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Phone: (209) 946-2281

Lou Matz, Chair

Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Arts

Majors Offered


Minors Offered


The study of philosophy is at the core of a liberal arts education. The ideal of a liberal arts education is not simply to prepare students for a specific career but to prepare them for a meaningful personal life and for intelligent participation in their communities. There are issues that all human beings confront regardless of what career they choose or community they live in, such as the nature and limits of knowledge, the principles of right and wrong, the meaning of life, the truth of religious claims, and the nature of reality. Philosophers raise critical questions about these issues, and some attempt to construct comprehensive systems that explain how all human activities fit together in a unified way. Moreover, through the exposure to some of the great minds in human history and the discussion of their ideas with their professors and peers, students develop the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills that are essential to a human being. In the words of the American Philosophical Association, the study of philosophy serves:

to develop intellectual abilities important for life as a whole, beyond the knowledge and skills required for any particular profession. Properly pursued, it enhances analytical, critical and interpretive capacities that are applicable to any subject matter, and in any human context. It cultivates the capacities and appetite for self-expression and reflection, for exchange and debate of ideas, for life-long learning and for dealing with problems for which there are no easy answers. It also helps to prepare one for the tasks of citizenship. Participation in political and community affairs today is all too often insufficiently informed, manipulable and vulnerable to demagoguery. A good philosophical education enhances the capacity to participate responsibly and intelligently in public life.

Students choose the Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy for various reasons. Most enjoy the intellectually provocative and challenging nature of philosophical thinking that opens their minds and has relevance for their personal lives. Some study philosophy in order to go to graduate school and eventually teach philosophy or to enter other professional fields, such as law. And others take philosophy as a second major since it is a good complement to virtually any other major. In all cases, the study of philosophy is personally enriching and develops skills that are transferable to a variety of occupations.

The Department of Philosophy offers different kinds of courses. Historical courses survey the major philosophers and periods in the history of philosophy. Specialized courses focus more narrowly on topics such as applied ethics, religion, the meaning of life, politics, or the thought of one philosopher. Systematic courses are advanced and deal with problems that arise in relation to all human activities, such as the activity of knowing (epistemology), the nature of reality (metaphysics), and the experience of value (meta-ethics). The departmental offerings are grouped as follows:

  1. Introductory Course: Introduction to Philosophy
  2. Formal Reasoning Course: Introduction to Logic
  3. Historical Courses: Ancient & Medieval Philosophy; History of Modern Philosophy
  4. Specialized Courses: Moral Problems; The Meaning of Life; Fundamentals of Ethics; Environmental Ethics; Philosopher in Depth; Philosophy of Science; Philosophy of Law; Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Religion; Political Philosophy; Biomedical Ethics, Special Topics
  5. Systematic Courses: Metaphysics; Theory of Knowledge; Meta-Ethics: What Is Morality?

Typical First Year Program

During the freshman year a student who is interested in pursuing the philosophy major is especially encouraged to take:

PHIL 011Introduction to Philosophy4
PHIL 037Introduction to Logic4
Select one of the following ethics courses:4
Moral Problems
Fundamentals of Ethics
Environmental Ethics

Bachelor of Arts Major in Philosophy

Students must complete a minimum of 124 units with a Pacific cumulative and major/program grade point average of 2.0 in order to earn the bachelor of arts degree with a major in philosophy.

I. General Education Requirements

Minimum 42 units and 12 courses that include:

PACS 001What is a Good Society4
PACS 002Topical Seminar on a Good Society4
PACS 003What is an Ethical Life?3

Note: 1) Pacific Seminars cannot be taken for Pass/No Credit. 2) Transfer students with 28 or more transfer units complete 2 additional General Education elective courses from below in place of taking PACS 001 and PACS 002.

One course from each subdivision below:

Social and Behavioral Sciences
Arts and Humanities
Natural Sciences and Mathematics
or a second IIIA Natural Sciences course

Note: 1) No more than 2 courses from a single discipline may be applied to meet the requirements of the general education program.

