Schools for Philosophers!

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Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 12:24 pm
Recommendations and reasons for those recommendations?

I'm looking for a good school I can receive a good education in Philosophy.
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 01:59 pm
For undergraduate work in philosophy, look for a university with a wide variety of courses offered in their catalogue; this generally means a larger school that can support a decent-sized Philosophy Department. Having a wide range of philosophic positions represented by the faculty will allow you to encounter more differences in thinking; a larger university will also generally have a larger number of philosophy students, from whom you will also learn by debating and discussing ideas outside of class (and not just from philosophy majors, either, for that matter).
While there are exceptions, most church-supported or -affiliated universities are not able to keep philosophy and religion separate disciplines, and often in subtle ways, sectarian dogma can slip into philosophical curriculum and teaching.

If you don't change majors and decide to continue in philosophy in some kind of post-graduate role, and assuming you "find" a school of thought or approach that seems correct or worthy of further pursuit, then the question of universities becomes one of locating a faculty that will further it your specialised interest, since its leading thinkers tend to congregate in a few congenial "homes".

Without further conversations, this is the best general advice I can provide.
Didymos Thomas
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 03:16 pm
There are many great schools in the US for undergrad philosophy - and many of them are universities you've probably never heard of.

Picking a school also depends upon which schools you can get into, location of the institution, and expense.

Before you select a school, you should visit the campus. Before your visit, make an appointment with the head of the school's philosophy department or a professor who specializes in the area you most enjoy, or both. Speaking with these people about the course of study should help you determine if the school and department is right for you.
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 05:45 pm
Hello Lost2ize

From a non-academic and offering a view point from that position, don't let philosophy obsess you. Though a Ph'd is a wonderful accreditation among your academic peers, it is my opinion it carries little weight in real life as far as relationships go, exceptions considered. That is why most Ph'd's stay in the academic realm, again exceptions noted. But I will also note religion is a philosophy itself if it can be separted from the dogma so associated with it and viewed with an open mind. Never the less it all stems from the human mind and the bias that is a part of those individual perceptions. If you can recognize those biases, even your own and view it through neutral lenses, you will become a good listener and communicator. IMO. As far a DT and Jg offered, I agree.

Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 07:33 pm
Well, it does not matter so much which school you attend for your undergrad. You will pretty much take the same classes in your major as you would at other schools, so the most critical thing, is to make sure that the philosophy department is competent. Much of your undergrad is general education classes (most philo BA's are 30-40 credit degrees) so overall quality of a school is more important. So the best advice is find a school that is a good fit for you, and a campus you can enjoy. If you decide to go on to grad school, then the school of choice becomes much more critical based on the professors on a campus. Personally, I recommend a smaller school for your undergrad, because then you will have smaller class sizes, more interaction with professors, and as a result, should receive a much better education with a little initiative.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 12:37 am
How do you figure out which profs are the best?

I know this may sound like a stupid question, but going to the university's website I have found doesn't really help.

And would you suggest going to a different school for one's grad degree? Smile

And thankyou all for contributing these insights. They will be very useful in the future. Thanks Lost for the OP.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 05:14 am
There are some resources that help you determine which University's are best for Philosophy, if your a UK student there are extensive tables which rank Universities by subject, though from a search of the Internet same doesnt appear true for North America and there also things such as The Philosophical Gourment Report (covers USA,Canada & the rest of the English speaking world) which looks at how good a Universitys post graduate program is in Philosophy, the 2009 guide can be found here The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2009 :: Overall Rankings , which may give some indication of the quality of that institution.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 08:15 am
Holiday20310401;80128 wrote:
How do you figure out which profs are the best?

The best way is to read philosophy journals. By reading through the work of professor's in your field of interest, you can figure out which professors you would like to study under.

But of course, that does not matter for an undergrad, because most of those professors are not teaching the lower levels of philosophy--especially if the school grants PHd's in philosophy. And considering that it only takes 10-13 philosophy classes to get a BA in philosophy, it is a waste of time to base which undergrad school to choose for study.

