Optional Areas of Emphasis

Philosophy majors may focus their studies on a particular area of philosophy by completing one of the following Optional Areas of Emphasis. Courses taken to complete an area of emphasis are counted toward the ten courses required for the major. Completing an area of emphasis requires passing three courses from one area. The optional areas of emphasis are:

  • Ethics, Law, and Society
  • Mind, Brain, and Cognitive Science
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine


Ethics, Law, and Society

This area of emphasis allows students to focus on issues in moral, legal, and political philosophy. It provides opportunities to explore fundamental questions of value, justice, responsibility, and the moral life, and also philosophical issues that are foundational in other fields, such as law, economics, and public policy. Students can choose from courses in ethical and political theory, in applied and practical ethics, and on specialized topics such as liberty, neuroethics, and philosophy of law. This area of emphasis is excellent preparation for law school, graduate study, and careers in public policy or public service.

PHIL 3371 – Social and Political Philosophy

PHIL 3372 – Liberty

PHIL 3373 – Philosophy of Criminal Law

PHIL 3374 – Philosophy of Law

PHIL 3375 – Topics in Moral Philosophy

PHIL 3375 – Topics in Moral Philosophy: The Meaning of Life

PHIL 3375 – Topics in Moral Philosophy: Procreation and Parenthood

PHIL 3376 – Bioethics

PHIL 3377 – Animal Rights

PHIL 3379 – Environmental Ethics

PHIL 3380 – Ethics: Morality, Self-Interest, and Justice (formerly Ethical Theory)

PHIL 3381 – Neuroethics


Mind, Brain, and Cognitive Science

Philosophers have long been concerned with the nature of the mind and its place in nature. Increasingly, contributions from psychology, neuroscience, and computer science have informed age-old questions concerning consciousness, cognition, perception, and the nature of the self. At the same time, these new developments have also raised new philosophical problems. The Mind, Brain, and Cognitive Science emphasis provides a solid foundation both in traditional philosophical approaches to understanding the nature of mind and in perspectives from the various sciences of the mind. This area will especially appeal to students interested in careers in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and cognitive science.

PHIL 3312 – Introduction to Philosophy of Language

PHIL 3313 – Knowledge and Skepticism

PHIL 3315 – Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 3316 – Minds, Brains, and Robotics

PHIL 3317 – Philosophy of Perception

PHIL 3318 – Colors, Sounds, and Other Appearances

PHIL 3319 – Identity, Persons, and Other Objects

PHIL 3381 – Neuroethics

PHIL 33xx – Philosophy of Psychology


Science, Technology, and Medicine

Many philosophers have been concerned with our acquisition of scientific knowledge, the ways in which scientific advances affect our lives, and the many new ethical issues that these advances raise. Classes in this area involve conceptual issues that arise in particular sciences, questions about how science does and should work, and ethical issues involving scientific advances, especially in neuroscience, technology, and medicine. This track would be especially useful for students seeking a well-rounded background for careers in science, technology, or medicine.

PHIL 3316 – Minds, Brains, and Robotics

PHIL 3320 – Causation

PHIL 3321 – Time, Space, and Metaphysics

PHIL 3362 – Creativity, Discovery, and Science

PHIL 3364 – Philosophy of Biology

PHIL 3376 – Bioethics

PHIL 3377 – Animal Rights

PHIL 3381 – Neuroethics

PHIL 33xx – Philosophy of Psychology