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updated 12/18/2008

Philosophy

Anne Bezuidenhout, Chair

Professors
Davis Whitney Baird, Ph.D., Stanford University, 1981
Anne L. Bezuidenhout, Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1990
Michael Dickson, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1995
Martin John Donougho, Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1979
Jeremiah M. Hackett, Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1983
R.I.G. Hughes, Ph.D., University of British Columbia, 1979
Jerald T. Wallulis, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1978, Undergraduate Director

Associate Professors
F. Thomas Burke, Ph.D., Stanford University, 1994
, Graduate Director
George Khushf, Ph.D., Rice University, 1993
Michael Stoeltzner, Dr.phil., University of Bielefeld, 2003
Christopher O. Tollefsen, Ph.D., Emory University, 1995

Assistant Professors
Kevin C. Elliott, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
Ann Johnson, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2000
Matthew Kisner, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2004
Leahann McClimans, Ph.D., London School of Economics, 2007
Konstantin Pollok, Dr.phil., Philipps Universität, Marburg, 2000
Heike Sefrin-Weis, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2002
Justin Weinberg, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2004


Overview

The USC Department of Philosophy is an intellectually active and pluralistic community offering a congenial environment for graduate study. We host numerous invited speakers, workshops, and major conferences, and we house the editorial offices of three philosophical journals: The International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Science, and Techné. In addition, the department is leading a large interdisciplinary NSF-funded project examining nanotechnology in society.

The history of philosophy is foundational in the undergraduate and graduate programs and is a crucial part of the methodology of the faculty. Individual faculty members work in a wide range of areas in collaboration with various units on campus, including the School of Medicine, the Center for Bioethics, the School of the Environment, and the NanoCenter. The department has significant clusters of faculty who work in two special areas of research:

  • The history and philosophy of science: We emphasize issues and methods that are closely tied to the actual content of the sciences, whether contemporary or historical. The faculty has particular strengths in the philosophy of physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, engineering, and technology.
  • Theoretical and practical ethics: We see normative issues as intertwined with a host of other philosophical, scientific, and historical issues. The faculty has particular strengths in normative ethical theory, bioethics, engineering ethics, environmental ethics, and the ethics of emrging technologies, especially nanotechnology.

Additionally, individual faculty members have research and teaching interests in the following areas: ancient philosophy, early modern philosophy, eighteenth to nineteenth century German idealism, American pragmatism, twentieth century analytic philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology, contemporary European social philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of language and mind, and philosophy of logic. The department collaborates with other units on campus, including biology, chemistry, classics, comparative literature, history, linguistics, physics, psychology, religious studies, and women's studies.

Admission

The philosophy department admits new students into the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the fall semester of each year. Applications for admission are reviewed during the previous spring term. Normally, to be admitted with full standing into either program, a student will have completed 18 hours of course work in philosophy above the introductory level. Applicants must also have met the general admission requirements of The Graduate School.

Applicants should arrange for three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GRE scores to be sent to The Graduate School. Applicants whose native language is not English should also arrange for TOEFL or IELTS Intl. exam scores to be sent to The Graduate School. In addition, all applicants should send a sample of philosophical writing (maximum length 6,000 words) and a brief statement of purpose (400 words) to the department.

Letters of recommendation should come from persons familiar with the applicant's academic achievement and potential and should specifically address the applicant's potential for success in a graduate degree program.

Transcripts of prior undergraduate and graduate work must show sufficient promise of ability to do graduate work. Hence the department looks for GPAs in the range from 3.00 to 4.00 for all undergraduate work and 3.50 to 4.00 for all graduate work (on a 4.00 scale).

We look for GRE scores above 680 on the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning portions of the exam. Scores of at least 5 on the analytical writing section are generally acceptable.

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit a satisfactory score on the TOEFL or the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam. For admission to the Ph.D. program, applicants should submit a TOEFL score of at least 590 (243 computer-based score). For admission to the M.A. program, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 570 (230 computer-based), which is also the minimum requirement for entrance into The Graduate School. The minimum acceptable overall band score on the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam is 6.5.

Evidence of high potential from several parts of an applicant's file may occasionally outweigh a low test score or a low GPA.

Students whose undergraduate major was not philosophy may be considered for admission on a conditional basis. If admitted, special programs will be arranged to provide them with the background necessary for graduate study. Unsuccessful applicants to the Ph.D. program who do not already have a master's degree in philosophy will automatically be considered for admission to the M.A. program.

Deadlines

Students are normally admitted to the program only in the fall semester. The absolute deadline for applying for the fall semester is July 1. However, to receive full consideration for financial assistance, applications should be completed before January 15. Applicants who do not meet the January deadline will still be considered for and may even be awarded support, but opportunities become increasingly limited after this date.

