Philosophy

Philosophy investigates the nature of the good life and of reality, knowledge, truth and beauty. It does not just teach us about ideas; most importantly, it teaches us to do philosophy, and hence to lead rewarding and productive lives informed by philosophical reflection. Skills and habits of mind developed in the Philosophy major prepare graduates for a wide range of careers in fields including law, government, business, medicine, academia and journalism.

STRUCTURE

The Philosophy major guides philosophical development along three dimensions:

  1. Something Old/Something New: philosophy pursued in the past and in the present
  2. An appreciation for philosophy in multiple traditions
  3. Fundamental philosophical skills:

(a) Textual Analysis
(b) Problem Solving
(c) Formal Analysis
(d) Applications

Something old, something new: Each student is expected to complete at least one course focused on significant works in the history of philosophy, and at least one course focused on contemporary texts.

The traditions dimension: A major’s philosophy courses must address texts and ideas drawn from at least two of the world’s philosophical traditions. This may be done either by taking two courses, each focusing predominantly on a distinct philosophical tradition; or by taking several courses treating multiple traditions together.

The skills dimension: Each student must take at least one distinct course in each of three areas; you are strongly advised to take courses addressing all four – particularly if aspiring to graduate work in philosophy:

(a) Textual analysis: focuses on reading challenging philosophical texts and understanding these texts in the context of their composition and in the context of their commentarial traditions.

(b) Formal analysis: uses the tools of formal logic, decision theory and related techniques to develop and analyse philosophical arguments, or focuses on topics in the philosophy of logic and mathematics.

(c) Philosophical problem solving: tackles important philosophical problems, in abstraction from the traditions or texts in which they arise, and develops arguments to defend solutions to these problems.

(d) Application: applies philosophical ideas outside the discipline of Philosophy, for instance to medicine, science, religion, environmental issues, social or political problems, or to shaping one’s life.

* While one must take 3 distinct courses for each of 3 skills, one course may serve to satisfy requirements in 2 or 3 dimensions.

MAJOR

Class of 2017 and Class of 2018:
Any set of eight courses [adding up to 40 Modular Credits (MC)] in Philosophy collectively satisfying the three dimensions detailed above, together with a 10 MC capstone project, suffices to fulfil the requirements of the major.

Class of Class of 2019 onwards:
Any set of nine courses in Philosophy [adding up to 44 MC] collectively satisfying the three dimensions detailed above, together with a 10 MC capstone project, suffices to fulfil the requirements of the major.

No particular course is required for the Philosophy major, except the capstone seminar.

Capstone

The Philosophy capstone may be a single sustained essay investigating a philosophical topic, or it can be a linked set of shorter essays on more specific topics; even more daring formats may be explored, designed in consultation with the student’s advisor. The philosophy capstone seminar meets in Semester 1 of the final year. There will be a Capstone Symposium at the end of Semester 1, and public oral examinations in the form of a conference after submission of the final written work in Semester 2.

MINOR

The Philosophy minor comprises five courses (minimum of 25 MC) and does not require a capstone project.

Courses must be selected so as to include at least one distinct course representing two of the four skill areas; and so as to satisfy the traditions dimension, as described above.

What courses count towards the major?

Any course cross-listed with philosophy automatically counts towards the Philosophy major – whether that is a course offered at Yale-NUS, NUS or at a university abroad.

Up to three non-philosophy courses may count towards the major, where a case is made on the basis of the proposed course’s content, or of its fit with the particular philosophy interests and courses constituting a student’s way through the major. Such decisions are made in consultation with the student’s advisor, and may not be determinable in advance.

NOTE: Only courses listed as philosophy courses can satisfy the ‘traditions’ or ‘old/new’ dimensions of the major’s requirements.

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