Undergraduate Program

The undergraduate program in the Department of Philosophy familiarizes you with the content and the structure of philosophical theory in various areas and with the history of philosophy. You are encouraged to actively engage 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. Through the informed consideration of such questions, you will acquire a broader and deeper understanding of the major areas of intellectual endeavor. In this way, philosophical comprehension helps to unify your 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 philosophy, many of our majors also major in another discipline. The study of philosophy requires a great deal of dialogue so that students practice developing and presenting 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.

You have a great deal of flexibility in determining your own particular program 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 pre-professional 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.