Christopher Tollefsen, Chair
The USC Department of Philosophy is an intellectually active and pluralistic community offering a congenial environment for graduate study. We host numerous invited speakers, workshops, and major conferences. The history of philosophy is foundational in the undergraduate and graduate programs and is a crucial part of the methodology of the faculty. The department has significant clusters of faculty who work in two special areas of research:
- The history and philosophy of science: We emphasize issues and methods that are closely tied to the actual content of the sciences, whether contemporary or historical. The faculty has particular strengths in the philosophy of physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, engineering, and technology.
- Theoretical and practical ethics: We see normative issues as intertwined with a host of other philosophical, scientific, and historical issues. The faculty has particular strengths in normative ethical theory, bioethics, engineering ethics, environmental ethics, and the ethics of emerging technologies.
Additionally, individual faculty members have research and teaching interests in the following areas: ancient philosophy, early modern philosophy, American pragmatism, twentieth century analytic philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology, contemporary European social philosophy, philosophy of language and mind, and philosophy of logic. The department collaborates with other units within the College of Arts and Sciences, including biology, chemistry, classics, comparative literature, history, linguistics, physics, psychology, religious studies, and women’s studies. Individual faculty members also work in collaboration with other units across campus, including the School of Medicine, the School of the Environment, and the Consortium for Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine in Society.
Students are normally admitted to the program only in the fall semester. The absolute deadline for applying for the fall semester is July 1. However, to receive full consideration for financial assistance, applications should be completed before January 15. Applicants who do not meet the January deadline will still be considered for and may even be awarded support, but opportunities become increasingly limited after this date.
The philosophy department admits new students into the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the fall semester of each year. Applications for admission are reviewed during the previous spring term. Normally, to be admitted with full standing into either program, a student will have completed 18 hours of course work in philosophy above the introductory level. Applicants must also have met the general admission requirements of The Graduate School.
Applicants should arrange for three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GRE scores to be sent to The Graduate School. Applicants whose native language is not English should also arrange for TOEFL or IELTS Intl. exam scores to be sent to The Graduate School. In addition, all applicants should send a sample of philosophical writing (maximum length 6,000 words) and a brief statement of purpose (400 words) to the department.
Letters of recommendation should come from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic achievement and potential and should specifically address the applicant’s potential for success in a graduate degree program.
Transcripts of prior undergraduate and graduate work must show sufficient promise of ability to do graduate work. Hence the department looks for GPAs in the range from 3.00 to 4.00 for all undergraduate work and 3.50 to 4.00 for all graduate work (on a 4.00 scale).
We look for GRE scores above 1250 on the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning portions of the exam. Scores of at least 5 on the analytical writing section are generally acceptable.
Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit a satisfactory score on the TOEFL or the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam. For admission to the Ph.D. program, applicants should submit a TOEFL score of at least 590 PBT or 96 IBT. For admission to the M.A. program, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 570 PBT or 80 IBT, which is also the minimum requirement for entrance into The Graduate School. The minimum acceptable overall band score on the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam is 6.5.
Evidence of high potential from several parts of an applicant’s file may occasionally outweigh a low test score or a low GPA.
Students whose undergraduate major was not philosophy may be considered for admission on a conditional basis. If admitted, special programs will be arranged to provide them with the background necessary for graduate study. Unsuccessful applicants to the Ph.D. program who do not already have a master’s degree in philosophy will automatically be considered for admission to the M.A. program.
A historical and critical survey of the British philosophers of experience. Principal concentration is on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
A critical and historical study of the 17th-century European philosophers. The works of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz are emphasized.
A critical study of recent and contemporary works in philosophical analysis, and an evaluation of the purposes, methods, and results of this movement.
A critical study of some fundamental themes in phenomenology and the philosophy of existence. Emphasis is placed on an intensive study of selected works of such writers as Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Husserl, and Heidegger.
An intensive study of selected Dialogues by Plato.
An intensive study of some of the more important of Aristotle's works.
A historical and critical study of the works of the leading medieval philosophers.
An intensive study of the philosophical writings of Hume, especially A Treatise of Human Nature.
An intensive study of the work of Kant, especially the Critique of Pure Reason.
An examination of some representative theories of truth, meaning, probability, and perception.
A presentation and philosophical examination of the fundamentals of modern symbolic logic.
A critical examination of methods and concepts of the sciences. Topics include scientific revolutions, the unity of science, experimentation, explanation, and evidence.
A philosophical examination of historical inquiry. Theories of historical development. The logical problems of historical explanation.
Survey of recent and historical developments in ethical theory with special emphasis on the meaning of ethical language and the forms of reasoning employed in discussing moral values.
Graduation with Leadership Distinction: GLD: Professional and Civic Engagement Leadership Experiences
A critical study of selected problems in the philosophy of religion. Emphasis is placed on problems relating to the existence of God, religious knowledge, and the language of religion.
Detailed examination of the literature on aesthetics.
