Academic Programs Catalog

College of Arts and Letters

Department of Philosophy

Matthew McKeon, Chairperson

Philosophy explores our most basic ideas about the world, ourselves, and how we should act. Philosophers grapple with such questions as "what can we know?" "Do our lives have meaning?" "How should we respond to the suffering of others?" "Do animals have rights?" "How should we challenge injustice?" "Do computers think?" "How can we understand and control technology?"

In exploring such questions, philosophy strives to develop the ability to reason clearly, to distinguish between good and bad arguments, to navigate through a complicated maze of issues, to clarify puzzling concepts, and to use intelligence and logic in situations where there are fiercely opposing views and interests. Philosophy helps one understand and make reasoned choices of competing theories or points of view in a variety of controversies. Philosophy expands the student’s horizons by enabling the student to see beyond the world as it presently exists and develop a disciplined and imaginative awareness of how things might be.

In their work philosophers connect with many other disciplines. Philosophy makes available to the student a significant portion of the world’s great literature, and makes the student aware of the extent to which scientists, artists, poets, educators, and theologians have depended on the work of philosophers in the course of their own development. Philosophy places the study of such disciplines as the sciences, the arts, medicine, and the law within a broader intellectual perspective and provides logical and analytical tools for understanding them.  Since philosophy can enter into so many different programs, philosophical studies are an intrinsic component of any liberal or professional education, and many philosophy students pursue an additional major or minor.

Undergraduates can choose among a major and two minors. The major in philosophy is designed to expose students to traditional areas of interest: history of philosophy, ethics and political philosophy, epistemology and metaphysics, and logical and critical reasoning.  Half of the credits required for the degree are fulfilled through electives chosen by the student, allowing exploration of the diverse areas of contemporary philosophy such as health care, feminism, environment, and critical theory. The Minor in Philosophy is designed for students who wish to complement their major program with significant work in philosophy centered on their own interests. The Minor in Philosophy and Law provides students attracted to social, political, and legal issues with the philosophical resources to engage in society.

 


Undergraduate Programs


Philosophy

Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy

  1. The University requirements for bachelor's degrees as described in the Undergraduate Education section of this catalog; 120 credits, including general elective credits, are required for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.

    The University's Tier II writing requirement for the Philosophy major is met by completing Philosophy 492, or, with prior approval, Philosophy 499. Those courses are referenced in item 3. a. (5) below.
  2. The requirements of the College of Arts and Letters for the Bachelor of Arts degree.
  3. The following requirements for the major:
                   
    a. The following Philosophy courses (36 to 40 credits):  
      (1) Both of the following courses (6 credits):  
        PHL 210 Ancient Greek Philosophy 3
        PHL 211 Modern Philosophy 3
      (2) One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):  
        PHL 130 Logic and Reasoning 3
        PHL 330 Formal Reasoning 4
        PHL 432 Logic and its Metatheory 4
      (3) One of the following courses (3 credits):  
        PHL 340 Ethics   3
        PHL 350 Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy 3
      (4) One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):  
        PHL 418 Topics in 20th-Century Analytical Philosophy 3
        PHL 420 Topics in 20th-Century Continental Philosophy 4
        PHL 460 Epistemology 3
        PHL 461 Metaphysics 3
      (5) The following capstone course (3 credits):  
        PHL

    492

    Capstone for Majors (W) 3
        With the prior written approval of the Department, Philosophy 499 may be substituted for Philosophy 492.  
      (6) A minimum of three 400-level courses, excluding Philosophy 492 or 499. Courses used to satisfy requirement 3. a. (4) may also be used to satisfy requirement 3. a. (6).  
      (7) Philosophy electives: Additional credits in Philosophy courses as needed to meet the requirement of at least 36, but not more than 40, credits in courses in the major.  



Minor in Philosophy

The Minor in Philosophy, which is administered by the Department of Philosophy, will broaden students’ understanding of philosophical issues, assist them in learning to think critically, and to apply this knowledge and understanding to their chosen field of study.

This  minor is available as an elective to students who are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at Michigan State University other than the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy. With the approval of the department and college that administer the student’s degree program, the courses that are used to satisfy the minor may also be used to satisfy the requirements for the bachelor’s degree.

Students who plan to complete the requirements of the minor should consult the undergraduate advisor in the Department of Philosophy.

Requirements for the Minor in Philosophy

               
Complete 18 to 20 credits from the following:  
1. One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):  
  PHL 130 Logic and Reasoning 3
  PHL 330 Formal Reasoning 4
  PHL 432 Logic and its Metatheory 4
2. One of the following courses (3 credits):  
  PHL 101 Introduction to Philosophy 3
  PHL 210 Ancient Greek Philosophy 3
  PHL 211 Modern Philosophy 3
3. Complete one 400-level philosophy course (3 or 4 credits)  
4. Complete an additional 9 credits in philosophy courses as approved by the academic advisor.  



