Letter to the editor: Philosophy department announces changes to curriculum


To the Occidental Community,

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I share with you significant and meaningful changes to the Philosophy Department’s curriculum. Facilitated by the College’s aptly-named Mellon Grant for “Designing a Research-Intensive Curriculum in the Arts, Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences,” we have not only revised our major and minor requirements but also systematically evaluated, extended and reorganized all of our course offerings — from Philosophy 101 to Senior Comps. These changes will go into effect in Fall 2019, and students will be able to enroll in our newly designed and designated courses during the upcoming registration period.

Our new curriculum not only better reflects our discipline, but also the College’s mission. It emphasizes the importance of community and philosophy as a practice centered on the skills of: reflective, critical engagement with ideas and arguments; respect for difference through thoughtful and open-minded engagement with a range of views about questions central to human life; and the ability to use and apply philosophical ideas and ways of thinking in real-world contexts.

The new curriculum is organized around four areas: “History of Philosophy,” “Diversity in Philosophy,” “Self & Community,” and “Mind & World.” In addition to at least one course in each of these areas, majors will take an “Experiential Learning” course in the Philosophy Department which emphasizes “learning through doing.” PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy, now a requirement, will be organized to address our newly designated content areas. PHIL 490: Senior Comps will now involve the senior majors working with the faculty to select a recent book in philosophy to serve as a shared text, in order to better cultivate intellectual community while, at the same time, sharpening skills of philosophical analysis.

In addition to structural changes, we have created more 200-level courses, open to all students, especially in the area of philosophy of mind, language and science. For example, this fall we will launch PHIL 243: Representation and Reality. We have also introduced new opportunities to learn and utilize philosophical ways of thinking. Next academic year, we will again offer Ethics Bowl (PHIL 299), a course centered around understanding and engaging deeply with applied ethics cases developed for the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Students will research these realistic cases, work in teams to develop a thoughtful ethical analysis of these cases and articulate these analyses both verbally and in writing. In the fall, we will also launch our new PHIL 395: Philosophy Seminar with the topic “Love in Personal and Political Life.” This new course, offered annually, will feature faculty teaching special topics relevant to their research and include invited guest philosophers from across the country who will share their current scholarship with the class.

We will be hosting an information session, open to everyone, on Wednesday, March 20 from 12:50-1:45 in Johnson 203 (with snacks!). We hope you will join us. Please also reach out to any faculty member in the Department to learn more about our exciting new direction.


Clair Morrissey (Philosophy Department Chair) on behalf of the Philosophy Department