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About The Major

Who studies philosophy? How about comedian Stephen Colbert or political activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for starters? The word “philosophia” means “love of wisdom,” and — true to their name — philosophers have challenged, enlightened and sustained human society since the time of the ancient Greeks. Clemson’s philosophy degree will help you gain a broad understanding of the human condition and develop the ability to bring critical thinking and organizational skills to creative problem solving.

The philosophy major is very well regarded as preparation for law and medical school. Graduates also pursue graduate work in a wide variety of humanities, social sciences and other disciplines. (Students who major in philosophy do extremely well on not just the LSAT but also the GMAT -- you can find some illuminating charts comparing the scores of various majors here.) Our graduates have gone on to study philosophy at Brown University, medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, and law at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and Duke, among other places. With two distinct emphasis areas (a general philosophy track or "law, liberty and justice") Clemson’s program is well equipped to meet your specific career goals.

Major Engagement: Megan Schwendinger (Philosophy '17)

As a student at Clemson, Megan decided on a career in student affairs in higher education, and she chose philosophy as the path to this. MeganOne reason was the Philosophy major's flexibility and the level of customization it provides, so that she could take the courses she was most interested in and tailor her curriculum based on her plans for the future. In addition, she found the classes in the major to be both interesting and valuable in the way that they are structured allow for a large amount of discussion and interaction between the students and professors. She observes that her coursework forced her to challenge assumptions and see the world through a different lens, providing her with a new, broader perspective. "Working in a field like student affairs requires someone to be open to learning new things from all kinds of people at any given time. Philosophy really opened up my eyes to what it was like to do that on a consistent basis - to be able to learn not just from course materials and the professors, but also from other students in the room." Among her favorite courses were American Pragmatism, Ancient Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Animal Minds. Megan exhibits the engagement on and beyond campus that characterizes many of our majors, and she was very involved in campus life and activities. She put the skills she mentions to work working as the inaugural student leader of the mentoring program for new Philosophy students, as well as serving as President of the Clemson University Residence Halls association and organizing a residence halls conference on the Clemson campus that brought in schools from throughout the southeastern United States! After graduating she entered her first-choice graduate program for higher education and student affairs leadership and is well-set to reach her goals for the future.

Making a Global Difference: Scott Porter (Philosophy '16; minor in Non-profit Leadership)

Scott originally majored in Philosophy because of his interest in the content and the way it related to some fundamental issues. Being undecided on his career plans he decided, as he says, to start by scott porterfocusing on who he wanted to be rather than what he wanted to be. He believes that his coursework in environmental ethics, existentialism, moral philosophy, identity, and self-knowledge as well as participation on a debate team opened him up to the world and influenced his minor area. The decision to minor in nonprofit leadership came naturally for Scott; after this philosophical examination he knew that he wanted to be doing something that helped others. His favorite philosophy courses have been seminar courses on political anarchism, a seminar on Jeff McMahan's The Ethics of Killing (a class that featured having the author travel from Oxford University to Clemson and discuss his book with the students!), and a seminar on the ontology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Scott was very active outside of the classroom, serving as President of the Philosophical Society for a year and attending weekly meetings that give any student a chance to discuss philosophy. He notes that these meetings, which involve student-led discussions, are a lot of fun and different from discussion in regular classes.

Scott was also a vital part of Clemson's forensics debate team for four years and was a member of the 2013 National Educational Debate Association National Champion team, as well as a novice national champion and a World Universities Debating Championship qualifier for 2015 and 2016. Despite this intense commitment Scott found time to study abroad for a semester in Bangalore, India.  He succeeded in his goal of working with a non-profit organization after graduation: he was accepted into the Peace Corps and is now working with the Corps in Uganda.  Scott reports that this type of position requires an ability to communicate and engage with different perspectives and moral frameworks than his, as well as question his own, which is something that philosophy has him well prepared to do!


From Marketing to Real Estate Development: Recent graduates on the value of a degree in Philosophy

Kendal McCall Lanier (Marketing), Philosophy ’17

"Studying philosophy has been beneficial in my work in marketing.  The critical thinking and evaluation skills I developed assist me approaching issues, and I have a strong ability to ask the right questions in order to provide the most impactful solutions for my clients."

Austin Orr (Real Estate Development), Philosophy ’16, Real Estate Development MA ’18

"The philosophy major teaches observation, idealization, and abstraction, which are all roots for critical analysis, judgment, and understanding in my field.  They are central to working with the many parts that go into a development project and enable you to succeed getting a complex job done."  

Program Requirements

The philosophy curriculum is designed for maximum flexibility to allow majors to pursue their particular interests in philosophy and other fields. The required course of study in Philosophy consists of the basic curriculum and either the standard Philosophy major or the Philosophy major with a Law, Liberty, and Justice Emphasis Area. All Philosophy majors must meet the requirements of the School of Humanities plus HIST 1720 and 1730 and 12 hours of 3000–4000-level coursework in one of the following areas: humanities (other than philosophy), math, science, or social science. Some courses may meet more than one requirement. All Philosophy majors must take PHIL 3990 in the junior year. Preparation of the portfolio should begin as soon as the major is declared. Specific requirements include the following:

Standard Philosophy Major—PHIL 3150, 3160, 4010 or 4020, and 24 additional credits in PHIL selected with the advice and consent of the advisor. Three of these credits may be at the 1000 level.

Law, Liberty, and Justice Emphasis Area—PHIL 1020, 3150, 3160, 3040 or 3200 or 3210, 3430, 4010 or 4020, HIST 3280, 3290, and nine additional credits in philosophy selected with the advice and consent of the pre-law advisor. Students with this emphasis area are advised to include PO SC 4370 and/or 4380 as an elective, minor, or advanced area requirement.

Pre-law and Pre-medicine students majoring in Philosophy should consult the departmental advisor for help in tailoring the program to their needs. More information for Pre-law majors can be found here.  More information for Pre-med majors can be found here.