The undergraduate program in the Department of Philosophy acquaints students with the content and the structure of philosophical theory in various areas and with the history of philosophy. Discussion is encouraged so that the student can engage actively in the philosophical examination of problems. Various fields of the arts and sciences raise philosophical questions which are often not given thorough attention in those particular disciplines. In the informed consideration of such questions, the student acquires a broader and deeper understanding of the major areas of intellectual endeavor. In this way, philosophical comprehension helps to unify a student’s education. Philosophic investigation also has an intrinsic interest and value.
Approximately 65 students are presently majoring in philosophy at Duke. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, most of these students major in another discipline as well (e.g. visit the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies’ website ). The study of philosophy requires a great deal of dialogue in order that students may learn to develop and present rational opinions; consequently, the philosophy department keeps class sizes small. Most classes average around 20-25 students with the maximum generally at 35-40 students.
Students have a great deal of flexibility in determining their own particular programs within the department, and there are a variety of combinations and possibilities available. Most students concentrate in one of two fundamental branches of philosophy. The first of these, ethics and social philosophy, is concerned with the concepts of right and wrong and the resulting implications for thought and action. The second, metaphysics and epistemology, deals with the ultimate nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Besides covering these fundamental branches of philosophy, the Duke department has special qualifications in the philosophy of law, the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of causation, the philosophy of mathematics, Aristotle’s philosophical logic, medieval philosophy, early modern philosophy, and the British moralists.
Philosophy serves as excellent preprofessional training for law and business as well as other areas characteristically available to liberal arts students. Majors receiving baccalaureate degrees have been uncommonly successful in gaining admission to the graduate or professional school of their choice.
If you have any question concerning the program, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Michael Ferejohn, or the DUS Assistant, Ms. Janelle Haynes.