2013 Ethics Bowl champions


Philosophy investigates fundamental questions about the basic human thoughts concerning knowledge and belief (epistemology), the nature of reality (metaphysics), and morality and aesthetics (value theory). The department offers courses that relate traditional questions to contemporary work in literature and the social and natural sciences. In addition, the department offers several courses that make a careful study of the classic texts in philosophy, ancient and modern. 

Students of philosophy can pursue a broad range of topics of the greatest historical, intellectual, and personal interest. Philosophy majors should emerge with the following knowledge and skills:

1. An ability to argue cogently for a philosophical point and to analyze and criticize the arguments of others.

2. A familiarity with the central concepts and key debates in the core areas of contemporary philosophical thought, including ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

3. A familiarity with the works of the major figures in the history of philosophy.

4. A familiarity with formal logic, including the ability to carry out proofs within symbolic formal systems.

5. An ability to think critically and creatively about a broad range of conceptual issues and questions.

Fifth Year M.A. Pathway

A pathway has been created for well-prepared undergraduates to complete both bachelor's and master's degrees in five years. Sample Academic Plan for Frosh Philosophy Major

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • Participate in the spring quarter departmental Undergraduate Colloquium
  • Live and study in another country through UC's Education Abroad Program
  • Compete for funding through the Humanities Undergraduate Research Awards (HUGRA) 
  • Write a senior essay under the mentorship of a faculty sponsor
  • Apply to undergraduate conferences for the opportunity to attend and present 
  • Compete in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl; attend the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics conference

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

High school students planning to major in philosophy at UC Santa Cruz should obtain a solid background in English, mathematics, sciences, social sciences, and writing skills while completing the courses required for UC admission.

Information for Transfers

Proposed philosophy majors should complete at least one equivalent to a required lower-division introductory course: PHIL 11, Introduction to Philosophy; PHIL 22, Introduction to Ethical Theory; or PHIL 24, Introduction to Ethics: Contemporary Moral Issues. 

Logic courses offered by community colleges will NOT fulfill the department’s formal logic requirement. Visit ASSIST.ORG to see which courses will articulate as equivalent to UCSC philosophy courses.

Summer Session may offer the opportunity to satisfy Logic or an Intro course prior to fall matriculation. Offerings vary each year.


  • Business
  • Ethics (legal, business, clinical, etc.)
  • Government service
  • Health care, nursing, etc.
  • Human Resources, employment, etc.
  • Law
  • Ministry; other religious work
  • Planning, architecture, design
  • Social work, counseling
  • Software development
  • Teaching (all levels)
  • Writing (journalism, publishing, editing)

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.


The Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study at more than 100 host universities and colleges in 40 countries as part of their regular UC academic program. Students receiving financial aid can apply their award to a program abroad. Students participating in EAP may petition to count up to two courses toward upper-division credit in the philosophy major.

Alumni Focus

Alumnus Ryan Shannon returned to campus in Fall 2016 to share his law school experience as a Philosophy major. Ryan has been a Legal Fellow with the Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, OR working with environmental non-profits involved in litigation. 

Department Website

General Catalog Information

More Information

Philosophy Department
220 Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-2070
(831) 459-4578
(831) 459-2650 (fax)