Philosophy Department

“Philosophy,” as William James put it, “is an attempt to think without arbitrariness or dogmatism about the fundamental issues.” Colby’s philosophy program challenges students to understand what it means to live morally in an often unjust world, to deliberate rationally about knowledge, freedom, and meaning, and to appreciate deeply the natural and aesthetic dimensions of our lives. Our courses provide the historical depth, cosmopolitan breadth, and multiplicity of perspectives necessary for participating in the philosophical conversation that spans human history and reaches around the globe. The Philosophy Department cultivates skills in effective writing, close reading, clear reasoning, and creative thinking, enabling students to join this ongoing conversation. Philosophy prepares students for professional careers and a lifetime of intellectual engagement in a complex and changing world.


Chair,Associate Professor Keith Peterson
Professors Jim Behuniak, Daniel Cohen, Jill Gordon, and Lydia Moland; Associate Professor Keith Peterson

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Philosophy

To complete the major in Philosophy, a student must take a minimum of 10 courses. Among these 10 courses, PL151, PL231, PL232, and at least one section of PL422 are required. The remaining six electives must include at least one course that satisfies the Metaphysics and Epistemology area requirement (“M&E”); one course that satisfies the Values area requirement (“V”); and one course that satisfies the Diversity requirement (“D”). 

Also, among these six electives, only one 100-level course can be counted, and at least two must be at or above the 300-level. Only one elective can be counted from PL483/484 (Honors) and only one can be counted from PL 291/292 and PL491/492 (Independent Study). PL422 (Philosophical Encounters) can be taken more than once for elective credit and may count concurrently to satisfy area requirements. No course taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory can be counted in fulfillment of major requirements, nor can any course with fewer than three credits.

Honors in Philosophy

Students majoring in philosophy may apply during their junior year for admission to the honors program. Permission is required; guidelines are established by the department and posted at Successful completion of the work of the honors program and of the major will enable the student to graduate with “Honors in Philosophy.”

Requirements for the Minor in Philosophy

To complete the minor in philosophy, a student must take a minimum of six courses. These must include at least one course that satisfies the metaphysics and epistemology area requirement (M&E); one that satisfies the values area requirement (V); and one that covers a historical period in philosophy (H). At least one must be at or above the 300 level, and no more than one may be at the 100 level with this exception: both Philosophy 151 and another 100-level course may be counted. No course taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory may be counted in fulfillment of minor requirements, nor may any course counting for fewer than three credits.