Philosophy Program Guide and Course Descriptions

Students on campus

Coursework in philosophy is designed to introduce students to a range of profound and stimulating philosophical questions, and to develop the skills necessary for independent thinking. It also provides a broadening perspective for the various areas of specialization in the natural and social sciences, in literature and the arts, and in the various professional programs. A major in philosophy thus provides excellent preparation for a professional career in law, government, business, teaching, the media, higher education and related areas.

Four Major Fields of Concentration

Basic Track

The basic track in the major requires a minimum of three lower-division hours and 18 upper-division hours in philosophy, for a total of 21 philosophy hours. The lower-division philosophy prerequisite is PL 1100. Required upper-division courses are PL 3200 or PL 3770, or approved equivalent; PL 3100; and one course in the history of philosophy (from PL 3400, 3410, 3420, 3430, 3440, or 3450).  Any three additional upper-division philosophy courses will be selected by the student and major advisor. The required 12 hours of related upper-division coursework normally can be fulfilled by a second major or possibly a minor.

Professional Track

The Philosophy Department offers a professional track in the major which provides more rigorous preparation for graduate school or for a professional career. This track requires a minimum of 24 upper-division hours in philosophy, for a total of 27 philosophy hours.  The lower-division philosophy prerequisite is PL 1100.  Required courses include PL 3100, PL 3770 or PL 3200; two courses in the history of philosophy (from PL 3400, 3410, 3420, 3430, 3440, or 3450).  The five remaining courses will be selected by the student in consultation with the major advisor.  In addition, the student must complete the required 12 semester hours of related upper-division courses, or fulfill the requirements for a minor field.  Two courses in a foreign language are strongly recommended, as is a course in logic.

  • Both tracks in the major require a senior oral examination (0 credits).
  • A grade of C or better is required in each upper-division course of the major. (A grade of C- will not satisfy the requirement.)
  • A complete list and description of philosophy courses can be found on the online catalog web pages. 

Social Justice Track

The Department offers a Social Justice Track in the Philosophy major to facilitate the development of contemplatives-in-action. The Social Justice Track prepares students to direct their knowledge and skills toward the work of social change. Students will engage in the Catholic and Jesuit traditions of service to others, build a strong foundation of philosophical knowledge and moral deliberation, investigate the causes and consequences of contemporary social issues, and develop skills to be leaders advocating for the advancement of human dignity.

The Social Justice Track is attractive to students who intend on pursuing service and justice-oriented careers who want a strong philosophical and ethical foundation in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition for their social justice work. It is also a very good fit for career paths relating to non-profit leadership, social work, legislative and legal advocacy, human rights and peace organizations, immigration, environmental advocacy, education, law enforcement, and politics. This track requires 12 philosophy hours, 6 hours in Leadership Courses, 12 hours in related courses from several disciplines, and a Capstone Philosophy course, for a total of 33 hours. There is also a required service component.

Required courses in Social Justice track:

15 specified philosophy hours – 33 total hours (minimum) with Capstone course

Specified Philosophy Hours (15)

Foundations (6)

PL1100 Reality and Human Existence

PL3100 Ethical Theory

Advanced Topic Ethics & Justice (6)

PL 4650 Philosophy of Justice and

PL 3250 Virtue and Character or

PL 4500 Ethical Problems or

PL 4750 Natural Law Ethics or

PL 4700 Seminar in Medical Ethics or

Another approved course in philosophical ethics

Interdisciplinary Integration (3)

PL 4XXX Philosophy Capstone — The goal of the Capstone Project is to integrate the student’s coursework and service for the major in a philosophically and research-oriented analysis of the student’s justice issue. This capstone may also be completed through an advisor approved service-related project designed and implemented by the student with a written rationale and analysis.

Catholic and Jesuit Foundation (3)

CA 3000 Catholic Social Teaching (3)

Leadership and Communication (3)

LS 3000 / CT 3010 Leadership Theory and Practice (3) or similar approved upper level course in Leadership or

CT 3300 Presentational Speaking & Listening (3) or

CT 3840 Persuasion: Theories of Social Influence (3) or

CT 3850 - Intercultural Communication (3)

Elective Courses (12)

Upper level elective courses from many disciplines are chosen in consultation with an advisor with the understanding that the topics of these courses will be the basis of research for the student’s capstone project.

Service Component

Sixty minimum cumulative required service hours (over four years). Twenty five hours of service must be related to the student’s chosen social issue and capstone project. Additional hours may include service performed for service-learning courses, student organizations and service trips.

