Philosophy Concentrations

Outsiders sometimes think of philosophy as a "pure" discipline that deals entirely with matters peculiar to philosophy itself. While there are some questions that might be described as "purely philosophical," much of philosophy is concerned with issues that arise in connection with particular fields of study – for example, biology or psychology – or that all of us, as citizens, or consumers of culture, or simply as people trying to live our lives well, are bound to confront. That means that much of philosophy is cross-disciplinary. At Maryland, three broad, interdisciplinary areas are among the special strengths of the faculty: Philosophy of Science, Cognitive Studies and Value Theory. For majors with interests in these areas, we have designed special concentrations within the major. Each concentration encourages study in related areas outside philosophy.

Do majors have to select a concentration? No. But if you have a special interest in one of these areas, the concentration provides a means of increasing the focus and coherence of your studies. It will make you a member of a community of students and professors who share a common set of interests and it can help to provide a strong foundation for graduate school.

Concentration in Cognitive Studies

Cognitive studies (or cognitive science) is the "interdisciplinary" study of the mind, particularly of representation, thought, and rationality. As well as the disciplines of philosophy and logic, it involves linguistics, psychology, computer science, and neuroscience. Philosophy majors interested in cognitive science should take courses in the philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of language and/or philosophy of neuroscience.

Students are encouraged to take cognitive studies courses in the cognate disciplines of linguistics, psychology, computer science, and neuroscience: for example, LING 240 Language and Mind, LING 311 Syntax I; LING 312 Syntax II, PSYC 341 Introduction to Memory.

Concentration in Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of science deals with questions about the nature of science and how it works. Topics include the structure and historical evolution of scientific theories, the justification of scientific knowledge, the role of observation and experiment, and conceptual problems in the foundations of specific sciences such as physics biology, and psychology. Philosophy majors interested in philosophy of science should take courses in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of physics, philosophy of psychology, and/or the history and philosophy of scientific thought.

Students are encouraged to take cognate courses, including: HIST 174 Introduction to the History of Science, HIST 175 Science and Technology in Western Civilization, HIST 401 The Scientific Revolution: From Copernicus to Newton, HIST 402 The Development of Modem Physical Science, HIST 403, 20th Century Revolutions in the Physical Sciences, HIST 404 History of Modern Biology, HIST 406 History of Technology, HIST 409 Topics in the History and Science Technology, ZOOL 301, Biological Issues and Scientific Evidence, ZOOL 313 Women in Science.

Concentration in Value Theory

Value theory comprises two areas that are quite distinct: aesthetics, on the one hand, and ethics and social and political philosophy, on the other. One might be interested in one area or the other, but not both. Or, at the same time, a person might wish to study both—which would probably means studying each in less depth, but perhaps instead investigating the commonalties between them.

Each sub-track is inherently interdisciplinary: aesthetics draws on knowledge of literature and the arts; ethics and social and political philosophy are informed by our understanding of psychological and social phenomena. Accordingly, each sub-track is enhanced by courses in other departments, some of which are listed below.

Aesthetics: courses in other departments. A variety of courses in other departments are relevant and may enrich the study of aesthetics: courses in literature, film, theater (from English, Comparative Literature, Theater, or the various departments of foreign languages), from departments such as Music, Art History, Art, Dance, etc. Consult advisors for more specific information.

Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: courses in other departments. A variety of courses in other departments, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences, may enrich and extend the study of ethics and social and political philosophy. Listed below are political theory courses from Government and Politics most obviously related to Philosophy. The study of economics, as well as courses in sociology, criminology, anthropology, and psychology, also serve to support the ethics track. Consult advisors for ore specific information. GVPT 100 Principles of Government and Politics, GVPT 231 Law and Society, GVPT 240 Political Ideologies, GVPT 341 Political Morality and Political Action, GVPT 402 International Law, GVPT 403 Law, Morality and War, GVPT 431 Introduction to Constitutional Law, GVPT 441 History of Political Theory: Ancient to Medieval, GVPT 442 History of Political Theory: Medieval to Recent, GVPT 443 Contemporary Political Theory, GVPT 444 American Political Theory, GVPT 445 Russian Political Thought, GVPT 446 Non-Western Political Thought.