Generally, most people go to a different school for their PHd, than the one they received their BA. Some do their masters at the same school that they received their BA--which I am considering because I am at one of the top schools for a masters in philosophy in the U.S.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 09:36 am
Doing research about potential universities requires some time reviewing their catalogues:
First, find the Phil. Dept.'s Faculty list. This generally lists the teachers' area of interest or specialisation, as well as their academic credentials. Look for a good representation of all branches of philosophy, a good coverage of philosophical periods, and, and a wide range of academic backgrounds (where they got their Ph.D).Ideally, some of them should have been trained on the Continent, and some should have credentials from the major universities in the US (e.g. Harvard, Princeton---names you recognise as being outstanding in all fields)

Second, review the current course offerings. Look for the following: 1) Core curriculum of history of philosophy and the branches of philosophy. 2)Interdisciplinary offerings ("Philosophy and X"), 3) Contemporary practical philosophical applications.
Here is a list, from a state university in the Midwest that seems to cover all three.
PHIL 1000 (3). Introduction to Philosophy.
PHIL 1010 (3). Introduction to Western Philosophy: Ancient.
PHIL 1020 (3). Introduction to Western Philosophy: Modern.
PHIL 1100 (3). Ethics.
PHIL 1200 (3). Philosophy and Society.
PHIL 1400 (3). Philosophy and the Sciences.
PHIL 1440 (3). Introductory Logic.
PHIL 1600 (3). Philosophy and Religion.
PHIL 1700 (3). Philosophy and the Arts.
PHIL 1750 (3). Philosophy through Literature.
PHIL 1800 (3). Open Topics/Philosophy.
PHIL 2140 (3). Environmental Justice.
PHIL 2200 (3). Major Social Theories.
PHIL 2220 (3). Philosophy and Law.
PHIL 2270 (3). Philosophy and Race.
PHIL 2290 (3). Philosophy and Women.
PHIL 2390 (3). Philosophy and Psychology.

PHIL 2440 (3). Symbolic Logic.
PHIL 2610 (3). From Paganism to Christianity.
PHIL 2750 (3). Philosophy and Science Fiction.
PHIL 2800 (3). Open Topics/Philosophy.
PHIL 2840 (1-3). Independent Study.
PHIL 3000 (3). History of Ancient Philosophy.

PHIL 3010 (3). History of Modern Philosophy.
PHIL 3100 (3). Ethical Theory.
PHIL 3110 (3). Feminist Practical Ethics.
PHIL 3140 (3). Environmental Ethics.
PHIL 3160 (3). Bioethics.
PHIL 3180 (3). Critical Thinking: Contemporary Topics.
PHIL 3190 (3-4). War and Morality.

PHIL 3200 (3). Social and Political Philosophy.
PHIL 3260 (3). Philosophy and the International Order.
PHIL 3310 (3). Cognitive Science.
PHIL 3340 (3). Epistemology.
PHIL 3410 (3). History of Science: Ancients to Newton.
PHIL 3430 (3). History of Science: Newton to Einstein.
PHIL 3480 (3). Critical Thinking/Writing in Philosophy.
PHIL 3600 (3). Philosophy of Religion.

PHIL 3700 (3). Aesthetic Theory.
PHIL 3800 (3). Open Topics in Philosophy.
PHIL 3840 (1-3). Independent Study.
PHIL 4010 (3). Single Philosopher. (Two courses offered per semester)
PHIL 4020 (3). Topics in the History of Philosophy.
PHIL 4030 (3). Medieval Philosophy.

PHIL 4040 (3). Studies in 20th Century Philosophy.
PHIL 4070 (3). Existentialist Philosophy.
PHIL 4080 (3). Introduction to Phenomenology.
PHIL 4110 (3). Contemporary Moral Theory.
PHIL 4200 (3). Contemporary Political Philosophy.
PHIL 4210 (3). Ancient Political Thought.
PHIL 4250 (3). Marxism.
PHIL 4260 (3). Philosophy of Law.
PHIL 4300 (3). Philosophy of Mind.
PHIL 4360 (3). Metaphysics.
PHIL 4400 (3). Philosophy of Science.
PHIL 4440 (3). Topics in Logic.
PHIL 4450 (3). History and Philosophy of Physics.
PHIL 4460 (3). Modal Logic.
PHIL 4490 (3). Philosophy of Language.

PHIL 4600 (1). Theology Forum Seminar.

PHIL 4730 (3). Philosophy and Literature.

Third, as you will be taking courses outside of the Department, skim through the offerings in the rest of the A&S Catalogue, doing roughly the same for one or two disciplines that you are considering for a minor.
Fourth, remembering that often catalogues present and picture their university in the best light possible, consider the campus amenities and social life, artistic offerings, academic activities and clubs, health care facilities, and its location to outside interests (especially if you are looking at smaller, more isolated schools, where the lights go out at midnight in the town.


Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 09:50 am
It's definitely an exciting time to be picking out a school to pursue philosophy. I have a few suggestions for schools, but honestly any school will do. You don't need to go to Oxford or Harvard to truly learn philosophy and so on. It's the experience and the drive and determination you have to study philosophy that matters. But for any school you consider, keep in mind these few points;

1.Check the Department funding schedule (considering the economic troubles)
2.Check the number of tenured professors in the department
3.Check the Student to teacher ratio
4.Talk to the undergraduate adviser (never the academic advisor)
5.For quality in the department, look at;
---The difference in number between the number of higher level classes and lower level classes
---How many requisite courses are required

First, I would seriously consider checking the department funding schedule for the schoolcheck out how many tenured professors are in you prospective school's philosophy department. Tenure is not only a good way to find out how much money is allocated to your department but how serious the school is about your particular department. More tenured professors equal more money to pay them a guaranteed salary for a longer period of time. Another important thing is the student to teacher ratio. This is probably the most readily available fact to prospective freshmen. The more closely the numbers, the better the quality via quantity (I would assume).

The best thing for you to do if you want to get really good advice and guidance from the source is to speak with philosophy department undergraduate adviser. These people are worth their weight in gold and it pays to know them. As I would assume in most universities, the philosophy department is attached to a specific higher department, namely the Liberal Arts department. They have a fair number of general advisers who handle just about everybody. The problem is though, since they are generic advisers, they really don't have that much in common with you and your major, let alone the time to devote to you. The philosophy department undergraduate adviser is usually a co-chair and very knowledgeable with students and the major track. I would note that they also hold the power of substitution, exchange, etc. of classes you take or wish to substitute for another and so on. Talking to this undergraduate adviser would be very much worth your time and they are open to talking with prospective students.

Quality of the department wise, check for two things. It is true that the more classes the philosophy department has the better. However, check to see difference between how many lower level courses are offered and how many upper courses are offered. Here is the reason. Suppose the philosophy department has 30 lower level classes for freshmen and sophomore level students (what my school classified as 1000+ and 2000+ courses). Now count how many upper level courses (3000+, 4000+, and 5000+) the department offers, which in this example may be 10 (which is honestly a pretty generous number). Why are there so many less higher level courses compared to lower level courses? In one respect, there are introductory philosophy courses that all majors have the option of taking, so it makes sense to have enough classes to support that. But there are always more philosophy classes available for majors in lower level than upper level. The reason you find this kind of discrepancy is that many people leave the major when it gets to a certain point. The coursework becomes harder, the teachers grade more sternly, etc. Really consider checking this out, because it could tell you a lot about what you could experience as an undergraduate in philosophy. Also consider checking out how many requisite courses are required. My theory goes that the more requisites a department has, the more they intend to bring up the standing of the cumulative ranking of the department. Grading gets harder and so on in these courses, and I think has a correlation with the apex of lower level courses and your entrance into the higher level courses. I would not go so far as to call them wash-out courses, but they are something to look out for.

If you are looking for schools in particular, I honestly don't know many intimately outside of the cities I have been in or wish to go. As far as Philadelphia, PA is concerned, I loved my experience at Penn and I feel obligated to recommend it. You pay for it, but you may get your money's worth in the end. Also, if you are interested in going into the law, Penn is the place to go. Prof. Katz still teaches there as far as I am aware, and this is a sharp guy with legal philosophy. And I have noticed that most of the schools in the area converge on Penn for functions and seminars so there is no shortage of opportunities and events there. But Penn is only one place. Temple University (a short distance away) is fantastic in the respect of the faculty there. If you want to do anything with history, talk to the faculty there (Erwin, Eisman). I don't know what the philosophy department is like, although I met with a few of the professors from there and they seemed really nice. In Louisiana, I would say Loyola University and Tulane. Loyola University pumps out quite a few Rhodes scholars and the philosophy department is very personalized, so you are sure to get very good treatment there and they work with you to make sure you get where you need to go. Hope any of this helped.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 10:24 am
For school recommendations, Marquette University in Milwaukee excels in both the Philosophy of Religion, and ethics--not to mention, they have a very strong presence in ancient and medieval philosophy. UW-Milwaukee has a top philosophy program in the country that does not grant Phd's offering a terminal masters as the highest degree. This is often a very good feature for an undergrad program because the top professors at the school often teach upper level undergrad courses without TAs. Thus, you end up with more face to face time with your professor in a smaller class. I know the University of Vermont and Tufts University also have top terminal masters programs as well. The University of Wisconsin in Madison has an outstanding philosophy of science and philosophy of mind programs if that is your thing.
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 02:26 pm
I just wanted to add, that UW-Milwaukee's top ranked department compared to other respective departments across the country is their philosophy department. The school does not get the recognition that it is due as a whole, but the philosophy department is very highly recognized in the country. It is probably the only public university in the country that is best known for its philosophy program.
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 08:10 pm
I'm going to Temple and I would wholeheartedly recommend our Philosophy department. Temple is said to have one of the best aesthetics departments in the U.S., btw.

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