Philosophy at USC

At USC, we believe that philosophy’s task grows out of what has always been its central mission—to help lay the conceptual foundations for advances in our theoretical knowledge of the universe and ourselves, while also providing practical wisdom needed for virtuous and meaningful lives. Thus, it is not the study of a frozen historical canon, offering a smorgasbord of previous responses to unanswerable questions yielding no genuine knowledge. On the contrary, it is what its greatest practitioners have always taken it to be—an unending quest to generate new philosophical questions, while offering better answers to old questions raised by our illustrious predecessors from Socrates and Plato to Hume, Kant, Russell, Wittgenstein, and beyond.

Philosophy investigates some of the oldest, most universal and fundamental questions that human beings ask, in a rigorous and disciplined application of both logic and imagination. Studying philosophy develops skills in logic and critical thinking that apply to every field and profession. In our undergraduate courses, students can study a wide range of topics including moral controversies, the principles of social justice, the grounds for moral, legal, and political obligation, the scope and limits of human knowledge, the foundations of science, the nature of reality, space, time, consciousness and freedom, the existence or non-existence of God, as well as the history of philosophical thought about these and many other topics. These courses are taught by our world-renowned and award-winning faculty who collectively make the School of Philosophy at USC ranked one of the top ten graduate programs nationally and internationally.

Areas of Specialization

The department features specializations in: epistemology; ethics, metaethics, and value theory; the history of philosophy; logic; metaphysics; the philosophy of economics; the philosophy of language; the philosophy of mind; the philosophy of cognitive science; the philosophy of law; the philosophy of physics; the philosophy of religion; political philosophy; and, the philosophy of action. Find out more about our targeted areas of specialization.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Because we believe that philosophy, properly understood, is not an isolated discipline, but the partner of all disciplines, our faculty demonstrate a commitment to interdisciplinary excellence both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Our faculty interact with other units and we offer undergraduates three interdisciplinary philosophy-centered majors—philosophy, politics, and law, philosophy and physics (PP), and philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE)—in addition to our standard philosophy major.

Our PhD students

The PhD program offers the opportunity to work towards a doctorate in philosophy in a supportive and collaborative community of graduate students, faculty and scholars. Our PhD students regularly publish in top-rated journals and volumes, finish the program within 5-7 years, and are well-supported in their search for academic and non-academic positions before and after graduation. Head to Our Graduate Program for details of the program including how to apply.

Learn more

    Mudd Hall of Philosophy

    The School of Philosophy boasts what are arguably the best facilities of any philosophy program in the US. It is housed in the Mudd Hall of Philosophy, a building in the Tuscan style featured in Los Angeles travel guides and numerous movies and television programs.

    Hoose Library of Philosophy

    Besides faculty offices and classrooms, Mudd Hall contains the Hoose Library, one of the finest philosophy libraries in the world, housing the Gomperz and Flewelling Philosophy Collections. These special collections include first edition copies of all but one of Immanuel Kant’s works, as well as David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) with marginal notes by the author.

    The Meaning Lab

    The Meaning Lab studies what people know about meaning in language, and how that knowledge is acquired. The lab was founded by Professor Alexis Wellwood in 2017, and it has become a busy hub of research activity that provides opportunities for hands-on interdisciplinary research for both undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science.

    Center For Law and Philosophy

    The USC Center for Law and Philosophy is devoted to the promotion of interdisciplinary scholarship in legal, moral, and political philosophy. The Center holds conferences and workshops, and works with faculty and students to enhance the study of law and philosophy at USC. Gregory Keating and Jonathan Quong are the current co-directors of the Center.

    Conceptual Foundations of Conflict Project

    The Conceptual Foundations of Conflict Project seeks to encourage and promote work from all areas of philosophy that bears on the nature, structure, sources, and dynamics of interpersonal conflict.  Founded by Professor Mark Schroeder in 2019, the CFCP sponsors regular workshops, conversations, and public events, and seeks to make important philosophical ideas relating to conflict accessible to a broader public audience.

    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly

    PPQ is an academic research journal that is published quarterly, and edited by the faculty of the School of Philosophy at USC. In 2019, PPQ celebrates publishing its 100th volume of articles! You can visit the publisher’s site here.

    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy

    The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy aims to promote by example a fully open-access, university-funded model for academic publishing.  With the support of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, JESP has published leading work in ethics, social and political philosophy, and the philosophy of law at zero cost to authors or readers since its founding in 2005.  Read the latest work in JESP here.

    Department

    Mailing Address
    USC School of Philosophy
    Mudd Hall of Philosophy (MHP) Room 113
    3709 Trousdale Parkway
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0451

    Phone 213-740-4084
    Email philosophy@dornsife.usc.edu

    Officers

    Chair 
    Ralph Wedgwood
    wedgwood@usc.edu

    Vice Chair
    Alexis Wellwood
    wellwood@usc.edu

    Director of Graduate Studies
    Jeff Russell
    russ813@usc.edu 

    Graduate Admissions
    Ralph Wedgwood
    wedgwood@usc.edu

    Director of Undergraduate Studies
    Shieva Kleinschmidt
    kleinsch@usc.edu

    Administrators

    Academic Program Administrator
    Angie Guerrero
    angiegue@usc.edu

    Program Specialist
    Donna Lugo
    donnalug@usc.edu

    Administrative Assistant
    Brian Eckert
    brianeck@usc.edu