Bioethics Track

The aim of the Bioethics Track in the Philosophy Major is to help students to

  • confidently apply ethical principles to medical, health care, and research activities;
  • intelligently discuss ethical dilemmas in health care, medicine, and life science research;
  • think critically about emerging ethical issues in medicine, scientific research, and bio-technology; and,
  • contribute to public debates regarding bioethical issues in contemporary society.

Career Options: an undergraduate degree in Philosophy with a Bioethics focus provides an excellent foundation for numerous career pathways such as,

  • pursuing a theological or philosophical graduate level program in bioethics;
  • physician; physician-assistant; nursing; nurse practitioner; physical, occupational, or speech therapy; or any other health care related field;
  • bio-medical research, especially genetics or molecular biology;
  • law or social work with a focus in medicine, research, or health care.

The Bioethics track reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the field of bioethics, thus offering our students an opportunity to integrate diverse coursework around this central theme of ethics in medicine, health care, and the life sciences.  The track requires 15 hours in Philosophy, 15 hours in related courses (from at least two different disciplines), and a Capstone course, for a total of 33 hours.

Required courses in Bioethics Track:

Total 15 specified philosophy hours – 33 Total (minimum) with Capstone course

Specified Philosophy Hours:

PL 1100/1150: Reality & Human Existence (lower division pre-requisite, Level I Core Course)

PL 3100/3150: Ethical Theory (Level II Core Course)

PL 3200: Philosophy of God or PL 3770, Philosophy of Religion (or approved equivalent)

PL 3850: Philosophy of Science or PL 3840, Philosophy of Technology

PL 4700: Seminar in Medical Ethics

5 additional upper-division related courses (minimum 15 hours):

Since course offerings vary so much from year to year based on faculty availability and student interest, no pre-set list of courses will be established. Instead, the student will work with her or his Philosophy Major Advisor to select appropriate upper-division related courses based on the student’s interests, area of focus, and career goals.The additional upper-division related courses must come from a minimum of two different disciplines (for example, biology and psychology).The Bioethics Track will include a 3-hour Capstone Project as an Independent Study with a member of the Philosophy Department, ideally to be completed in the Fall of the final year of coursework for May graduates or in the Spring for December graduates.

Note: A grade of C or better is required in each upper-division course of the major. (A grade of C- will not satisfy the requirement.)

Senior Oral Examination for all Philosophy Majors

All philosophy majors are required to take a Senior Oral Examination (0 credits).  The purpose of the exam is to give philosophy majors the opportunity to show they have gained the ability to carry out independent philosophical analysis of a philosophical work.  The work is chosen in consultation with the faculty advisor and the exam consists of an oral discussion of the work.  The exam is usually taken toward the end of the student’s last semester.    

Minor Field of Concentration

The minor in philosophy consists of a minimum of 15 hours of coursework in philosophy, including PL 1100, PL 3100, and three additional upper-division philosophy courses.

A grade of C or better is required in each upper-division course of the minor. (A grade of C- will not satisfy the requirement.)


There are six full-time and several part-time faculty members in the Department, specializing in the history of philosophy, political philosophy, medieval philosophy, modern philosophy, ethics, philosophy of religion, contemporary European philosophy, medical ethics, philosophy of justice, philosophy or art, philosophy and literature and other areas.  Members of the department are devoted to both teaching excellence and scholarly activity.  Departmental members have a high number of scholarly publications in their fields, and are active in professional philosophy organizations.

Student Opportunities

The Philosophy Department sponsors the Missouri Beta chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the international philosophy honor society, and has had several students contribute articles to Dialogue, the journal of Phi Sigma Tau.  The Department awards various student scholarships from time to time, and holds the Rossner Philosophy Essay Competition every spring (which carries a $500 prize and inscription on the Rossner plaque on display in the Department).  (Full details available in the Department.)  In addition, the Department sponsors the LaCroix Lecture Series, which brings nationally recognized scholars to Rockhurst to speak to our students.  We also host annually the Rossner Visiting Scholar Lecture in Philosophy, as part of the Rockhurst Visiting Scholars Lecture Series.  The Department also sponsors, and funds, student participation in undergraduate philosophy conferences. 

Graduate School

Most of our students double major in philosophy, and a very high percentage of these go on to graduate school in their areas of interest.  In recent years, our majors have gone on to do graduate work in philosophy, psychology, computer science, government, law, medicine, business, health care, and related areas.  Those students who do not go onto graduate school usually pursue a professional career, e.g. in nursing, physical or occupational therapy, health or educational administration and related areas. 

For further information, please contact:

Dr Brendan Sweetman
Chair, Department of Philosophy
Tel: 816 501 4681