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Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy

The discipline of philosophy is one of the most valuable courses of study an individual might seek to undertake.  Understanding critical inquiry as necessary for the cultivation of human good, the discipline of philosophy involves the development of critical and ethical reflection, good reasoning, and an applied understanding of the inter-relationship between theory and practice in order to promote serious consideration of the question, “How ought we to live?”  Therefore the course of study outlined for majoring in philosophy at New England College provides students with a classical philosophical foundation and historical context for the on-going exploration of social, cultural and political concerns.

In addition, the study of philosophy is arguably the best preparation for students interested in Pre-Law. Scoring the highest LSAT averages of any other humanities major, philosophy majors develop and hone the very skills that the study and practice of law requires most.  These include the ability to formulate and criticize an argument, to analyze complicated problems and draw distinctions between various points of view, to read a text carefully to uncover multiple layers of meaning, to think and write clearly, and to debate rigorously.

Because the study of philosophy can shed light on the insights, assumptions and practices of each of the social and natural sciences, literature, and the arts, it is a perfect second major for students, providing them with skills that are valuable and marketable in any career, while helping to build bridges to programs of professional study in business, psychology, medicine, environmental studies, and education. 

Requirements to Major in Philosophy

The major in Philosophy will consist of a minimum of 32 semester hours, or 8 four-credit courses, that would include: 

  • One four-credit course from each of the four designated Course Areas
  • PA 4990 – Senior Tutorial
  • Plus 3 four-credit electives

Requirements to Minor in Philosophy

  • The minor in Philosophy will consist of a minimum of 20 semester hours, or five four-credit courses, that would include:
  • One four-credit course from 3 designated Course Areas [I, II and IV]
  • Plus 2 four-credit electives
  • Courses will be selected with the consultation of the student’s Philosophy Department Advisor. 


The four designated Course Areas are designed to provide students with a strong foundation for pursuing philosophical inquiry. Working with their Philosophy Department advisor, students will select courses suited to their interests and goals from each of the required Course Areas.

Courses would include:


  • PA 1919 – Critical Thinking
  • PA 2110 – Introduction to Philosophy
  • PA 2230 – Symbolic Logic

Topics Courses, as announced 


  • PA 3050 – Ancient Philosophy
  • PA 3110 – Philosophy of Religion
  • PA/WS 3150 – Medieval Philosophy
  • Topics Courses, as announced


  • PA 2810 – Philosophy of Science
  • PA 3250 – Modern Philosophy
  • PA 3350 – Contemporary Philosophy
  • PA 3510 – Existential Philosophy
  • PA/WS 4110 – Feminist Philosophies
  • Topics Courses, as announced 


  • PA 2210 – Philosophy of Art
  • PA 2220 – Introduction to Ethics
  • PA/BU 2310 – Business Ethics
  • PA 2320 – Criminal Justice Ethics
  • PA 2330 – Legal Ethics
  • PA 2410 – Environmental Ethics
  • PA 2750 – Social and Political Philosophy
  • PA 4010 – Moral Philosophy
  • PA/WS 4110 – Feminist Philosophies
  • PA 4120 – Philosophy of Human Rights
  • Topics Courses, as announced

Courses will be selected with the consultation of the student’s Philosophy Department advisor.  

Course Descriptions

**All undergraduate courses are 4 credits unless otherwise noted. 

PA 1910 Critical Thinking  

This course serves as an introduction to logic. Elementary semantics, common fallacies in inference, the analysis of arguments, and the logic of induction and deduction are studied. The primary emphasis is on reasoning as it occurs in everyday contexts. Students will develop skills for identifying claims, premises, and conclusions, and explore ways in which logic can improve skills in reading, interpreting, analyzing issues, and essay writing. Offered as needed.

PA 2110 Introduction to Philosophy              

An introduction to philosophical efforts to understand the reality in which we live, the possibility of knowledge and the nature of the self. Views from a selection of thinkers are considered. Offered regularly or as needed .

