The philosophy option provides students with a broad education in philosophy that is designed to complement the scientific curriculum at Caltech. Philosophy majors will be expected to learn about some of the major figures and movements in the history of philosophy, and to learn about contemporary philosophical debates. The philosophy option also aims to provide students with new perspectives on the material they learn in their science courses, and to enable them to bring their technical skills and scientific learning to traditional problems in philosophy.
The philosophy curriculum will help students to acquire the basic tools of philosophical analysis: the ability to read and interpret philosophical texts; the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses of philosophical arguments; the ability to develop well-reasoned defenses of philosophical positions; and the ability to anticipate objections to one's own views. In addition, the philosophy option will train students to express themselves clearly and concisely in both writing and speaking. These critical thinking and communication skills provide an excellent foundation for any intellectual endeavor, and are critical to those pursuing careers in fields such as law, business, medicine, and scientific research.
The courses in the philosophy option concentrate in four major areas: philosophy of science; philosophy of mind, brain, and behavior; history of philosophy; and ethics. In their coursework, students will have the opportunity to discuss and debate philosophical issues in small groups, and will learn how to offer and receive constructive criticism. They will also receive detailed feedback on their persuasive writing from several different members of the philosophy faculty.
In their senior thesis, philosophy majors will have the opportunity to pursue more intensive research in one particular area of philosophy, and to sustain an argument on a larger scale, while working one-on-one with a member of the philosophy faculty. This will provide interested students with a solid foundation for graduate work in philosophy and related fields.
The minor in philosophy is designed for students who want to pursue concentrated study in philosophy without the extensive course work and the senior thesis required by the philosophy option. Philosophy minors must complete 72 units of philosophy courses. Students wishing to do a minor in philosophy must declare a minor with the philosophy option representative. Students completing the philosophy minor requirements will have the phrase "minor in philosophy" added to their transcripts. With the exception of Pl 98 and courses taken during the first two semesters of freshman year, all courses to be counted toward the philosophy option or minor must be taken for grades unless special permission is granted by the option representative.
Courses used to complete the philosophy minor may not be used to satisfy the requirements of another option or minor.