Senior Project in Philosophy

Effective for Students Graduating in the 2011-2012 Academic Year

Department of Philosophy Curriculum Objectives

  • (E) Students will demonstrate an understanding of the Western philosophical tradition.
  • (F) Students will gain a broad knowledge of major branches of philosophy.
  • (G) Students will develop an area of specialization (AOS) in philosophy.
  • (H) Students will demonstrate critical thinking skills, including the application of both formal and informal logic.
  • (I) Students will comprehend, analyze and explicate a complex philosophical text.
  • (J) Students will create and defend philosophical arguments in both oral and written forms.
  • (K) Students will develop a reflective, deliberative and rational worldview and be metacognitive of its application to personal, professional and public life.


The Philosophy Senior Project is a capstone experience that is both the culmination of a student’s undergraduate education in philosophy and the opportunity for a student to investigate a particular area of interest in greater depth.

The senior project will focus on department goals G (developing the AOS), J (create and defend philosophical arguments) and K (develop a rational worldview).

Options for Completing the Project

A student may complete the Senior Project in one of four ways.

1) Phi 400 Senior Seminar Class: When the department has the resources, it may offer a senior seminar to Philosophy Majors. In this case, students must fulfill the requirement by means of this seminar. So if this course is offered, students must take it. However, students should be aware that the department will not be able to offer Phi 499 often.

2) Phi 499 Directed Reading in Philosophy: Primary Philosophy majors and interested Secondary Philosophy majors are strongly encouraged to choose this option given the resources of the department. In this option, a student will ask a full-time member of the department to do a focused reading on a particular topic or figure in philosophy. The student and professor will meet over the course of the semester to discuss the material, produce a project proposal and ultimately the student will write finished draft of a paper that follows the guidelines below. The final draft will be defended in front of the professor directing the study and another member of the department. For this option, the student and professor must agree on meeting times and the specifics of the final project using the guidelines given below.

3) Major-Enhanced 300-level Philosophy Course: This option is designed primarily for majors who have philosophy as a secondary major. Before the semester starts, the student will select a 300-level philosophy course to enhance. If the professor agrees, the student and professor will create an additional set of enhanced requirements for the student to complete. By the end of the course, the student must complete a draft of a project that follows the guidelines below. The major-enhanced course will fulfill the Phi 400 spot on the curriculum card and may only be counted as one class toward the philosophy major. Note that the major-enhanced class does not need to be taken in the student's last semester. However, if the student takes a major-enhanced class, the student must submit a request for this within the first week of classes. Approval Form

4) Senior Honors Project: If the student is an honors student and decides to do an honors project in Philosophy, then Honors II would replace Phi 400. Honors I could count for one of the Philosophy Electives. Honors students doing a project in another area will have to complete a philosophy project in one of the other three ways.

Guidelines for the Senior Project

In any of the three choices above, the student must produce a draft of the final project. Given the variations within the different areas of specialization of philosophy, each senior project may have different requirements. However, given the curriculum objectives the course is designed to fulfill, the senior project must contain these elements:

  1. The senior project must reflect the fact that the student explored the philosophical literature on the topic and used this literature in a substantial way to inform the final paper (G).
  2. The senior project must develop and then defend a philosophical argument that carries through the project (J).
  3. The senior project must reflect the development of a rational philosophical world view on the part of the author (K).

Depending on the area of philosophy in which the student works, these three requirements may be fulfilled in different ways. However, all three must in some way be part of the final grade assigned to the project.


In completing the senior project, students must adhere to the following deadlines. These deadlines may be modified for students not graduating in May.

At the end of the first week of classes: Students should be registered for Phi 400, Phi 499 or a 300-level course that they have declared an intention to enhance.

Students shall have met with the instructors and come to an agreement on the requirements for the senior project. If the course is being taken as a Philosophy 499, the student must submit the paperwork for a directed study, with attached syllabus, to the dean’s office. If the course is a 300-level honors enhanced class, the student and instructor must fill out the form below.

April 15: Students must file a proposal to the department outlining the content of the final project with a bibliography.

Friday before the last full week of classes: Students must present a completed draft of the project to the instructor. If the student is taking a Philosophy 499 class, the student must also turn in the project to another faculty member and schedule a defense.

Before the end of finals week: If the student is taking a Philosophy 499 class, the student must have defended the project. If the student is taking a 300 level major-enhanced class, the professor must decide if this meets the requirements for graduation.