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Department of Philosophy


Why Philosophy? Athena Teaching Student

Overall, philosophy is an excellent part of any student's general University Education. Courses in philosophy can be taken towards several degrees; and virtually all programs of study at SDSU can be enriched by the inclusion of one or more of our courses. Masters programs are offered for students who wish to go on to do graduate study in Philosophy.

Welcome from Mark Wheeler, Chair

AttertonWe are among the most dynamic departments in the university, serving about 4000 SDSU students every year, including majors, pre-majors, M.A. students, and students pursuing general education courses. Philosophy faculty also provide instruction to future medical doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, and environmental specialists in both the the School of Nursing, the College of Engineering, Humanities and the Social Science Programs.

The philosophy faculty includes nine core faculty and four lecturers. We offer strengths in ancient philosophy, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, logic, ethics (theoretical and applied), Continental philosophy, Biomedical Ethics, Philosophy of Race, LGBTQ Studies, Feminism, and Asian philosophy. The Philosophers at SDSU place a very strong emphasis on excellence in teaching as well as research. Our philosophy courses enjoy an excellent reputation among SDSU students who generally rate them very highly. In our efforts to encourage a life-long love of learning, we have had the joy of seeing both our undergraduates and M.A. students go on to Ph.D. programs in the humanities at Princeton, Columbia, UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, Marquette, SUNY Binghamton, and Florida State University, some with full scholarships.

Our international faculty have trained at first-rate academic institutions in both the US and abroad. Some have won awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright Association. They sit on the boards of professional associations and philosophy journals, and write cutting-edge articles and books. 

I invite you to become acquainted with the Philosophy Department through our public events. Each semester, we organize a Philosophy colloquia series through the Institute of Ethics and Public Affairs. Our students organize the SDSU Student Philosophy Conference in spring, and we often host the SoCal Philosophy Conference in fall. In December 2017, we will be hosting the California Regional Ethics Bowl. Check our calendar for more events.

Sincere Regards,
Mark Wheeler
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department
Director of the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs

Program Mission

We especially aim to develop in our students an increasingly sophisticated, reflective, and comprehensive understanding of the historical, systematic, and applied dimensions of philosophy, both Western and non-Western. We further seek to develop, especially in our majors, a commitment to pursue reflectively the most important questions of the three major fields of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, to reason soundly about them, to make meaningful and well-informed contributions to the dialogue concerning them, and to be able to apply that knowledge to social, political, global, environmental, ecological, scientific, and other "real world” contexts. Toward this end, we serve, support, and challenge many diverse groups of students: philosophy majors, both graduate and undergraduate; those seeking careers in community colleges, technical writing, public administration, government service, the legal, para-legal, or medical professions; students training for advisory roles in health services, politics, the military, with an interest in ethics and leadership (including the campus minor in Leadership Development); those wishing to continue on to a Ph.D.; mature students transitioning to new career paths; students from all class standings (freshman-senior) and from a wide range of majors at SDSU, including ISCOR, business, communication studies, English, political science, social work, and sociology, seeking skills in argument analysis, logical thinking and persuasive writing.

Philosophy Program Learning Goals

1. Understand philosophy as an historical discipline

One of the goals of the program is for students to understand philosophy as an historical discipline. This defines the first stage in a long process of philosophical maturation, whose continued development has as its goal a pluralist approach to a wide range of disparate thinkers and philosophical methodologies seminal to the history of philosophy.

2. Develop clear, logical, and critical thinking skills

We expect our students to develop the logical and critical skills essential to the reading of philosophical texts. We also expect our students to strive for the goal of an appreciation of the complexity and contradictions of philosophical texts, and of the historical embeddedness of philosophical concepts and arguments

3. Inculcate an appreciation for and competence in the applied dimensions of philosophy

One of the goals of the program is to inculcate an ability in our students to examine and critically assess normative standards governing legal, social, and cultural practices and institutions, and to cultivate a practical comprehension of the philosophical questions, issues, and concepts that are implicit in a wide range of human activities dependent upon value judgments.

4. Demonstrate knowledge of the methodological dimensions of philosophy

Students are expected to identify and understand philosophical methodology and the principles it employs in solving problems and resolving metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic issues.

