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About the Philosophy Major

Why study philosophy?

Philosophy Prepares You for Future Study 

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

General Problem Solving

Many different problems share a common structure or "bottom out" in a common concern. Philosophy will teach you to identify those patterns​ and to address the common fudamental  concerns. It will teach you to organize ideas, sort the relevant from the irrelevant, and to identify what is essential.​​

​Persuasion, Writing, and Effective Communication

In your philosophy classes you will confront difficult texts and be asked to get the bottom of them. You will be required to extract ideas from these texts, many of which will be alien to you, and you will have to analyze and evaluate them as clearly as possible in your own writing. Philosophy students learn to charitably compare contrasting viewpoints, to describe them with detail and rigour, to analyze them with clarity and depth, and hence to develop and communicate their own views as persuasively as possible. 

Understanding the Wider Intellectual World

​All fields of knowledge employ reasoning and operate according to standards of evidence. Philosophers learn to examine those very tools and thus bring a valuable perspective to any field of inquiry. Moreover, each intellectual discipline has its own set of foundational concepts, and stands in its own relations to other disciplines, which bear philosophical examination.​​​​

Enduring Questions

People also study philosophy because of its enormous and enduring interest — and because of its inescapability. All of us have to answer, for ourselves, questions about what we should believe, what we should desire, and how we should live. Philosophy students learn to ask these questions well and how to formulate possible answers to them. ​

Philosophy emphasizes foundational intellectual skills, such as the discernement of similarity and difference, the evaluation of cogency, and clarity of thought and expression that are highly transferable and indispensable for successul intellectual inquiry generally. 

Who Studies Philosophy?

Philosophy majors include political activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina, NCAA President Myles Brand, famous fund manager/investor George Soros, Lana del Rey, Susan Sontag, Emmanuel Macron, Phillip Glass, Alex Tribek, and many others. 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.

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 three distinct emphasis areas (a standard philosophy track, Law, Liberty and Justice, and Medicine, Health, and Human Values) Clemson’s program is well equipped to meet your specific career goals.

Standard Philosophy Major Requirements

Law, Liberty and Justice Emphasis (Pre-Law)

Medicine, Health, and Human Values Emphasis (Pre-Med and Pre-Professional Health)

Making a Global Difference: Scott Porter ('16)

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 focusing 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!

Department of Philosophy and Religion
Department of Philosophy and Religion | 126D Hardin Hall, Clemson, SC 29634