Philosophy professor teaching a small group of students.  The professor is standing in front of the students and pointing to a projected image on a white screen that is in front of a chalkboard.  The projected image has bullet points with notes about the truth-function.

Philosophy involves reflection upon and understanding of all phases of human activity. Philosophy especially directs itself to the nature of knowledge and the most basic concepts of human understanding and value: morality, society, art and aesthetic experience, as well as science, politics, and religion. Philosophy is thus closely involved with other disciplines because, as human activities and quests for knowledge, they and their findings provide the material for philosophical inquiry. The courses offered by the department are designed to help students develop their own capacities to reflect intelligently on questions of fundamental and lasting significance. The philosophy major is intended to meet the needs of four types of students:

  • those who wish to use philosophy as the organizing core of a liberal education;
  • those who desire to study philosophy in preparation for graduate work in some other field, such as law, government, or theology;
  • those who plan to major jointly in philosophy and one of the social and natural sciences or humanities; and
  • those who have a professional interest in philosophy and intend to do graduate work in the subject.

How to Get in

Students should inform the Philosophy department of their intention to major by meeting with the Undergraduate Advisor.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Bachelor of Science Degree Requirements

Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Language Complete the third unit of a language other than English.
LS Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

27 credits and 8 courses in PHILOS

PHILOS 211 Elementary Logic3-4
or PHILOS 511 Symbolic Logic
PHILOS 430 History of Ancient Philosophy3-4
PHILOS 432 History of Modern Philosophy3-4
5 advanced PHILOS courses of at least 3 credits from below:15
History of Ancient Philosophy
History of Modern Philosophy
Jewish Philosophy from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century
Environmental Ethics
Classical Philosophers
Junior Honors Seminar
Junior Honors Seminar
Philosophy of Religion
Theory of Knowledge
Special Topics in the Theory of Knowledge
Study Abroad in Philosophy
Symbolic Logic
Methods of Logic
Language and Meaning
Philosophy of the Natural Sciences
Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Special Topic
Philosophical Problems of the Biological Sciences
Philosophy and Economics
Freedom Fate and Choice
Modern Ethical Theories
Special Topics in Ethics
Great Moral Philosophers
Philosophy of Moral Education
Philosophy of Mind
Political Philosophy
Topics in Feminism and Philosophy
Issues in Social Philosophy
Special Topics in Metaphysics
Topics in Contemporary Philosophy
Mathematical Logic
Senior Honors Seminar
Senior Honors Seminar
Additional credits—if necessary—to achieve 27 for the major3
Total Credits27


Of the 27 credits, at least 1 course is required from each category ('Metaphysics and Epistemology' and 'Value Theory'):    

Category 'Metaphysics and Epistemology'

Complete one course:

PHILOS/​RELIG ST  501 Philosophy of Religion3-4
PHILOS 503 Theory of Knowledge3
PHILOS 504 Special Topics in the Theory of Knowledge (Bayesian Epistemology)3
PHILOS 504 Special Topics in the Theory of Knowledge (Epistemic Ideals)3
PHILOS 516 Language and Meaning3
PHILOS 520 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences3
PHILOS 530 Freedom Fate and Choice3
PHILOS 551 Philosophy of Mind3
PHILOS 560 Metaphysics3
PHILOS 562 Special Topics in Metaphysics (Consciousness)3
PHILOS 567 Topics in Contemporary Philosophy3

Category 'Value Theory'

Complete one course:

PHILOS 241 Introductory Ethics3-4
PHILOS 454 Classical Philosophers (Aristotle's Ethics)3
PHILOS 541 Modern Ethical Theories3
PHILOS 549 Great Moral Philosophers3
PHILOS 555 Political Philosophy3

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all PHILOS courses and courses that count for the major
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits in the major, taken in residence1
  • 15 credits in PHILOS, taken on campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Philosophy Major in consultation with the Philosophy undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Philosophy Major: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Philosophy, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Minimum 3.300 University GPA
  • Minimum a 3.500 GPA for all PHILOS and major courses
  • One additional course from either the Metaphysics and Epistemology or Value Theory categories with a grade of B or better
  • PHILOS 681 (for 1-3 credits) and PHILOS 682 (for 3 credits) with a grade of AB or better.2



Courses between PHILOS 400–699 are considered upper-level in the major.