Bachelor's Degree Learning Outcomes 

1. Historical Dimensions of Philosophy

We expect our students to acquire not only a range of metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and aesthetic issues from the history of philosophy, but also the conceptual means for identifying what makes a philosophical question, controversy, or position germane to a particular historical epoch (e.g., rationalism vs. empiricism during the period of the European Enlightenment) by means of close readings of philosophical works, as well as by means of class presentations and continuous writing exercises at different levels of difficulty and complexity. The department is committed to ensuring that our students attain a comprehensive understanding of the historical development from ancient times through the present. Students should be able to recognize the contributions of key figures in the history of philosophy and comprehend their respective ideas, and should be able to grasp the development of and controversy regarding such key ideas as reality, truth, consciousness, and free will through time and across cultures. i) Students are expected to demonstrate by means of classroom discussion, oral presentations, and written work, the ability to (1) to recognize the contributions of key figures in the history of philosophy and comprehension of their respective ideas and (2) to compare and contrast the ideas of these historical figures in terms of their social, cultural, and political contexts.

2. Logical and Critical Dimensions of Philosophy

Since most philosophical texts are highly abstract and difficult works, the student’s first task--already an arduous one--is to learn how to extract the thesis and reconstruct the supporting argument from a given text. Concomitantly, we also expect our students to develop an understanding as to what would be an appropriately philosophical response to the text s/he is reading--what sorts of considerations are appropriately brought to bear on the issue at hand. This requires students to learn the skill of critically engaging with the author, conceptually accessing the point of view of the author, learning to identify and appreciate the limitations, assumptions, blindspots, and logical weaknesses of the author’s position, and appreciating that, because of these, the final position might raise more questions than it answers. i) Students are expected to demonstrate by means of oral presentations, essay exams, and papers (1) clarity of thought and logical organization of concepts, (2) sharp analytical and critical skills, including identification and construction of logical arguments using the techniques of formal systems of logic, and (3) the ability to diagnose and correct informal fallacies in ordinary language arguments. ii) Students are expected to demonstrate by means of oral presentations, essay exams, and papers (1) the ability to identify core concepts and their entailments within at least one thematic area of philosophy, (2) the capacity to compare and contrast the main ideas of different schools of thought in at least one thematic area of philosophy, and (3) the ability to recognize the ethical implications of various philosophical positions.
iii) Students are expected to demonstrate by means of classroom discussion, oral presentations, and written work (1) the ability to explicate, analyze, and critically evaluate canonical primary sources in philosophy and (2) the capacity to argue cogently the merits and weaknesses of one philosophical position in relation to others. iv) Students are expected to demonstrate by means of oral presentations, written exams, and papers the capacity to rationally reflect on the fundamental nature of reality (metaphysics), our means to understand that reality (epistemology), the normative dimensions of that reality (ethics), and the methods by means of which to secure the truth (logic), while examining philosophical concepts across historical and cultural boundaries.

3. Applied Dimensions of Philosophy

While we expect our students to cultivate an understanding of a range of metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and aesthetics issues from past and contemporary philosophical works, we also strive to equip them with the conceptual means to be able to apply this knowledge and understanding to "real world"--social, political, global, environmental, ecological, and scientific--contexts. Thus, while the department offers many courses that are firmly grounded in philosophy's past, there is an equally strong commitment to studies vital to the present day, including Biomedical Ethics, Social Ethics, Women in Philosophy, Ethics in Health Care, Environmental Ethics, Global Justice, and Morality and Climate Change. All students will be exposed to issues of culture, ethnicity, and gender.

4. Methodological Dimensions of Philosophy

Students are expected to be able to explain the applications of at least one of the methods of philosophy, namely, speculative method, methods of Indian, Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist philosophies, systematic philosophy, analytic philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and deconstruction, as well as understand the relationship between methods and content of philosophy.

5. Humanities General Education (GE) Degree Learning Outcome

Students in Philosophy general education courses (foundations and explorations) achieve the Humanities-specific goals of the GE: 1. Analyze written, visual, or performed texts in the humanities and fine arts with sensitivity to their diverse cultural contexts and historical moments; 2. Develop a familiarity with various aesthetic and other value systems and the ways they are communicated across time and cultures; 3. Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in the humanities that have personal and global relevance; 4. Demonstrate the ability to approach complex problems and ask complex questions drawing upon knowledge of the humanities.

Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs

The department also houses the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, which aims to be a resource to members of the campus community, the larger community of scholars, and the greater San Diego community who wish to pursue thoughtful discussion and research as a means of clarifying moral problems

Contact Us

If you are interested member of the general public, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your ideas and concerns, and if you are an alumna or alumnus checking in on your home institution, please let us know how things are going. Send us your contact information so that we may keep you informed of departmental events and send you our annual newsletter.

Kimberly Kennelly
Administrative Support Coordinator
Department of Philosophy
San Diego State University
Tel: (619) 594-5232
FAX: (619) 594-1199
Mail Code: 6044

Mailing Address:
Department of Philosophy
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-6044