Minor in Philosophy and Law

The Minor in Philosophy and Law, which is administered by the Department of Philosophy, combines general training in philosophical ideas, debates, and methods with more focused work on the analytical, critical, and normative issues that arise with laws, legal institutions, and professional work.

The minor is available as an elective to students who are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at Michigan State University other than the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy. With the approval of the department and college that administers the student’s degree program, the courses that are used to satisfy the minor may also be used to satisfy the requirements for the bachelor’s degree.

Students who plan to complete the requirements for the minor should consult an undergraduate advisor in Philosophy.

Requirements for the Minor in Philosophy and Law

Complete 18 credits from the following:

               
1. One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):  
  PHL 130 Logic and Reasoning 3
  PHL 330 Formal Reasoning 4
  PHL 432 Logic and its Metatheory 4
2. One of the following courses (3 credits):  
  PHL 354 Philosophy of Law 3
  PHL 454 Topics in Philosophy of Law 3
3. One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):  
  PHL 340 Ethics 3
  PHL 342 Environmental Ethics 3
  PHL 344 Ethical Issues in Health Care 4
  PHL 345 Business Ethics 4
  PHL 350 Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy 3
  PHL 351 African Philosophy 3
  PHL 353 Core Themes in Peace and Justice Studies 3
  PHL 355 Philosophy of Technology (W) 4
  PHL 356 Philosophical Aspects of Feminism 4
  PHL 357 Philosophy of Karl Marx 3
4. Complete one 400-level Philosophy course as approved by the student’s academic advisor. 3 or 4
5. Complete additional Philosophy courses as approved by the student’s academic advisor. 4 to 8

Linked Bachelor's-Master's Degree in Philosophy

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy
Master of Arts Degree in Philosophy


The department welcomes applications from Michigan State University undergraduate Philosophy majors who have attained at least junior status.  Admission to the program requires a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 overall, 3.5 in philosophy, and a program of study approved by the Director of Undergraduate Programs and the Associate Chairperson at the time of admission.  Admission to the Linked Bachelor’s-Master’s program allows the application of up to 9 credits toward the master’s program for qualifying 400-level and above course work taken at the undergraduate level at Michigan State University or an external accredited institution. Credits applied to the Linked Bachelor’s-Master’s program are not eligible to be applied to any other graduate degree program.

 

Graduate Study

The Department of Philosophy offers two graduate programs. The Doctor of Philosophy may be earned in five years by students entering with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. Requirements are adjusted for students entering with other majors or with a Master of Arts in Philosophy. The master’s program is available to those with less academic preparation in the discipline or who want a terminal master’s degree. Those who earn the master’s degree can then apply for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program. In both programs there are broad distribution requirements to provide candidates with a solid grounding in most areas within the discipline. Students may specialize in any of the three areas of concentration in which the department has developed special research and teaching strengths - health care and philosophy or social and political thought (which includes options in feminism, critical theory, African American philosophy, democratic theory, ethics and development), and environmental philosophy. Work in the traditional areas of philosophy such as metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of logic and language, philosophy of science, ethics, the history of philosophy, and continental philosophy, is possible as well.

The Department of Philosophy encourages doctoral students with interests in such areas as the biological sciences, health care, feminist studies, ancient studies, critical theory, cognitive science, and linguistics, to take a limited number of courses outside the department as part of their Doctor of Philosophy program. The department also provides opportunities for course work for graduate students in other departments.

The department’s collective practice of philosophy is producing a union of the disciplinary mainstream, practical engagement of philosophy and practice-driven theory. The Philosophy department at Michigan State is positioned at the intersection of the primary social and scientific issues of the early 21st century: health, biotechnology, environment, development, democracy, the distribution of knowledge and power, and struggles against systematic forms of oppression and exploitation.

Students who are enrolled in master’s or doctoral degree programs in the Department of Philosophy may elect an Interdepartmental Specialization in Cognitive Science. For additional information, refer to the statement on Interdepartmental Graduate Specializations in Cognitive Science in the College of Social Science section of this catalog. For additional information, contact the Department of Philosophy.

 


Philosophy - Master of Arts

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Arts and Letters, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

To be considered for admission to the Master of Arts degree program in philosophy, an applicant must submit a paper that is representative of the applicant's philosophical abilities.

