Philosophy Major

Philosophy Major

Philosophy

Major

Philosophy is the original home of critical thinking, rigorous analysis, and systematic argumentation. Its work demands clarity, objectivity, sound reasoning, fairness, and good writing. The study of philosophy builds conceptual skills exportable to any branch of the Army and to all professions, skills essential to leadership.

Offered by the Department of English and Philosophy.

"It is to the skills and lessons I acquired in the study of art, philosophy, and literature that I turned most frequently and used each and every day to understand, to communicate, to educate, and to motivate others in helping me accomplish my military responsibilities."

- GEN(Ret) Eric Shinseki, ‘65, former Chief of Staff of the Army and former faculty member of the Department of English and Philosophy.

The philosophy major pushes cadets to investigate the very nature of human knowledge; the relationship between mind and matter; and fundamental principles of the kind that underlie religion, science, and politics. The study of philosophy also has a significant cultural dimension. It challenges cadets to understand attitudes, beliefs and arguments from other societies. West Point's philosophy major is designed to ensure breadth and to encourage depth. Majors will learn to do the following:

  • analyze and construct philosophical arguments
  • show competency in logic and other core areas of philosophy
  • become familiar with major historical areas, figures, and problems of philosophy
  • understand philosophical ideas within their historical and cultural contexts
  • think and write in a rigorous and precise manner
  • use critical thinking skills to provide original or innovative approaches to philosophical problems
  • apply philosophical methods in a variety of contexts at the personal and social levels
  • apply philosophical methods across disciplinary boundaries to a broad range of issues in the modern world 

Why Major In Philosophy?

The scope of philosophy is much wider than the Ethics and Just War theory units studied in PY201 (Philosophy and Ethical Reasoning). Besides ethics, philosophy investigates the very nature of human knowledge; the relationship between mind and matter; and fundamental principles of the kind that underlie religion, science, and politics. The study of philosophy also has a significant cultural dimension. It challenges us to understand attitudes, beliefs and arguments from societies more or less remote from our own. Doing philosophy is a superior example of Critical Thinking at work, thanks to the high value it places in all its courses on systematic investigation, conceptual analysis, and cogent reasoning. West Point's philosophy major is designed to ensure breadth and to encourage depth. It also provides opportunities to pursue further study in the ethics of war. The intellectual skills and experience that a philosophy major fosters are beneficial to the Army. The future officer in whom these skills take root will be an asset to any branch.

Philosophy Matters

“Studying philosophy has broadened my perspective and provided me the necessary tools to effectively build consensus with host-nation leaders, locals, and both national and international partners. It has made me a far more reflective-thinker; I better examine problems, analyze critical information, and articulate arguments that compel action. Philosophy develops many of the competencies and attributes necessary to excel in the Army and on the battlefield." 

- Lieutenant Colonel Tim Leone '03

The intellectual skills and experience the philosophy major fosters are beneficial to the Army and will be an asset to any branch. This major offers an honors track. 

Article: Why Study Philosophy? To Challenge Your Own Point of View

Article: Why Philosophy Majors Rule

Meet the faculty

To learn more about this area of study, visit the Department of English and Philosophy.

Required Courses

  • PY300 PHILOSOPHICAL METHODS
  • PY305 LOGICAL REASONING

Philosophy Core Area Course (Choose 1)

Sample Electives

  • PY325 MILITARY ETHICS 
  • PY326 CYBER ETHICS 
  • PY329 TOPICS IN ETHICS 
  • PY330 POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY345 PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION 
  • PY350 PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 
  • PY355 PHILOSOPHY OF MIND 
  • PY360 ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY369 EASTERN THOUGHT 
  • PY370 17TH & 18TH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY375 KANT & 19TH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY380 20TH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY390 INTER-DEPARTMENT SEMINAR 
  • PY395 SPECIAL TOPICS IN PHILOSOPHY 
  • PY495 INDEPENDENT STUDY: PHILOSOPHY 
  • XH400 INTERCOLLEGIATE SEMINAR

This major offers an honors track. 

To learn more, view the full Philosophy Major Curriculum.

Philosophy majors have a number of enrichment opportunities including: Philosophy Forum guest lectures, travel to competitions and part of the Philosophy Ethics Debate Team, attendance of the Mid-Hudson Philosophy Society Annual conference, participation in the  Ethics of War Annual Conference Partnership with Villanova University, presentations at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs Panel, as well as the opportunity to present work at various undergraduates conferences or in journals. 

Honor Societies:
Golden Key - International Honour Society
Phi Kappa Phi - Oldest and Largest Collegiate Honor Society

To learn more about enrichment for this area of study, visit the Department of English and Philosophy or the center associated with this department/area of study.