PA 2210 Philosophy of Art               

This course is a comparative analysis of the major philosophical attempts to define art and distinguish it from non-art, ranging from the ancient to contemporary periods. Theories to be studied include mimesis, formalism, expression theory, and avant-garde. Philosophers covered include Plato, Aristotle, Leo Tolstoy, R.G. Collingwood, and Arthur Danto.  Films such as “Max” and excursions to the NEC gallery will also be featured. Special emphasis will be placed on the controversial thesis that the age of art has come to an end. Satisfies the LAS 6 requirement. Offered every fall.

PA 2220 Introduction to Ethics         

An introduction to some of the main ancient and modern ethical theories and problems of ethics, including the nature of morality, criteria for evaluating choices and actions, and moral issues that arise in contemporary society. Offered as needed.

PA 2230 Symbolic Logic

This course is a thorough examination of sentential or propositional logic with an introduction to predicate logic.  The course covers the difference between inductive and deductive logic, validity and invalidity, truth tables, valid argument forms, and conditional and indirect proofs.  This course satisfies the General Education Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Offered as needed.

PA 2310 (BU 2310) Business Ethics 

This course examines the ethical aspects of individual and corporate decision making in business and provides resources for making ethical decisions within the context of managerial practice. Topics to be studied include the justification of free enterprise, the concepts of profit and private ownership, economic justice, the nature and moral responsibilities of corporations, consumers and advertising, affirmative action, and employee rights. Especially pertinent for those planning business careers, but designed for all interested students. Offered as needed.

PA 2320 (CJ 2320) Criminal Justice Ethics

Introduces basic ethical theories, emphasizing how ethical theory can be applied to contemporary problems in law enforcement, corrections and adjudication. Topics covered include criminal justice policy, and the ethics of law enforcement, court processes, and corrections. The course also considers issues such as police corruption and brutality, race, class and gender disparities, capital punishment, gun control, drug policy, pornography, gambling, and other current issues in criminal justice. Especially pertinent for those planning careers in criminal justice professions, but designed for all interested students. 

PA 2330 Legal Ethics          

This course examines ethical issues raised by the practice of law. In addition to examining rules and standards of the legal profession, students will explore issues such as lawyer-client confidentiality, advertising and solicitation, attorney fees, legal malpractice, conflicts of interest and judicial conduct. Especially pertinent for those planning careers in law, but designed for all interested students. Offered as needed.

PA 2410 (ES 2410) Environmental Ethics

Students consider intrinsic relationships of humans to their physical and biological surroundings and reflect on the issues of meaning, attitudes and value. Topics include the historical roots of the ecological crisis, conflicting views on ecological problems, ethical problems in the environment and cooperation with nature. Offered every other spring.

PA 2710 (WS 2710) Philosophy of the Irrational   

In antiquity, Socrates tells us, “some of our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness.”  What is the relationship between the irrational and the madness of love, of creativity, or of religious ecstasy? Has madness/irrationality been associated with one sex more than the other? This course will explore  the meaning of madness in the context of the development of reason in the western philosophical tradition. In addition to philosophy and women’s studies, this course will be of benefit to students of psychology, education and the arts. Offered as needed.

PA 2750 Social and Political Philosophy         

This course surveys philosophical approaches, both historical and contemporary, to the problems of political and social organization. Representative topics such as the legitimacy of government, the place of tradition in society, just economic distribution, political rights, war, and social liberty will be discussed. Offered as needed.

PA 2810 Philosophy of Science

An examination of the methods and historical development of the sciences generally, as well as a treatment of philosophical issues that arise in particular sciences. What justifies the view that science is the most objective source of human knowledge? What makes a scientific theory true? To what extent does scientific knowledge depend on history, political perspective, or gender, and what influence do values have on science? Especially pertinent to science majors, but designed for all interested students. Extensive scientific background not required. Satisfies the LAS 4 requirement. Offered as needed.