Students will not be permitted to write a Senior Honors Thesis unless they have taken at least one advanced course on the topic on which they will be writing. Credits earned by writing a Senior Honors Thesis will not count toward the 27 minimum credits required for the major.  

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Ability to think critically about arguments.
  2. Ability to interpret complex texts accurately and analyze them logically.
  3. Ability to communicate precisely and concisely in both writing and speech.
  4. Familiarity with the history of Western philosophy and the major debates withing that tradition.
  5. Ability to be engaged citizens who think carefully and well about their responsibilities to others.
  6. Ability to exchange reasons about controversial matters respectfully and with the aim of uncovering the truth.
  7. Interpretative charity and intellectual honesty, which includes appropriate attribution to others of their ideas, and recognition and frankness about the limitations of one's own ideas.

Four-Year Plan

This Four-Year Plan is only one way a student may complete an L&S degree with this major. Many factors can affect student degree planning, including placement scores, credit for transferred courses, credits earned by examination, and individual scholarly interests. In addition, many students have commitments (e.g., athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, work and volunteer experiences) that necessitate they adjust their plans accordingly. Informed students engage in their own unique Wisconsin Experience by consulting their academic advisors, Guide, DARS, and Course Search & Enroll for assistance making and adjusting their plan.

First Year
Communications A3Ethnic Sudies3
PHILOS 1013-4Foreign Language (if needed)4
PHILOS 2103-4I/A MATH, STAT or COMP SCI (for BS degree)3
Physical Science Breadth3PHILOS 2413-4
Foreign Language (if needed)4PHILOS 211 (Quantitative Reasoning B)3-4
 14 16
Second Year
PHILOS 4303-4Communication B4
Literature Breadth3PHILOS 4323-4
Social Science Breadth4I/A MATH, STAT, or COMP SCI (for BS degree)3
INTER-LS 2101Social Science Breadth4
Biological Science Breadth3 
 15 15
Third Year
Metaphysics and Epistemology category course3-4Value Theory category course3-4
Natural Science Breadth3PHILOS 400+ Electives3-4
Literature Breadth3Electives7
 15 15
Fourth Year
PHILOS Electives3PHILOS 500+ Electives3
 15 15
Total Credits 120

Advising and Careers

The Department of Philosophy encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. Philosophy majors develop important and widely marketable skills, like the ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems. This means that having a major in philosophy provides excellent preparation for a variety of careers.  See major declaration for more information.

Studying philosophy can also help you get into graduate school. Philosophy majors excel on standardized tests like the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. They rank first among all majors on the verbal and the analytical sections of the GRE. Philosophy majors also tend to do better than just about any other major on the LSAT. With a mean score of just over 157, they are second only to physics majors. When it comes to the GMAT, philosophy majors rank in the top five of all majors, and they consistently have higher scores than business majors (including management, finance, accounting, and marketing majors).

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Professors Brighouse, Fletcher, Gibson, Goodrich, Gottlieb, Loets, Kelleher, Mackay, Masrour, Meehan, Messina, Nadler, Roberts, Shafer-Landau, Shapiro, Southgate, Steinberg, Streiffer, Titelbaum, Vranas, Whittle, Zimmerman

Resources and Scholarships

Undergraduate Scholarships

The Department of Philosophy has received generous support in order to fund two scholarships each academic year. 

The Charles Manthey Winter Philosophy Scholarship is given to a major in philosophy who will graduate within the next four terms of the award and who has at least a 3.5 grade point average over the past two terms, and who can demonstrate financial need. 

The Colonel Jerome Ellis Goodrich, USMC (retired), Scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate major in philosophy with academic merit and financial need, and who is a U.S. citizen.  

Applications for these scholarships are typically due in early April and winners are honored at our annual Awards Banquet in May. 

We also have an annual paper prize called the Temkin Undergraduate Essay Prize in Value Theory. This prize recognizes an outstanding essay in value theory, where this is construed quite broadly to include topics in political philosophy, philosophy of law, metaethics, applied ethics, etc. Essays are typically submitted in early April and the winner is also honored at our Awards Banquet.  

If you have any questions about these scholarships or essay prizes, you may send an email to