Degree Requirements

The requirements for degrees include those stated in the Graduate Studies Bulletin for all M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. The following requirements are specific to the Department of Philosophy.

All philosophy graduate students must maintain at least a B average for all courses taken and will be asked to leave the program if a grade below B is received in more than two courses.

Master of Arts in Philosophy

Students in the M.A. program may elect either the thesis or nonthesis option.

1. Course requirement. Students in the M.A. program who choose to write a thesis are required to take eight graduate philosophy courses (24 nonthesis semester hours), at least four of which must be at the 700 level. Without a thesis, 11 courses (33 credit hours) are required, at least 6 of which must be at the 700 level.

2. Logic requirement. Successful completion of PHIL 511 Symbolic Logic, taken either as an upper-level undergraduate course or as part of the graduate program, is required of all M.A. students.

3. Language requirement. A reading knowledge of one foreign language is required of all M.A. students. The USC language department administers tests of foreign language competency.

4. All M.A. students are required to pass an M.A. comprehensive examination. Students who choose the thesis option must also write a master's thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

1. Course requirement. Students in the Ph.D. program are required to take 16 graduate philosophy courses (48 semester hours other than 899), at least eight of which are at the 700 level. Ph.D. students are required to pass four core courses, normally within the first two years of course work, and at least one course in philosophy of science. Ph.D. students are also required to pass at least one course in each of three historical areas. The proseminar cannot be used to satisfy the core, science, or history requirements.

2. Proseminar requirement. All Ph.D. students must take PHIL 765 Proseminar, in their first term in the program.

3. Core courses. All Ph.D. students must pass the following core courses, normally within the first two years of course work: ethical theory (PHIL 514 or 527), symbolic logic (PHIL 511), epistemology (PHIL 763), and metaphysics (PHIL 764).

4. Philosophy of science requirement. Ph.D. students must pass at least one course in philosophy of science. Which courses count as satisfying this requirement is at the discretion of the graduate director.

5. History requirement. Ph.D. students must pass at least one course in each of three historical periods: ancient to Renaissance (PHIL 505, 506, 507, 540, 701), modern (PHIL 501, 502, 508, 509, 705, 707, 723), and recent (PHIL 503, 504, 706, 709, 721).

6. Language requirement. A reading knowledge of one foreign language is required of all Ph.D. students; in addition, when a student’s research area demands knowledge of a particular foreign language, the student will be expected to be proficient in that language.

7. In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must have: a) produced written work of a high standard in their courses and b) passed the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination.

8. Students are also required to pass a two-part Ph.D. comprehensive examination (consisting of both a written and an oral part) and to write and defend a doctoral dissertation.

Requirement for Ph.D. students with Teaching Assistantships

Advanced Ph.D. students with teaching assistantships may be given responsibility for teaching a course. Before graduate students are allowed to teach a course, they must have taken PHIL 790 Teaching Philosophy for at least one semester. Students must also take this one-credit-hour course during any semester when they are actually teaching a course. This course does not count toward the 16 courses required for the Ph.D. degree.

M.A. Comprehensive and Ph.D. Qualifying Exams

The M.A. comprehensive and Ph.D. qualifying exams will be written exams in the history of philosophy, covering three separate areas: ancient to renaissance, modern, and recent. The exams are based on reading lists of primary sources. Ph.D. qualifying exams will be based on a more extensive reading list than M.A. comprehensive exams.

M.A. students will take the exam at the end of the summer after their first year. Ph.D. students will take the exam at the end of the summer of their second year. Passing the exam is required for M.A. students to get their degree. It is required for Ph.D. students to be admitted to candidacy.


Course Descriptions (PHIL)

