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Philosophy at Vanderbilt encompasses areas of reflection as wide as the human mind. Philosophy raises the most fundamental questions about all human activities and the context in which they occur. What can we know? Does science reveal the real structure of the world? What of religion and psychology? How ought we live our lives individually and in society? What place does art have in our lives and what is it anyway? These are but a few of the questions that philosophers take on.

As part of the process of study every student will be introduced to the history of philosophy and to a set of methods for analysis and reflection. They will acquire critical skills that allow them to analyze complex materials and arguments with precision and clarity. Each student will have the opportunity to work with award-winning faculty. The focus at Vanderbilt is on the student and on imparting those skills that will prepare him or her for a successful life and career.

Recently Offered Courses

Philosophy offers a full range of courses, including first-year seminars on such topics as Concepts of God, Human Nature, Race and American Democracy, Bioethics, Understanding Other Cultures, and Environmental Philosophy. At the intermediate and advanced undergraduate level, the department offers courses in the major figures and movements in the history of philosophy. In addition, philosophy students may take topical courses such as Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Political Philosophy, Aesthetics, Feminist Thought, and Philosophy of Film.

Honors Program

The Philosophy Honors Program is typically a two-semester program which leads to Undergraduate Honors in Philosophy. In conjunction with a faculty mentor, students plan and write a thesis and then participate in an oral defense. This program allows for sustained and close work with faculty that share interests with students. 

Recent topics include a defense of Socrates against Nietzsche; a defense of strong determinism as a suitable ground for morality; an examination of the nature and role of striving in Spinoza and Freud; an exploration of the implications of value pluralism; and examination of justice in relation to the mentally handicapped.

Other Special Opportunities

The department offers the opportunity for students to take independent studies with all faculty and thus to shape their programs in directions that cater to the students’ own interests. The department’s curricular offerings complement a number of interdisciplinary programs, including African American and Diaspora Studies, Woman’s Studies, Classical and Mediterranean Studies, and Film Studies. The department supports a special living/learning program in McGill Hall. Finally, the Speakers Program regularly brings internationally renowned philosophers to Vanderbilt’s campus. 

After Vanderbilt

“How are you going to make a living with a philosophy degree?”  This question is, perhaps, the most frequently asked question put to philosophy students. Some philosophy students go on to graduate school every year, seeking to become philosophy professors themselves.  Many more go directly to professional schools-philosophy is excellent training for law, medicine, education, and public policy. Additionally, philosophy students are welcomed into business and the public sector in increasing numbers. Vanderbilt graduates in philosophy are currently working in government, investment banking, insurance, education, medicine, and the law.


For information about faculty and their research, visit the department website,


Scott F. Aikin
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Philosophy
111 Furman Hall
Phone: (615) 343-5519

Philosophy Website