading philosophers from across the globe for discussions of their latest work with philosophy students and faculty.

Philosophy Internships

The Philosophy Department hosts a broad series of for-credit student internship placements for its majors at local organizations in social advocacy, law, politics, non-profits, independent academic institutions, etc.