To be admitted to the program on regular status, an applicant must have:

  1. A bachelor's degree in any field.
  2. A grade–point average of at least 3.00 in at least 15 semester credits of philosophy courses.

In addition, an international applicant is required to have fulfilled the University's English language proficiency requirement as described in the Graduate Education section of the catalog in one of the following three ways:

  1. Have a total score of 580 (paper version) or 237 (computer version) or above on the Test of English as a Foreign Language with no subscore below 55 (paper version) or 21 (computer version) and have the approval of the English Language Center.
  2. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery with no subscore below 83 and have the approval of the English Language Center.
  3. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the English Language Center Test with no subscore below 83 and have the approval of the English Language Center.

Students are usually admitted to the program for fall semester.  Persons wishing to be considered for financial aid should submit all of their application materials by no later than December 31.

Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree in Philosophy

The program is available under both Plan A (with thesis) and Plan B (without thesis).  A total of 30 credits is required for the degree under either Plan A or Plan B.  The student's program of study must be approved by the Associate Chairperson.  The student must meet the requirements specified below:

Requirements for Both Plan A and Plan B

  1. Complete 30 credits in courses at the 400 level or higher. At least 21 of the 30 credits must be in Philosophy courses, with not more than 8 credits in Philosophy 890. The 30 credits must be distributed as follows:
    1. Three credits of Philosophy 800.
    2. At least 3 credits in each of the following four areas of philosophy: history of philosophy, value theory, metaphysics and epistemology, and logic and philosophy of science. The credits and courses that are used to satisfy requirement 1. c. may also be used to satisfy requirement 1. b.
    3. At least 9 credits from the following courses: Philosophy 810, 820, 830, 840, 850, 860, 870, and 880.
    4. At least 9 credits in an area within philosophy related to the master’s thesis or paper.
  2. Pass an examination in logic or complete designated course work in logic as specified by the department.

Additional Requirements for Plan A

  1. Complete at least 4, but not more than 8, credits of PHL 899  Master's Thesis Research.
  2. Complete a bibliography and thesis  acceptable to a committee of faculty.
  3. Pass a public oral examination in defense of the thesis that is administered by a committee of faculty.

Additional Requirements for Plan B

  1. Complete a bibliography and philosophical paper  acceptable to a committee of faculty.
  2. Pass an oral final examination that involves a public presentation and defense of the paper. The presentation must be acceptable to a committee of faculty.

The faculty member who directs the student's thesis (Plan A) or philosophical paper (Plan B) shall be a member of the committee.  At least two members of the committee shall be faculty members in the Department of Philosophy. Faculty members from other departments may serve on the committee with the approval of the Associate Chairperson.

Academic Standards

Only those courses for which the student received a grade of 3.0 or higher may be used to satisfy the requirements for the degree.

A student may accumulate no more than 6 credits with a grade below 3.0 in philosophy courses or courses taken for the purpose of satisfying degree requirements.



Philosophy - Doctor of Philosophy

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Arts and Letters, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

To be considered for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy degree program in philosophy, an applicant must submit to the department a sample of the applicant's philosophical writing.

To be admitted to the program on regular status, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree in philosophy or its equivalent. Applicants with other undergraduate academic qualifications may be admitted provisionally. Applicants with master's degrees in fields other than philosophy may be admitted provisionally to the Doctor of Philosophy program.

In addition, an international applicant is required to have fulfilled the University's English language proficiency requirement as described in the Graduate Education section of the catalog in one of the following three ways:

  1. Have a total score of 580 (paper version) or 237 (computer version) or above on the Test of English as a Foreign Language with no subscore below 55 (paper version) or 21 (computer version) and have the approval of the English Language Center.
  2. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery with no subscore below 83 and have the approval of the English Language Center.
  3. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the English Language Center Test with no subscore below 83 and have the approval of the English Language Center.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Philosophy

The student must:

