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Undergraduate Program

Philosophy addresses problems and questions that arise in all areas of human thought and experience and in all disciplines. Recurring questions about the nature of value, the good life, right conduct, knowledge, truth, language, mind, and reality are central to philosophical study. Philosophy also investigates the methodologies and assumptions of the major disciplines in the university in order to deepen our understanding of the sciences, of mathematics, art, literature, and history, and of religion and morality. It leads us to address issues about the nature of these subjects, about the methods of reasoning characteristic of them, and about the contributions they make to our understanding of ourselves and our world.

Education in Philosophy

Philosophy contributes to the liberal education of its students. The department emphasizes an analytic approach to philosophical questions, which trains students to understand and evaluate arguments and to think and write precisely and clearly. These skills are of immense value in a variety of careers

The Department of Philosophy offers its majors a choice among three options. The General Emphasis provides a broad view of the field of philosophy. It includes a breadth requirement at the lower division level while providing students wide choice in more advanced courses. The Pre-Law and Pre-Med Emphases include courses that provide philosophical perspective on law and medicine respectively and that also provide important preparation for professional school.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a degree in philosophy should be able to:

  • Employ analytical techniques to construct arguments that proceed via trustworthy inferences from plausible starting points. Though emphasis is on philosophical arguments, the techniques apply to all areas of argumentation.
  • Supplement their informal reasoning with an ability to employ formal techniques.
  • Communicate complex and abstract ideas clearly both orally and via written text.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the motivations and problems for a wide variety of positions in historical and contemporary philosophy.

Career Options

Students of philosophy learn to understand and evaluate arguments and to think and write precisely and clearly. These analytical skills are assets in any career. Many of our majors have pursued graduate study in philosophy and have become philosophers in their own right. Others have pursued academic careers in related disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Philosophy majors are well prepared for law, business, or other professional schools and have found careers in computer programming, government service, teaching, the ministry, and social work.  This excellent video discusses 5 Reasons to Major in Philosophy.

Philosophy for Pre-Law and Pre-Med Students

A philosophy major is an excellent choice for students interested in going to law school and medical school. Philosophy is a rigorous and well-respected major that hones a student’s critical thinking and analytical skills. Click here for more information for pre-law and pre-med students.

Undergraduate Philosophy Essay Contest

The philosophy department has established an annual essay contest for undergraduates. Submissions are due at the end of April.  Winners are recognized at our annual reception and award ceremony in June.

Philosophy Club

The undergraduate Philosophy Club meets weekly to discuss philosophical topics.  The club's Web site is here.

Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Each year the Philosophy Club organizes a conference for undergraduates to present their philosophical work. Details for this year's conference (2015-2016) are TBD.


u-POW, or undergraduate Philosophically Oriented Women, is a group that mentors undergraduate women in philosophy. Quarterly meetings are devoted to topics such as being one of the few females in the classroom, the climate of the discipline, and applying to graduate school. u-POW aims to address the fact that women are greatly underrepresented in Philosophy (see the statistics at the Society for Women in Philosophy webpage). u-POW's web page is here.


The Barrall Family Philosophy Scholarship is awarded to students who have at least junior standing, have declared a philosophy major, and have earned a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the major and a UCD grade point average of 3.25 or more.  The students should also have financial need as determined by the Undergraduate Scholarship Office and a history of community service or other activities that demonstrate an ongoing personal interest in bettering society and the world in general.  The application form for 2015-16 is now available online at


Check out our June 2015 newsletter to see what our faculty, graduates, and undergraduates have been up to.

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1240 Social Science and Humanities
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Phone: (530) 752-0703
Fax: (530) 752-8964


UC Davis and the Philosophy Department are committed to fostering an environment that is respectful, welcoming, and inclusive for students, faculty, and staff. Sexual harassment is prohibited by law and University policy. UC Davis has established complaint resolution procedures for students to use if they have concerns or complaints regarding suspected sexual harassment. For information, students may call the Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (530-752-9255), or the Anonymous Call Line (530-752-2255). Additional information is available at