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Programs / Arts / Philosophy

Program Details

Carleton’s innovative philosophy programs offer courses ranging over the history of philosophy, ethics and social/political philosophy, philosophy of mind and language, metaphysics and epistemology. Starting in first year, you will have the opportunity to take a seminar class (of 30 students) that challenges you to develop your skills in reading philosophical texts and making philosophical arguments. In second year, you will take two courses that are offered just for philosophy majors, ensuring that you have the skills you need to do your best. In fourth year, you will study in seminar classes where the professors share with you, at your level, the new knowledge that they are helping to create.

As a graduate, you will have gained unique intellectual flexibility and sophistication as well as highly developed writing, research, analytic and oral presentation skills that are applicable in many careers and professions.

Small classes

As a Philosophy student at Carleton, you will have opportunities at every level of your program to study in one or more small classes, where professors lead lively discussions and give helpful advice on improving your work:

  • First-year Seminars help you develop analytical reading and argumentative writing skills, on topics ranging from the history of philosophy to contemporary moral issues to the interface between consciousness and the world it represents.
  • Core courses for Philosophy Honours students give you an opportunity to develop as a Philosophy student by studying major debates that have influenced philosophy of the 20th and 21st centuries. Issues in Theoretical Philosophy (PHIL 2010) and Issues in Practical Philosophy (PHIL 2020) are reserved for students in Honours or Combined Honours Philosophy programs, or in the Philosophy, Ethics and Public Affairs specialization.
  • History of philosophy classes are small enough to give everyone time for thoughtful discussion of the philosophical texts that have had lasting importance.
  • Fourth-year seminars let you study specialized topics in great depth, benefiting from the research expertise of your professors. You may receive personalized guidance in developing a research topic for a seminar presentation or major essay.

Wide choice of topics

Your Philosophy professors at Carleton have expertise in a wide range of topics within philosophy, which means that you will have an equally wide range of courses from which to choose, within three distinct categories:

  • Ethics, society and aesthetics
  • Language, mind and world
  • History of philosophy

As a student at Carleton, you will be able to take advantage of all that Ottawa offers, including access to the federal government, cutting-edge research facilities, national and international organizations and numerous national museums.

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

Bachelor of Arts (General)

The four-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Philosophy requires 20.0 credits. If you want to focus on ethics and political philosophy, you can choose our specialization in Philosophy, Ethics and Public Affairs, which also requires that you complete 20.0 credits.

 

The Bachelor of Arts (General) in Philosophy is normally completed after three years of full-time study and requires a total of 15.0 credits.

 

Course category one: Ethics, society and aesthetics

You can pursue studies in ethical, social and political issues with any of the following three first-year options: the First-year Seminar in Contemporary Moral, Social and Religious Issues (FYSM 1209), the larger lecture course in Contemporary Moral, Social and Religious Issues (PHIL 1500) or the one-term Introduction to Ethics and Social Issues (PHIL 1550).

As you progress, you will be able to select from a range of courses covering topical issues such as human rights, environmental ethics and social justice. Feminist approaches to women’s equality and gender differences are prominent in courses at every level of the program. Many students (especially with interests in literature or art and culture) take special interest in courses on aesthetics and philosophy of art.

In addition, you can complete a specialization in Philosophy, Ethics and Public Affairs.

Course category two: Language, mind and world

You can begin your studies in this area with the First-year Seminar Looking at Philosophy (FYSM 1208), which introduces issues such as logical thought, the existence of God, free will and the nature of reality. Another excellent first-year course in this field is Mind, World and Knowledge (PHIL 1301).

More advanced topics in this area include language and communication, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, personal identity and the self, moral psychology and philosophy of cognitive science.

Course category three: History of philosophy

You can begin your studies in this course category with the First-year Seminar History of Philosophy (FYSM 1300) or the introductory course History of Philosophy (PHIL 1600), both of which examine the major figures and developments in philosophy from the early Greeks to the present.

You will then study Plato and Aristotle, medieval philosophy and modern philosophers such as Descartes and Kant. After studying 19th-century philosophers like Hegel and Mill, you can move on either to later European philosophers like Sartre and Heidegger, or to some of the founders of contemporary analytical philosophy, such as Bertrand Russell or Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Combined degrees

If you have an interest in two different fields of study, Philosophy can be studied along with another discipline for a combined degree.

For example, if you are interested in the area of ethics and political philosophy, you can study Philosophy along with a program in Biology, Economics, Human Rights, Journalism, Law, Political Science or Sociology/Anthropology.

Language, mind and world students can study Psychology or Linguistics alongside their Philosophy courses. History of philosophy students can combine Philosophy and History. Feminism students can combine Philosophy with Women’s and Gender Studies. Students pursuing an interest in the area of ethics, society and aesthetics can combine Philosophy with Art History, English or French.

And, if you are majoring in another area of study but have an interest in Philosophy, you can take Philosophy courses as electives or pursue a 4.0-credit minor program in Philosophy.

First-year Seminars

All first-year Bachelor of Arts students at Carleton are strongly encouraged to enrol in one of our First-year Seminars (FYSMs). Experienced instructors teach small groups (a maximum of 30 students) and provide early and frequent feedback on class assignments as well as instruction in research, writing and study skills. Students are limited to one FYSM and although some FYSMs count as courses leading to a major, you do not have to choose a First-year Seminar in your major discipline.

A sample first year

  • 1.0 credit in Contemporary Moral, Social and Religious Issues (PHIL 1500); or 0.5 credit in Mind, World and Knowledge (PHIL 1301) plus 0.5 credit in Critical Thinking (PHIL 2003); or 1.0 credit in History of Philosophy (PHIL 1600)
  • 1.0 credit in any First-year Seminar
  • 3.0 credits in other arts or social sciences electives

The workplace

Philosophical training is an asset for anyone whose work requires clear thinking and the ability to analyze language and organize thoughts. Philosophy is useful for:

  • professions such as law, where logical argument is essential;
  • policy analysts in government and ethicists in health care and other fields, all of whom require training in ethics and public affairs;
  • social policy advocates in non-governmental organizations, who require training in human rights, ethics and political philosophy; or
  • prospective high school teachers, who should have training in philosophy, not only for communication skills but also because philosophy is a subject now included in Ontario’s secondary school curriculum.

Graduate studies

Graduates of any of our Honours programs are well qualified for post-graduate studies in Philosophy. For combined majors, the enhanced theoretical and argumentative skills you acquire in Philosophy will be advantageous for graduate work in your other field of studies.

If you think that you may wish to pursue an advanced degree, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early in order to ensure that your program is suited to meet the relevant graduate-level requirements.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law and teaching, encourage well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Philosophy provides a strong foundation for such programs.

What students are saying about Philosophy


Carleton’s Philosophy program provided me with access to a wide range of complex philosophical ideas. My professors helped me to grapple with these ideas through their lectures and through their availability for discussions outside of class. My experience with this dedicated faculty was complemented by the many insightful discussions I had with other philosophy students, whom I connected with in class and at the many events held by the Carleton University Philosophy Society. Above all else, it was this dialogue I had with my professors and with my fellow students which made Carleton an excellent place to study philosophy.
Jonathan Courtney, Philosophy student