  • 501 -- British Empiricism. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202, or consent of the instructor) A historical and critical survey of the British philosophers of experience. Principal concentration is on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
  • 502 -- Continental Rationalism. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) A critical and historical study of the 17th-century European philosophers. The works of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz are emphasized.
  • 503 -- Analytic Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) A critical study of recent and contemporary works in philosophical analysis, and an evaluation of the purposes, methods, and results of this movement.
  • 504 -- Phenomenology and Existentialism. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or 301, or consent of the instructor) A critical study of some fundamental themes in phenomenology and the philosophy of existence. Emphasis is placed on an intensive study of selected works of such writers as Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Husserl, and Heidegger.
  • 505 -- Plato. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 201 or consent of the instructor) An intensive study of selected Dialogues.
  • 506 -- Aristotle. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 201 or consent of the instructor) An intensive study of some of the more important of Aristotle's works.
  • 507 -- Medieval Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 201 or consent of the instructor) A historical and critical study of the works of the leading medieval philosophers.
  • 508 -- Hume. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) An intensive study of the philosophical writings of Hume, especially A Treatise of Human Nature.
  • 509 -- Kant. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) An intensive study of the work of Kant, especially the Critique of Pure Reason.
  • 510 -- Theory of Knowledge. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) An examination of some representative theories of truth, meaning, probability, and perception.
  • 511 -- Symbolic Logic. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 110 or consent of the instructor) A presentation and philosophical examination of the fundamentals of modern symbolic logic.
  • 512 -- Philosophy of Science. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) A critical examination of methods and concepts of the sciences. Topics include scientific revolutions, the unity of science, experimentation, explanation, and evidence.
  • 513 -- Philosophy of History. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) A philosophical examination of historical inquiry. Theories of historical development. The logical problems of historical explanation.
  • 514 -- Ethical Theory. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 311 or consent of the instructor) Survey of recent and historical developments in ethical theory with special emphasis on the meaning of ethical language and the forms of reasoning employed in discussing moral values.
  • 515 -- Philosophy of Religion. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) A critical study of selected problems in the philosophy of religion. Emphasis is placed on problems relating to the existence of God, religious knowledge, and the language of religion.
  • 516 -- Advanced Aesthetics. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 313 or consent of the instructor) Detailed examination of the literature on aesthetics.
  • 517 -- Philosophy of Language. {=LING 565} (3) (Prereq: PHIL 202 or consent of the instructor) An examination of concepts and problems such as meaning, reference, analyticity, definition, and the relation between logic and philosophy.
  • 518 -- Philosophy of the Social Sciences. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) The goals of inquiry and problems such as objectivity, reduction, value freedom, and ideology.
  • 519 -- Metaphysics. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Major issues in classical and modern metaphysics. Topics include the idea of first philosophy, being, substance, the problem of universals, essentialism, causation, time and space, and metaphysical method.
  • 520 -- Philosophy of Mind. (3) The concept of mind, the mind-body problem, emotions and cognition, the possibility of artificial minds, theories of embodied cognition.
  • 521 -- Mathematical Logic. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 511) Axiomatic development of logic and the set-theoretic foundations of mathematics.
  • 522 -- Introduction to Semantics. {=LING 627} (3) (Prereq: LING 300, 301, 600 or permission of instructor) Introduction to the study of linguistic meaning, including the following topics: meaning, reference, and truth; the connections among language, thought, and reality; word meaning and sentence meaning; possible worlds and modality; thematic roles; meaning and context; presupposition and implicature; speech acts; formal semantics; and cognitive semantics.
  • 523 -- Advanced Topics in Logic. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 511 or consent of instructor) Philosophical problems about logic, the development of philosophical logics, and the problems surrounding them.
  • 524 --Philosophy of Biology. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Examination of major conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues in biological science. Topics include reductionism, units of selection, adaptationism, relations between evolutionary and developmental biology and between biology and society.
  • 526 -- Hellenistic Philosphy. (3) (Prereq: PHIL 201 or 303 or permission of instructor) Survey of the major schools and trends in Hellenistic philosophy: Epicureans, Stoics, Academic Skeptics. Topics include eudaimonism, hedonism, monism, teleology, and the criterion of truth.
  • 527 -- Virtues, Acts, and Consequences. (3) Recent contributions to three central strands of ethical theory: virtue theory, deontology, and utilitarianism; historical roots and recent developments.
  • 528 -- Concepts of Evidence. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Systematic approaches to data analysis--Bayesian, Fisherian and decision theoretic--will be critically appraised. Applications of these theories to some problems of inductive logic: the paradoxes of confirmation, the role of simplicity, and the probability of inductive generalizations.
