Philosophy investigates the nature of the good life and of reality, knowledge, truth and beauty. It does not just teach us about ideas; most importantly, it teaches us to do philosophy, and hence to lead rewarding and productive lives informed by philosophical reflection. The skills and habits of mind developed in the Philosophy major prepare graduates for a wide range of careers in fields including law, government, business, medicine, academia, and journalism.
The Philosophy major guides students in their development as philosophers on three dimensions:
- An understanding of philosophy pursued in the past and in the present (Something Old/New)
- An appreciation for philosophy in multiple traditions
- Fundamental philosophical skills:
(a) Textual Analysis (c) Formal Analysis (b) Problem Solving (d) Applications
I. Something old, something new:
Each student is expected to complete at least one course focused on significant works in the history of philosophy (Old), and at least one course focused on contemporary texts (New).
II. The traditions dimension:
A major’s philosophy courses must address texts and ideas drawn from at least two of the world’s philosophical traditions, including (but not limited to) Africana (Afr), Chinese (Ch), European (Eu), Indo-Tibetan (In), Latin-American (Lat), or Indigenous Peoples (IP). This may be done either by taking two courses, each focusing predominantly on a distinct philosophical tradition; or by taking several courses treating multiple traditions together.
III. The skills dimension:
Each student must take at least one distinct course in each of three areas; you are strongly advised to take courses addressing all four – particularly if aspiring to graduate work in philosophy:
(a) Textual analysis (Text): focuses on reading challenging philosophical texts and understanding these texts in the context of their composition and in the context of their commentarial traditions.
(b) Formal analysis (Form): uses the tools of formal logic, decision theory and related techniques to develop and analyse philosophical arguments, or focuses on topics in the philosophy of logic and mathematics.
(c) Philosophical problem solving (Prob): tackles important philosophical problems, in abstraction from the traditions or texts in which they arise, and develops arguments to defend solutions to these problems.
(d) Application (App): applies philosophical ideas outside the discipline of Philosophy, for instance to medicine, science, religion, environmental issues, social or political problems, or to shaping one’s life.
* While one must take 3 distinct courses for each of 3 skills, a single course may serve to satisfy requirements in two or three dimensions.
Any set of nine courses in Philosophy (44 MC) collectively satisfying the three dimensions detailed above, together with a capstone project (10 MC, which includes the Capstone Seminar), suffices to fulfil the requirements of the major (54 MC total).
No particular course is required of all majors, except the Capstone Seminar. However, at least four of the Philosophy courses (20 MC) completed for the major (other than the Capstone Seminar) must be taken at Yale-NUS.
Capstone: The Philosophy Capstone may be a single sustained essay investigating a philosophical topic, or it can be a linked set of shorter essays on more specific topics; even more daring formats may be explored, designed in consultation with the student’s advisor. The Philosophy Capstone Seminar meets in Sem. 1 of the final year. There will be a Capstone Symposium at the end of Sem. 1, and public oral examinations in the form of a conference after submission of the final written work in Sem. 2.
For more information on the Capstone, see http://philosophy.yale-nus.edu.sg/programme/capstone-details/.
The Philosophy minor comprises five courses (25 MC) and does not require a capstone project. At least three Philosophy courses (12 MC) completed for the minor must be taken at Yale-NUS.
Courses must be selected so as to include at least one distinct course representing two of the four skill areas, and so as to satisfy the traditions dimension, as described above.
What courses count towards the major/minor?
Any course cross-listed with Philosophy automatically counts toward the philosophy major/minor, whether is is offered at Yale-NUS or NUS. Courses not cross-listed in philosophy may count toward the major if they normally would be cross-listed as philosophy. (For example, a course on Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy taught by a philosopher in the School of Theology at another university might be counted toward our major as a philosophy course even if that course were not cross-listed in philosophy at the university in question.) However, such decisions are made by the Head of Studies on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the student’s advisor, and are not determinable in advance.
Up to two non-philosophy courses may count towards the major, where a case is made on the basis of the proposed course’s content, or of its fit with the particular philosophical focus of the student. (For example, a student with a particular focus on ancient Western philosophy might be permitted to count one or two courses on Classical Greek toward the Philosophy major.) However, such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis by the Head of Studies in consultation with the student’s advisor, and are not determinable in advance. Moreover, these courses cannot be used to satisfy the ‘traditions,’ ‘old/new,’ or ‘skills’ dimensions of the major requirements.