The goals of inquiry and problems such as objectivity, reduction, value freedom, and ideology.
Major issues in classical and modern metaphysics. Topics include the idea of first philosophy, being, substance, the problem of universals, essentialism, causation, time and space, and metaphysical method.
The concept of mind, the mind-body problem, emotions and cognition, the possibility of artificial minds, theories of embodied cognition.
Axiomatic development of logic and the set-theoretic foundations of mathematics.
Introduction to the study of linguistic meaning, including the following topics: meaning, reference, and truth; the connections among language, thought, and reality; word meaning and sentence meaning; possible worlds and modality; thematic roles; meaning and context; presupposition and implicature; speech acts; formal semantics; and cognitive semantics.
Philosophical problems about logic, the development of philosophical logics, and the problems surrounding them.
Examination of major conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues in biological science. Topics include reductionism, units of selection, adaptationism, relations between evolutionary and developmental biology and between biology and society.
Survey of the major schools and trends in Hellenistic philosophy: Epicureans, Stoics, Academic Skeptics. Topics include eudaimonism, hedonism, monism, teleology, and the criterion of truth.
Recent contributions to three central strands of ethical theory: virtue theory, deontology, and utilitarianism; historical roots and recent developments.
Graduation with Leadership Distinction: GLD: Professional and Civic Engagement Leadership Experiences
Systematic approaches to data analysis--Bayesian, Fisherian and decision theoretic--will be critically appraised. Applications of these theories to some problems of inductive logic: the paradoxes of confirmation, the role of simplicity, and the probability of inductive generalizations.
Recent theories of distributive justice and their application to such issues as redistribution of wealth, reverse discrimination, and the conflict between liberty and equality. Authors include Rawls, Nozick, Hayek, and Popper.
Graduation with Leadership Distinction: GLD: Community Service, GLD: Diversity and Social Advocacy, GLD: Global Learning
An examination of European social philosophy associated with either the Frankfurt School of Social Research or contemporary French Poststructuralism.
An exploration of the connections between oppression of women and oppression of nature.
Cross-listed course: WGST 535
Graduation with Leadership Distinction: GLD: Diversity and Social Advocacy, GLD: Professional and Civic Engagement Leadership Experiences
Selected contemporary European philosophical movements, their views on language, and their approach to interpretation: hermeneutics, structuralism, poststructuralism.
Humanism (e.g., Petrarca), Platonism (e.g., Pico and Ficino), Aristotelianism (e.g., Pomponazzi), philosophies of nature (e.g., Telesio, Campanella, and Bruno), and Nicholas of Cusa, Erasmus, Montaigne, and Suarez.
An exploration of the ethical dimensions of patient care in the clinical setting.
Prerequisite: 6 hours in philosophy beyond the 100 level.
Study of the works of one or more major contemporary continental philosophers.
Students are introduced to formal and informal codes of professional conduct of various health science disciplines and understand the implications of these distinctions for interdisciplinary research, clinical practice, and administration.
Classic and contemporary theories of ethics and their applications to criminal justice decision-making.
Cross-listed course: CRJU 714
Topics and problems arising in the philosophy of mind.
Study of formal approaches to pragmatic phenomena such as focus, presupposition, and implicature; examination of deictic, contextual and perspectival expressions; survey of pragmatic frameworks such as Relevance Theory and Discourse Representation Theory; study of information structural properties of natural languages, including topic- comment structure, given-new contrasts, definiteness versus indefiniteness.
Cross-listed course: LING 729
Examination of concepts such as meaning, reference, analyticity, and translational indeterminacy; evaluation of accounts of speech acts, the semantics of propositional attitudes, metaphor, and other pragmatic phenomena.
Cross-listed course: LING 765
The formal study of linguistic meaning, including the following topics: Fregean truth-conditional semantics; lexical decomposition; predication and modification; lambda abstraction; generalized quantification; intentional and extensional contexts; tense, aspect, and modality; propositional attitudes; and indexicality.
Cross-listed course: LING 728
Recent work in philosophy regarding political and social values, principles of justice, political quthority, institutions, and related subjects.
Survey of historical and recent trends in epistemology.
Survey of historical and recent trends in metaphysics.
Introduction to the method of studying historical cases in the philosophy of science. This course revolves around the sustained treatment of one or two such cases.
An examination of a number of philosophical problems about the law: the nature and function of rules, the difference between legal rules and other rules, the nature of reasoning from legal rules, the concept of a legal system, and the relation of law and morals.
Materials, techniques, and problems of teaching philosophy. Repeatable for credit.
Requires permission of instructor.
Student and faculty presentations of current research in specified subject areas. Content varies. May be repeated for credit.
Examination of the intellectual, cultural, and ethical frameworks within which environmental problems arise and are solved.
Cross-listed course: ENVR 835
Critical comparison of present-day schools of thought on the nature, objectives, and functions of American education.
Cross-listed course: EDFI 847