Philosophy Major

The major consists of nine courses.

Required Courses
PHIL 2111Ancient Philosophy1
PHIL 2112Modern Philosophy1
PHIL 2223Logic1
Select six additional elective courses in philosophy:6
one course with a primary focus on epistemology and metaphysics (Philosophy 1040–1049, 1400–1499, 2400–2499, 3400–3499)
one course with a primary focus on value theory (Philosophy 1030–1039, 1300–1399, 2300–2399, 3300–3399)
at least two courses from the advanced level (3000–3999)

Philosophy Minor

The minor consists of five courses.

Required Courses
PHIL 2111Ancient Philosophy1
PHIL 2112Modern Philosophy1
Select one philosophy course from the intermediate level (2000–2969).1
Select one philosophy course from the advanced level (3000–3999).1
Select one additional philosophy elective from any level.1

Additional Information and Department Policies

  • Unless an exception is made by the department, a course that counts toward the major or minor must be taken for a letter grade (not Credit/D/Fail), and the student must earn a grade of C- or better.
  • Topics in first-year writing seminars change from time to time but are restricted in scope and make no pretense to being an introduction to the whole field of philosophy. They are topics in which contemporary debate is lively, and as yet unsettled, and to which contributions are often being made by more than one field of learning.
  • First-year writing seminars count toward the major and minor.
  • Introductory courses are open to all students regardless of year and count toward the major. They do not presuppose any background in philosophy and are good first courses.
  • Two semesters of independent study or honors project may count toward the major with departmental approval and two semesters of work are required to earn honors in philosophy. One semester may count toward the minor with departmental approval. 
  • Although courses numbered in the 3000s are advanced seminars primarily intended for majors in philosophy, adequately prepared students from other fields are also welcome. Besides stated prerequisites, at least one 2000-level course in philosophy is a helpful preparation.
  • Of the nine courses required of the major, at least five must be taken at Bowdoin; of the five required for a minor, at least three must be taken at Bowdoin. Students who wish to complete the major or minor are encouraged to take PHIL 2111 Ancient Philosophy, PHIL 2112 Modern Philosophy, and PHIL 2223 Logic at Bowdoin. In some circumstances, an appropriate non-Bowdoin course may meet one of these requirements; this is determined by the department after review of the syllabus. No credit is given for either PHIL 2111 Ancient Philosophy or PHIL 2112 Modern Philosophy for a single-semester course that covers both ancient and modern philosophy; credit for PHIL 2223 Logic is typically not given for a course on critical thinking or informal logic.
  • Courses cross-listed with philosophy may double-count to another department or program.

Information for Incoming Students

There is no single introductory course in philosophy. Students may start with a first-year writing seminar or a 1000-level course (see below), but many first-year students also choose to begin with 2000-level courses – there are no prerequisites, and no background in philosophy is assumed. The topics at the 2000-level are generally more focused and the material is more challenging. Students may choose their first course according to their interests. Those seeking a background in the history of philosophy are advised to take PHIL 2111 Ancient Philosophy: which is offered every fall, and which covers ancient Greek philosophy (pre-Socratics to Aristotle) and/or PHIL 2112 Modern Philosophy: offered every spring, which covers 17th and 18th century philosophy from Descartes to Kant.

PHIL 2223 Logic: This course differs from other philosophy courses in that it has problem sets and exams rather than papers. The course is a rigorous introduction to formal symbolic logic, and its aim is to help us in distinguishing valid from invalid arguments. The course does not presuppose any prior knowledge of logic, and is open to first-year students.

First-year writing seminars and 1000-level courses offered this fall:

PHIL 1040 Personal Identity, a first-year writing seminar. What is it that makes you a person, and what is it that makes you the same person as the little kid in your parents’ photo album? Philosophers have defended a number of different answers to these questions. According to some, it is persistence of the same soul that makes for personal identity. Others argue that it is persistence of the same body that matters, or the continuity of certain biological processes. Still others contend that it is psychological relations that matter. Canvases all of these answers and considers thought experiments about soul swapping, brain transplants, and Star Trek transporters. Readings from both historical and contemporary sources.

PHIL 1113 Introduction to Classical Arabic Philosophy. An introduction to the Arabic philosophical tradition, focusing on the time period one might call the “classical” age of Arabic thought from al-Kindi and the transmission of Greek philosophy (9th century) to Averroes (12th century). Topics to be considered include the eternity of the world; the theory of soul and intellect; the relation between philosophy and religion; the attitude taken towards Greek philosophical texts, especially Aristotle, by Muslim philosophers; the problem of divine attributes; the nature of God as a cause; and the problem of free will.

PHIL 1336 Ethics for a Digital World. Digital technologies make our lives easier in many ways—e.g., we can communicate with others around the world, we can order devices to play music, we can get instant directions to go basically anywhere! But is there any ethical cost to enjoying the benefits that come from these types of technologies? This course investigates a variety of ethical issues arising from and connected with digital technology. Topics covered might include: privacy and big data; algorithmic bias; surveillance capitalism; social media and mental manipulation; fake news; internet shaming; and the moral status of superintelligence.

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue