Philosophy Overview

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2020-2021, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on April 1, 2020. Access the catalog of record at

The question, “What is Philosophy?” is itself a central inquiry in the study of philosophy. Some view philosophy as an analytical study of concepts, others view it more etymologically as a search for wisdom, and others view it as speculation upon the principles governing human nature and destiny. Philosophy thus includes the study of logical thinking, the practice of rational investigation and understanding, the utilization of holistic imagination, and the application of practical wisdom. In short, philosophy is essentially a rational, synoptic, and practical discipline.

The philosophy department at USD is pluralistic, covering all significant historical periods and most major philosophical methods. The USD philosophy department has a deep and special concern for the study of ethics, values, and the moral life. Additionally, philosophy students at USD can expect to be exposed to perennial epistemological, metaphysical, and theological issues and theories in philosophy — both as these are discussed in the classical texts of great philosophers and also in their contemporary treatment.

Career Opportunities and Advising

The intellectual enthusiasm that philosophy inspires in its students makes graduate work in philosophy, perhaps followed by teaching, a natural aspiration for many philosophy majors. Accordingly, providing a solid preparation for graduate-level work in philosophy, or in another humanities or related discipline, is one goal of the philosophy department. At the same time, most of the skills which philosophy teaches are highly transferable to work or study in other fields. The study of philosophy stresses skills in critical reasoning, including the ability to extract arguments from difficult material, to analyze a position from multiple points of view, and to exercise creativity and sound judgment in problem solving. Philosophy majors are trained to be excellent communicators, and to be able to express themselves in a clear, compelling way, both in speech and in writing. Philosophers are trained to research problems thoroughly — to learn how to ask the right questions and to develop standards to answer them. These are basic skills, which will serve you well in any endeavor you choose to pursue. It is not surprising, then, that philosophy majors have gone on to successful careers in business, medicine, government, computers, and the arts. Furthermore, philosophy majors consistently score among the very highest levels on such standardized tests as the GRE, the GMAT, and the LSAT. Perhaps most important, though, is the personal satisfaction students find that study of philosophy can lend to their life. In this respect, it is well to recall the Socratic adage, which inspires all of philosophy, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Students considering a major or minor in philosophy may discuss their program and interests with any member of the philosophy department, or contact the department office for the designated philosophy advisor(s).

Note: Majors are encouraged to complete their lower-division history of philosophy requirements as soon as possible after declaring their major.

A Special Note for Students Interested in Law

Students considering a career in law should give extra consideration to philosophy as a possible field of study. Legal studies is a fundamental, perennial area of inquiry and study in philosophy; and several members of the USD philosophy department — some of whom hold joint degrees in philosophy (PhD) and law (JD) — include aspects of legal studies among their areas of expertise. Moreover, philosophy majors’ scores on the LSAT are consistently among the highest of any of the most popular pre-law majors. Philosophy faculty regularly offer courses in political philosophy, philosophy of law, legal reasoning, legal ethics, and other courses bearing upon socio-political and legal theory and practices. These courses, when taken together with the major’s particular requirements in logic and other areas of philosophy, provide a rigorous program of legal studies in philosophy for our students. No particular courses are designated as requirements for a minor in philosophy (see minor requirements). However, philosophy minors interested in legal studies, whether in its own right or in connection with a pre-law aspiration, might consider PHIL 333, PHIL 460, an either PHIL 461 or PHIL 462 when completing the nine upper-division Units required for the minor. Majors or minors interested in legal studies offerings in philosophy are encouraged to contact members of the faculty for additional advising. Most students will satisfy the philosophy (not logic or ethics) requirement by taking a 100-level course (excluding PHIL 101 and PHIL 102), but some will satisfy it by taking a 400-level course.