Nine credits are required for the Philosophy major: Symbolic Logic (PHIL 140), History of Philosophy: Ancient Greece (PHIL 230), History of Philosophy: Modern (PHIL 231), Philosophy Capstone (PHIL 498W), and five elective credits.
Given this relatively large number of elective credits, you have considerable freedom in designing your course of study. It is expected, of course, that you will exercise your discretion in consultation with your faculty advisor, but generally speaking you should strive to take at least two courses with each member of the faculty: their interests, approaches, and expertise vary, so this will assure you of wide exposure to the field.
Sequencing Your Courses
The sooner you take the required history courses (PHIL 230 and PHIL 231), the better. The same is true of Symbolic Logic (PHIL 140). More generally, you may regard a course's number as a rough guide to when it is appropriate to take it: 100- and 200-level courses are certainly appropriate in the first two years, 300- and 400-level courses are certainly appropriate in the last two years years. This is not a hard-and-fast rule.
A Capstone project is required of all Philosophy majors. Capstones usually consist of a term paper and presentation completed in the context of an upper-division Philosophy course. The fact that a regular course serves as the framework for a Capstone somewhat complicates registration for the Capstone, but at bottom it's about generating an appropriate section of PHIL 498W, the course-code that will be recorded on your transcript. The procedure is as follows:
- The semester before you intend to complete your Capstone project, review the next semester's courses and find one in which you'd like to complete your Capstone. Let's call this your "Joint Course". You may choose for your Joint Course something that you've already taken — in completing your Capstone project, you'll dive deeper. Speak with your advisor and the Joint Course instructor, making sure that both approve your selection.
- Register for the section of PHIL 498W corresponding to the Joint Course. This section will have a title of the form "Cap: X", where X is the name of the Joint Course. (Note: you will need instructor permission to register for 498W.) If you don't find a section of 498W corresponding to your chosen and approved Joint Course, let the instructor know and an appropriate section of 498W will be generated.
- If you'd like to complete your Capstone on a topic for which there's no suitable Joint Course, talk with your advisor. Generally speaking, independent Capstone projects must be in areas of Philosophy you've studied before. If your advisor agrees, and if the instructor with whom you intend to complete your Capstone project agrees (it doesn't have to be your major advisor), the instructor will ask the registrar to generate a section of 498W with an appropriate subtitle.
- There's still another way to complete your Capstone: by taking an appropriate course in one of Willamette's graduate schools. Graduate courses open to undergraduates are listed alongside the usual options in the registrar's course schedule. If you'd like to explore this option, speak with your advisor.
Feel free to address any questions about your Capstone to your major advisor or to the department chair.
Preparing for Graduate Study
If you'd like to continue your formal study of philosophy beyond the BA, you should begin thinking about your writing sample the year before you intend to apply for graduate school. Typically this means writing term papers in your junior year with a view to developing them into a sample over the following summer. Department faculty are available to help you choose a paper for use as a writing sample, and also to help you develop the paper. Faculty are, of course, also happy to talk with you about graduate school in all its aspects.