PA 3050 Ancient Philosophy            

A survey of the origins of Western philosophy in Ancient Greece, beginning with the pre-Socratics, covering Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the main Hellenistic schools (the Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics).Topics to be discussed include the origin and composition of the cosmos, the nature of divinity, the possibility and extent of human knowledge, the basis of morality, the nature of the soul and its relation to the body, the development of political theory, and the meaning of human life and excellence. Offered regularly or as needed.

PA 3110 Philosophy of Religion    

As far back as Plato and Aristotle, philosophical questions about the nature and existence of God/the Divine and what we can know of it  have been vigorously debated.  Are there good reasons to believe in that which cannot be empirically known to exist? This course explores the tangled and rich history of the relationship between reason and faith. Offered as needed.

PA 3150 (WS 3150) Medieval Philosophy        

This course presents a survey spanning the 4th to 14th centuries of philosophical and theological writings by women and men, with a critical look at their continuing influence. Questions of gender and the significance of the body in medieval thought present a unique opportunity for discovering the philosophical richness of this theme in another era and context. Offered regularly.

PA 3250 Modern Philosophy.

A close, critical study of the thought of major philosophers during the 17th through 19th centuries, in the areas of epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. Writings to be selected from the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Hegel. Offered regularly or as needed.

PA 3350 Contemporary Philosophy               

A critical study of the major trends in 20th and 21st century philosophy, which may include analytic philosophy, process philosophy, existentialism, hermeneutics, and deconstruction. Philosophers studied may include Wittgenstein, Bergson, Whitehead, Heidegger, Sartre, Gadamer, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida. Offered regularly or as needed. 

PA 3510 Existential Philosophy       

An introduction to the themes and methods of the existential tradition of philosophy. The philosophical writings of the most important existentialist thinkers, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus will be examined. Topics to be discussed include individuality, freedom and choice, ambiguity, authentic existence, anxiety, faith, and death. Offered as needed.

PA 3990 Topics in Philosophy           

A semester-long consideration of a philosophical issue chosen by the instructor. Offered as needed.

PA 4010 Moral Philosophy    

Advanced study of the concepts and judgments of value, including treatment of the notions of good and bad, right and wrong, and theories of moral obligation. Classic and contemporary readings will be engaged to explore contrasting views on the proper role of rules and virtues in morality, the relation of rules to the exercise of morality, moral psychology, and the connection of morality to reason. Offered as needed.

PA 4110 (WS 4110) Feminist Philosophies    

Focusing on major trends in feminist theory and incorporating global perspectives, students will engage in an intensive reading of feminist philosophers, exploring both traditional and cross-cultural ideas on the nature and/or construction of sexual difference in an effort to understand how categories of sex and gender shape our ideas of morality, rationality, knowledge, science, politics, etc. Offered as needed.

PA 4120 Philosophy of Human Rights       

A survey and critical assessment of arguments in favor of the existence of human rights, arguments about the legitimate scope of such rights, and arguments about which rights ought to be included in any complete account of human rights. Specific topics will include the philosophical history of human rights discourse, cultural relativist criticisms of the universality of human rights, debates concerning the rights of cultural minorities of self-determination, and controversies concerning whether human rights should include economic and social rights. Offered as needed.

PA 4510 Advanced Readings in Philosophy    

Close study of philosophical theme, issue, period or major figure. May be repeated for credit with different topics or texts. 

PA 4810 Directed Studies in Philosophy     

Topic to be determined by arrangement with departmental faculty. Contract required. May be repeated with different topics and texts. Variable credit (1-4). 

PA 4830 Independent Study in Philosophy  

Topic to be determined by arrangement with departmental faculty. Contract required. May be repeated for credit. Variable credit (1-4).

PA 4910 Philosophy Internship       

An internship related to the subjects emphasized in the philosophy curriculum. Contract required. Variable credit (1-15).

PA 4990 Senior Tutorial

Students engage in the in-depth analysis of a philosophical topic, text or figure, under the guidance of a philosophy faculty. Independent research and weekly one-on-one tutorial sessions culminate in preparation of a major paper and departmental oral examination.