  1. Complete at least 45 credits in courses at the 400 level or higher in addition to the credits earned in Philosophy 999. Students entering the program with a master’s degree in philosophy may have up to 21 credits toward the Ph.D. waived, and may have up to 3 credits in each area of requirement 1. b. waived, as warranted by their academic preparation in the discipline of philosophy. Those entering with master’s degrees in fields other than philosophy may have credits toward the areas of requirement 1. b. waived, as warranted by their academic preparation in the discipline of philosophy. The 45 credits must be distributed as follows:
    1. Three credits of Philosophy 801.
    2. At least 6 credits in courses in each of the following four areas of philosophy: history of philosophy, value theory, metaphysics and epistomology, and logic and philosophy of science. The credits and courses that are used to satisfy requirement 1. c. may also be used to satisfy requirement 1. b. 
    3. At least 33 credits from the following courses:  Philosophy 800, 810, 820, 840, 850, 860, 870, and 880. The 33 credits must include:
      1. at least 2 credits in the area of the dissertation.
      2. at least 2 credits in the minor field, different from the 2 credits in the area of the dissertation.
      3. at least 2 credits in each of two areas outside the dissertation and outside the minor field.
        Students who have a master's degree in philosophy are only required to complete 24 credits.
    4. At least 9 credits in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary minor field outside the area of the dissertation.
  2. Demonstrate a reading knowledge of one language other than English for which there is a substantial literature that is related to the student’s program of study.
  3. Complete a bibliography and prospectus for the dissertation.
  4. Set a timetable for the completion of the dissertation acceptable to the student’s guidance committee.

Academic Standards

Only those courses for which the student received a grade of 3.0 or higher may be counted toward the requirements for the degree.

A student may accumulate no more than 6 credits with a grade below 3.0 in philosophy courses or courses taken for the purpose of satisfying degree requirements.

 


Graduate Specialization in Ethics and Development (this program is in moratorium effective Summer 2015 through Fall 2017)

The Specialization in Ethics and Development will encourage students to become conversant with relevant philosophical theories of justice, autonomy, community, and identity in relation to their own particular disciplines. They will relate this philosophical literature and apply philosophical skills to subjects such as economic and social sustainability; racial, gender, and ethnic conflict; humanitarian intervention; and globalization. Students and faculty will have the opportunity to address collaboratively in a philosophically sophisticated manner the difficult ethical issues that arise in the course of social, economic, political, and cultural development within an increasingly inter-connected global context.

The specialization, which is administered by the Department of Philosophy, is available as an elective to students who are enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs at Michigan State University. With the approval of the department or school and college that administers the student’s degree program, courses that are used to satisfy the requirements for the specialization may also be used to satisfy the requirements for the graduate degree program. The content of some elective courses may vary. The student’s program of study must be approved by the Director of the Ethics and Development Graduate Specialization.

Requirements for the Graduate Specialization in Ethics and Development

Master's students must complete 9 credits, and doctoral students must complete 12 credits from the courses listed below as approved by the Director of the Specialization. All students must take courses in at least two departments and at least one elective course at the 800-level.

1. Complete the following courses:
PHL 452 Ethics and Development 3
2. Complete at least 6 to 9  credits of electives from the following:
Department of Agricultural Economics
AEC 810 Institutional and Behavioral Economics 3
AEC 861 Agriculture in Economic Development 3
AEC 978 Research Methodologies in Agricultural and Resource Economics 3
Department of Anthropology
ANP 825 International Social Science Research: Methods and Praxis 1 to 3
ANP 831 Seminar in Cultural Ecology 3
ANP 436 Globalization and Justice: Issues in Political and Legal
Anthropology (I) 3
ANP 837 Seminar in Economic Anthropology 3
ANP 859 Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change:
Methods and Application 3
Department of Forestry
FOR 450 Forestry in International Development 3
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
FW 858 Gender, Justice and Environmental Change:  Issues and Concepts 3
Department of Geography
GEO 418 The Ghetto 3
GEO 432 Environmental Ethics in Geography (W) 3
GEO 454 Spatial Aspects of Regional Development 3
GEO 813 Seminar in Urban and Economic Geography 3
GEO 850 Seminar in Regional Geography 3
GEO 854 Economics of Planning and Development 3
GEO 872 Seminar in Human Geography 3
Department of Horticulture
HRT 486 Biotechnology in Agriculture: Applications and Ethical Issues 3
Department of Philosophy
PHL 440 Central Issues in Ethics 4
PHL 450 Liberal Theory and Its Critics 3
PHL 451 Philosophy and the Black Experience 3
PHL 456 Topics in Feminist Philosophy 4
PHL 485 Philosophy of Social Science 3
PHL 840 Seminar in Value Theory 2 to 4
PHL 850 Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy 2 to 4
Department of Political Science
PLS 853 Political Economy of Development Policy 3
Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies
RD 826 International Development and Sustainability 3
Department of Sociology
SOC 832 International Inequality and Development 3
SOC 850 Population, Food, and Development 3
SOC 864 Social Ecology 3
SOC 868 Science and Technology 3
SOC 869 Community and Conservation 3
SOC 890 Individual Readings 1 to 9
3. Students must present a final portfolio to the Director of the Specialization and a committee of affiliated faculty, which includes summaries of relevant field work, study abroad, conference presentations, and course work including one sample of their philosophical writing on an issue in ethics and development.