The department invites students who have demonstrated particular talents in philosophy to pursue a year-long honors thesis under the guidance of one or more faculty members.
Questions addressed in recent honors theses include: Which moral principles should guide stem-cell research? Are there any universal human rights? Can we coherently have obligations to future persons if who it is that exists in the future depends on our current actions? Might pornography function more like advertising than political speech?
In general, when philosophy department faculty evaluate applications to do an honors thesis in philosophy, we look for evidence that the student would be better served by doing a thesis rather than by completing two more philosophy courses or by pursuing a semester-long independent study project.
We like to see that the student:
- has made substanial progress towards satisfying the course requirements for the major, with at least six philosophy courses by the end of the junior year, including 201, 221, and at least one seminar.
- has demonstrated a facility for independent advanced work in philosophy. Such evidence might include successful 350 work, summer research, or a substantial final paper in a philosophy seminar.
- has identified a specific philosophical issue to be explored in a thesis, is acquainted with current discussions of that issue, and has sufficient background, through prior course work, to enter into these discussions. The student's proposal should indicate the approach to be taken and some of the most important sources that will be used.
- has had preliminary discussions with at least one faculty member about the topic.
- has identified one or two faculty members with relevant expertise who might be appropriate and available advisors. (Faculty on leave do not advise honors theses.)
The department welcomes proposals from students for single-term individual study projects (recorded on the transcript as “PHIL 350”). These courses are designed to allow students to pursue topics not covered in currently offered courses. Students interested in pursuing an individual study should meet with the faculty member with whom they would like to work before the term in which they plan to do the 350. The precise requirements of the 350 in any individual case will be determined by the instructor in consultation with the student. Normally a substantial paper is required at the end of the term.