Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

Philosophy Major Specializations

Specializing within the major is not required. Declaring a general philosophy major is common and allows for the greatest flexibility in your course selection.

That said, choosing to pursue a philosophy specialization can help you to identify what fields within philosophy you find most fascinating and relevant, and plan a course of study within your major that emphasizes your interests.

The four areas of specialization within the philosophy major are: Ethics & Values (E&V); Law, Society, & Social Justice (LSSJ); Mind & Science (M&S); and Existence, Meaning, & Culture (EMC). To declare a Philosophy Major Specialization, contact the Philosophy Undergraduate Program Director.

Ethics & Values (E&V)

Courses in the E&V specialization focus on ethical and moral issues, investigating how meaning, value, and moral responsibility operate to constitute an ethical human life. E&V courses each address some of the following topics: meta questions about value, the status of moral judgments, the nature of freedom, etc.; normative questions that encompass personal ethical choices, how individuals and groups should live together in a society, or ways to make ethical judgments; and applied questions about, for example, health care, education, or the environment. Potential topics include: Is moral value culturally relative? What makes something good? What is a good human life? Should voluntary euthanasia be legalized? What obligations does each person have, both to themselves and each other? Here concerns about moral rights, needs, capabilities, and character often play a role in deciding how we should go about making choices, especially when other people’s interests are involved.

Example E&V Courses: Ethics (181), Health Care Ethics (284), Environmental Ethics (287), Topics in Ethics (324), History of Ethics (388)

Law, Society, & Social Justice (LSSJ)

Courses in the LSSJ specialization focus on questions of justice—which is to say questions of how we should best live together, structure our societies, and justify our systems of law— developing the ability to critically examine our existing communities, societies, and laws. Students with an LSSJ specialization gain a solid understanding of the philosophical foundations of law, politics, and governance, as well as insight into theories of social justice, economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, environmental justice, etc. LSSJ specialists are thus well-equipped to pursue advanced study of these questions (for example, in law school), to engage in socio-political critique, and/or to strive for positive social and political change.

Example LSSJ Courses: Social and Political Philosophy (182), Culture and Civilization: Friendship, Romance, and Technology (288), Ethics and Society (321), Philosophy of Law (323), Political Philosophy (326)

Mind & Science (M&S)

Courses in the M&S specialization focus on topics in epistemology (the study of knowledge) and metaphysics (the study of reality and first principles), with a particular emphasis on philosophy of science and the philosophy of mind. Topics in epistemology include the nature of justification, certainty, belief, truth, and good reasoning; the nature of scientific inquiry; the roles of values in science; and decolonizing knowledge. Metaphysics covers issues that lie at the foundation of other disciplines, including the nature or existence of reality, soul, body, mind, God, freedom, and human persons. Addressing both historical and contemporary approaches to these topics, an M&S specialization complements further study in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, and other related disciplines.

Example M&S Courses: Metaphysics (272), Philosophy of Science (273), Philosophy of Mind (276), Judgment and Decision Making (279), Theory of Knowledge (330), Philosophy of Medicine (369)

Existence, Meaning, & Culture (EMC)

Courses in the EMC specialization ask about how we find meaning, both as individuals and as parts of communities and cultures that precede and might outlast us. What does it mean to be a person? What is it like to be a person? How do we respond to, critique, and carry on the past? EMC courses are broadly conversant with and build upon 19th and 20th century European philosophy, focusing on issues in phenomenology (the study of experience), hermeneutics (the study of interpretation), existentialism, philosophical anthropology, feminist philosophy, gender theory, critical race theory, and aesthetics. Topics in these areas intersect with, but are not reducible to, issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Specific approaches may be historical and/or conceptual, analytic and/or continental, intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary.

Example EMC Courses: Aesthetics (277), Culture and Civilization: Existentialism (288), Philosophy of Art (318), Studies in Philosophy and Literature (319), Contemporary European Philosophy (360)