Studying Philosophy at USC

The School of Philosophy offers courses in most areas of philosophy, including: epistemology; metaphysics; ethics; logic; philosophy of language; philosophy of mind; philosophy of science; philosophy of art; social, legal and political philosophy; as well as the history of philosophy, both ancient and modern. The School of Philosophy offers three kinds of programs.

Double majors are encouraged, but to do this a student must work in close consultation with the undergraduate advisor. Strong philosophy majors are also encouraged to pursue graduating with honors. There are also various philosophy minors available. The descriptions and requirements for each of these programs are provided below.

Equally important to each of the programs is the development of the skills necessary for rigorous, critical, and independent thought. Philosophy majors should graduate with the ability (i) to independently read and comprehend philosophical texts, so as to identify and state the central theses of these texts, and to reconstruct the key arguments in favor of these theses, (ii) to critically evaluate arguments, uncovering their hidden assumptions and assessing the soundness of the premises and the logical relations between the premises and the conclusion, (iii) to defend their own point of view by formulating valid arguments and anticipating and responding to objections, and (iv) to communicate effectively in speaking and in writing, demonstrating clarity, precision and rigor.

Major Programs

  • Philosophy (BA)

    The major in philosophy is designed to acquaint students with the fundamental problems that are debated within western philosophical thought, and to introduce them to the concepts and techniques necessary for independent philosophical thinking. It is equally intended to provide a broadening perspective for the various areas of specialization in the natural and social sciences and in literature and the arts.

  • Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (BA)

    The Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major acquaints students with the historical, conceptual, moral, and political foundations of the chief institutions and practices of our shared political and economic lives. These include private business, free markets, the rule of law, constitutions, institutions of democratic government, administrative agencies, educational institutions, and more. The major fosters the development of logical, quantitative, and analytic skills needed for clear thinking and effective communication. Using the fundamentals of economic, political, and philosophical analysis, students address the political, economic, legal, and moral dimensions of social problems within a broad context of humanistic concerns. As a result, successful graduates leave the program with a wide range of options involving either more specialized study of philosophy, politics, or economics, or careers in, business, economics, law, or public service. The major requires 11 courses including an introductory lower division course, a final capstone seminar, and a range of further courses in the three disciplines.

  • Philosophy, Politics, and Law (BA)

    This is a special interdisciplinary major offered by the School of Philosophy. Although this major differs somewhat in its requirements from the regular major, it is designed (i) to foster an understanding and appreciation of some of the major milestones in the history of Western thought, (ii) to introduce students to leading approaches to ethical, legal, and political problems, and (iii) to acquaint them with one or more broad area of philosophical thought that bears on these issues—including epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind.

    This interdisciplinary major is unique of its kind in the country, and should be of particular interest to students contemplating post-graduate work in law; those interested in a career in public service or politics; and those attracted by the rigor of philosophy, and its attention to foundational issues, who are also interested in politics and law.

  • Linguistics and Philosophy (BA)

    The School of Philosophy also takes part in the combined major in Linguistics and Philosophy, which allows students to draw on world-class strengths in linguistics as well as in the philosophy of language at USC. This major is primarily administered by the Linguistics Department.

Minor Programs

  • Philosophy Minor

    Students are required to take five courses in philosophy, at least four of which must be upper-division. All philosophy minors must take a gateway course—PHIL 315, PHIL 320, PHIL 340, or PHIL 360—before enrolling in any 400-level course.

  • Philosophy of Law, Politics, and Economics Minor

    The Philosophy of Law, Politics and Economics minor requires a minimum of five courses, at least three of which must be philosophy courses, and at least four of which must be upper-division. Students must complete one course in Logic, and at least one course from each of the following three categories: Philosophy and Economics, Philosophy and Politics, Philosophy and Law.

Progressive Degrees

  • Progressive Degree in Philosophy and Law (MA)

    This demanding, interdisciplinary degree offers exceptional students the opportunity to pursue advanced graduate-level work in philosophy and law in addition to their undergraduate degree requirements. This progressive degree is well-suited for students who have a strong interest in pursuing a PhD in philosophy or a joint JD/PhD, or students with a strong interest in the philosophical dimensions of the law. The degree requires students to take 36 credits, 24 of which must be in philosophy, and it requires two courses in the Gould School of Law.

    Please review the application and work with the PPL advisor, department Chair, and your undergraduate advisor to come up with a course plan.

    View the application.