  • 532 -- Social Justice. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Recent theories of distributive justice and their application to such issues as redistribution of wealth, reverse discrimination, and the conflict between liberty and equality. Authors include Rawls, Nozick, Hayek, and Popper.
  • 534 -- Contemporary European Social Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) An examination of European social philosophy associated with either the Frankfurt School of Social Research or contemporary French Poststructuralism.
  • 535 -- Ecofeminism. {=WOST 535} (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or instructor's consent) An exploration of the connections between oppression of women and oppression of nature.
  • 536 -- Language and Interpretation in Contemporary European Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Selected contemporary European philosophical movements, their views on language, and their approach to interpretation: hermeneutics, structuralism, poststructuralism.
  • 540 -- Renaissance Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) Humanism (e.g., Petrarca), Platonism (e.g., Pico and Ficino), Aristotelianism (e.g., Pomponazzi), philosophies of nature (e.g., Telesio, Campanella, and Bruno), and Nicholas of Cusa, Erasmus, Montaigne, and Suarez.
  • 550 -- Health Care Ethics. (3) (Prereq: 3 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level or consent of the instructor) An exploration of the ethical dimensions of patient care in the clinical setting.
  • 571 -- Philosophies of India. (3) (Prereq: 6 credits in philosophy or consent of the instructor) Six classic systems of Hinduism and the "heterodox" schools of Jainism and Buddhism with emphasis on the analysis of the concept of the self.
  • 573 -- History of Traditional Chinese Thought. {=HIST 573} (3) An introduction to the development of Chinese thought in relationship to the political and socioeconomic institutions of early China (sixth century B.C. to third century A.D.), with emphasis on Confucianism and Taoism.
  • 598 -- Readings in Philosophy. (3) (Prereq: 6 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level).
  • 701 -- Studies in Ancient Philosophy. (3)
  • 705 -- Studies in 17th- and 18th-Century Philosophy. (3)
  • 706 -- Studies in Continental Philosophy. (3) Study of the works of one or more major contemporary continental philosophers.
  • 707 -- Studies in 19th-Century Philosophy. (3)
  • 709 -- Studies in 20th-Century Philosophy. (3)
  • 710 -- Ethics and the Health Sciences. {=SOWK 753, NURS 794, DMED 620, PUBH 710} (1-4) Students are introduced to formal and informal codes of professional conduct of various health science disciplines and understand the implications of these distinctions for interdisciplinary research, clinical practice, and administration.
  • 711 -- Studies in Ethics. (3)
  • 712 -- Studies in Theory of Knowledge. (3)
  • 714 -- Philosophy of Science. (3)
  • 715 -- Ethics in Criminal Justice. {=CRJU 715} (3) Classic and contemporary theories of ethics and their applications to criminal justice decision-making.
  • 716 -- Philosophy of Mind. (3) Topics and problems arising in the philosophy of mind.
  • 718 -- Studies in Philosophy of Language. {=LING 765} (3) Examination of concepts such as meaning, reference, analyticity, and translational indeterminacy; evaluation of accounts of speech acts, the semantics of propositional attitudes, metaphor, and other pragmatic phenomena.
  • 719 -- Formal Semantics. {= LING 728} (3) (Prereq: LING 600, 627, or permission of instructor) The formal study of linguistic meaning, including the following topics: Fregean truth-conditional semantics; lexical decomposition; predication, modification, and definite descriptions; generalized quantification; intentional and extensional contexts; tense, aspect, and modality; propositional attitudes; and indexicality, deixis, presupposition, speech acts, and implicature.
  • 720 -- Studies in Philosophy of Religion. (3)
  • 721 -- Pragmatism. (3)
  • 723 -- Hegel. (3)
  • 724 -- Speculative Metaphysics. (3)
  • 735 -- Contemporary Political Philosophy. (3) Recent work in philosophy regarding political and social values, principles of justice, political quthority, institutions, and related subjects.
  • 760 -- Special Topics in Philosophy. (3)
  • 761 -- Special Topics in Philosophy. (3)
  • 763 -- Epistemology. (3) Survey of historical and recent trends in epistemology.
  • 764 -- Metaphysics. (3) Survey of historical and recent trends in metaphysics.
  • 765 -- Proseminar. (3) Critical reading of a philosophical text or series of related texts. Required of all doctoral degree candidates during the first year of course work.
  • 767 -- Case Study in the Philosophy of Science. (3) Introduction to the method of studying historical cases in the philosophy of science. This course revolves around the sustained treatment of one or two such cases.
  • 769 -- Jurisprudence. {=LAW 769} (2-3) An examination of a number of philosophical problems about the law: the nature and function of rules, the difference between legal rules and other rules, the nature of reasoning from legal rules, the concept of a legal system, and the relation of law and morals.
  • 790 -- Teaching Philosophy. (1) Materials, techniques, and problems of teaching philosophy. Repeatable for credit. (Pass-Fail Grading)
  • 797 -- Independent Study. (3)
  • 798 -- Research Seminar. (1) Student and faculty presentations of current research in specified subject areas. Content varies. May be repeated for credit. Pass/Faill grading.
  • 799 -- Thesis Preparation. (1-9)
  • 835 -- Seminar in Environmental Ethics. {=ENVR 835} (3) Examination of the intellectual, cultural, and ethical frameworks within which environmental problems arise and are solved.
  • 847 -- Modern Philosophies of Education. {=EDFN 847} (3) (Prereq: Education 744, the equivalent, or consent of instructor) Critical comparison of present-day schools of thought on the nature, objectives, and functions of American education.
  • 899 -- Dissertation Preparation. (1-12)
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