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Learning Goals

UB North students walking in the quad on a sunny day

The primary goal that we expect our undergraduate philosophy majors to achieve is to become capable of engaging with the main topics and issues in contemporary academic philosophy and with the historical tradition by which contemporary philosophy is informed.

On this page:

Achieving Goals and Objectives

Students who graduate from our program should be able to think both analytically and creatively about philosophical issues and texts. They should be able to analyse and raise objections to philosophical views and arguments that are presented to them, and to develop and defend their own views on philosophical topics. They should be able to do this both in writing and in oral discussion with other students and with instructors.

Achieving these objectives requires that students acquire more general skills in writing, reading and oral argument: they need to be able to organize their ideas, express them clearly both in writing and in speaking, and construct plausible arguments in their defence.

This primary goal includes the following more specific goals:

  1. A broad general understanding of the work of major figures in the history of philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Kant.
  2. Familiarity with the most important topics in a range of areas which are typically regarded as lying at the center of contemporary philosophical thought, including metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.
  3. Familiarity with the most important topics in ethics.
  4. Familiarity with formal logic, including both the ability to understand the logical symbolism used in many contemporary philosophical texts, and to carry out logical proofs and derivations within a formal system.
  5. The general capacity to think analytically and creatively about philosophical texts and issues.
  6. The general capacity to express philosophical ideas and defend them effectively in argument, both in writing and orally.

Students’ attainment of these goals is measured by assessment of their performance in the courses required for the major. More specifically, students’ performance on essays and essay exam questions will be measured using standardized grading rubrics, listed on on the page, Grading Rubrics.

Courses match Goals and Objectives

Essays and essay questions are evaluated with an eye both to the student’s mastery of the specific subject matter covered by the course, and to the student’s mastery of more general skills in philosophical thinking and writing. A higher standard of thinking and writing is required for upper-division than for lower-division courses. In logic courses, students’ competence in formal logic is evaluated through assessment of their performance in weekly problem sets and examinations.

Students are required to take twelve courses overall, including a number of required courses. These required courses are selected and designed with reference to the specific goals from the numbered list above, as follows:

Goal 1: Philosophy majors are required to take two of the following courses in the history of philosophy: 360, 366, 370, 380, 388.

Goal 2: Philosophy majors are required to take one of the following courses in the core areas of contemporary philosophy: 329, 333, 320, 321, 328.

Goal 3: Philosophy majors are required to take one of the following courses in ethics: 107, 238, 335, 336, 337.

Goal 4: Philosophy majors are required to take either 215 or 315.

Goal 5: All of our courses contribute toward this goal, except for courses in formal logic.

Goal 6: All of our courses contribute toward this goal, except for courses in formal logic.