ARCHIVED CATALOG: Visit to view the 2023-2024 General Catalog.

UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara


Department of Philosophy
Division of Humanities and Fine Arts
South Hall 5707-5724 (Faculty Offices)
South Hall 3400 Suite (Student Advising and Administrative Offices)
Telephone: (805) 893-7488
Undergraduate e-mail:
Graduate e-mail:
Department Chairs: Matthew Hanser and Voula Tsouna


Philosophy deals with the kinds of questions that engage all reflective people, but which seemingly cannot be dealt with by any of the empirical sciences: Is everything material? Is human behavior determined or is free choice possible? Are there objective standards for deciding what is right and wrong, or is morality merely a subjective matter, a matter of individuals’ feelings? Is there a moral obligation to obey the law? Can we justify our claims to know anything? Can we objectively distinguish rational from irrational beliefs? How does language relate to the world?

The study of philosophy encourages rigorous and disciplined habits of mind. Because the major in philosophy emphasizes and enhances analytical skills, it is useful for the large number of careers that require these skills or as general humanistic training at the undergraduate level. Two concentrations within the major accommodate differences in student needs and interests and reflect the two central concerns of philosophy. (1) The Core Philosophy concentration is designed for students who seek thorough training in philosophy, either as a way of acquiring reasoning and analytical skills and mastering a discipline at the undergraduate level or as preparation for graduate study. (2) The Ethics and Public Policy concentration focuses on moral and legal problems confronting the community and on the responsibilities of various professions. It is intended for a wide variety of students, including those who plan careers in law, the public sector, or medicine.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy who are interested in pursuing a California Teaching Credential should contact the credential advisor in the Graduate School of Education as soon as possible.

Undeclared students should consult with the department undergraduate advisor. Two faculty advisors and one staff advisor in the department have authority on matters such as substitutions and exceptions. The Information Sheet for Undergraduate Philosophy Majors is available in the department office; a list of courses to be offered each quarter, with specific descriptions and required texts, is available in the office and on the website before registration at:

Prizes and Awards

Each academic year, one or more Ralph W. Church undergraduate fellowships may be awarded for outstanding scholarship in philosophy. To be eligible for this award a student must be a philosophy major and complete a minimum of 16 upper-division units in philosophy at UCSB. This fellowship is based on academic merit. During spring quarter the department recognizes the outstanding graduating senior by awarding the Harry Girvetz Memorial Prize. This award is included in the commencement program.

Senior Honors Program

Students who meet either of the following requirements may apply to join the Philosophy Department honors program:

  1. Membership in the Letters and Science Honors Program.
  2. Completion of at least 12 units of philosophy at UCSB, a philosophy grade point average of 3.5 or better, and an overall grade-point average of 3.3 or better.

Students are urged to apply as early as possible so that a meaningful honors curriculum can be developed at an early stage of their work in the major. Students in the honors program are expected to meet quarterly with the undergraduate advisor to discuss their progress and to plan their subsequent coursework in philosophy; in order to remain in the honors program, students are normally expected to maintain a 3.5 GPA in philosophy.

In order to graduate with distinction in philosophy, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Be a member in good standing in the Philosophy Department honors program for at least the last three quarters prior to graduation.
  2. Completion of at least two upper-division philosophy honors courses to be contracted by petition between the honors student and the instructor.
  3. Completion of a senior thesis that is judged to be of honors quality by the thesis supervisor.