II. Diversity Requirement

Students must complete one diversity course (3-4 units)

Note: 1) Transfer students with 28 units or more transfer units prior to fall 2011 are encouraged but not required to complete a designated course prior to graduation. 2) Courses may be used also to meet general education and/or major/minor requirements.

III. College of the Pacific BA Requirement

Students must complete one year of college instruction or equivalent training in a language other than English.

Note: 1) Transfer students with sophomore standing are exempt from this requirement.

IV. Fundamental Skills

Students must demonstrate competence in:

Quantitative analysis

V. Breadth Requirement

Students must complete 64 units outside the primary discipline of the first major, regardless of the department who offers the course(s) in that discipline. (Courses include general education courses, transfer courses, CPCE/EXTN units, internships, etc.)

VI. Major Requirements

Minimum 33 units and 9 courses that include:

PHIL 011Introduction to Philosophy4
PHIL 037Introduction to Logic4
PHIL 053Ancient and Medieval Philosophy4
PHIL 055History of Modern Philosophy4
Select three of the following specialized courses:12
Critical Colloquium
Moral Problems
The Meaning of Life
Fundamentals of Ethics
Environmental Ethics
Philosopher in Depth
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Law
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Religion
Political Philosophy
Biomedical Ethics
PHIL 193 Special Topics
Select two of the following systemic courses:8
Theory of Knowledge
Meta-Ethics: What is Morality?

Note: 1) 6 of these courses must be completed at Pacific. 2) POLS 130 or POLS 132 are accepted as substitutes for PHIL 135. However, a student cannot get credit toward the philosophy major for taking more than one of these. 3) RELI 145 is accepted as a substitute for PHIL 145.

Minor in Philosophy

Students must complete a minimum of 20 units and 5 courses with a Pacific minor grade point average of 2.0 in order to earn a minor in philosophy.

Minor Requirements:

PHIL 011Introduction to Philosophy4
Four PHIL Electives16


Note: 1) 3 of these courses must be taken at Pacific. 2) POLS 130 and POLS 132 are accepted as substitutes for PHIL 135. However, a student cannot get credit toward the philosophy minor for taking more than one of these. 3) RELI 145 is accepted as a substitute for PHIL 145.

Philosophy Courses

PHIL 011. Introduction to Philosophy. 4 Units.

This course is an overview of answers that philosophers across the world have provided to questions that most of us ask ourselves at one time or another in life, such as: Can we know anything beyond what our senses tell us? Can we even be sure that what our senses tell us is accurate? Is there a God? Is life after death possible? Do we have free will, and hence moral responsibility for what we do? Are we merely selfish beings or can we do things for the sake of others? Are there moral rules that all cultures and people recognize, or should recognize? Do our lives have meaning without God and without some sort of afterlife? (GE2B)

PHIL 015. Introduction to Cognitive Science. 4 Units.

Cognitive science is an exciting cross-disciplinary field devoted to understanding how the mind works. It draws on research done in a wide variety of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and neuroscience. This course examines some of the main assumptions, concepts, methods, applications, and limits of the cognitive scientific approach to the mind. Questions include: Is the mind a computer and, if so, what kind of computer? What are the prospects for genuine artificial intelligence? How is the mind organized? Does the mind have innate structures? Can we explain memory, action, perception, reasoning, and social cognition? What can the brain tell us about the mind, and what can we learn from damaged brains? How did minds evolve? To what extent does cognition depend on the body and the environment? (GE3C)

PHIL 021. Moral Problems. 4 Units.

Students explore some of the "big ticket" moral issues of our time for example: physician-assisted suicide, capital punishment, abortion, animal rights, pornography, the limits of free speech, the legalization and use of drugs, affirmative action, war, torture, civil disobedience, gun control, and the distribution of wealth. The best philosophical arguments on both sides of each issue are considered so that each student can decide which positions are most rationally compelling. (GE2B, PLAW)

PHIL 025. The Meaning of Life. 4 Units.

This course is an exploration of one overall question - Do human lives have meaning? - and the answers provided by philosophers, both ancient and modern, across the world. Subsidiary questions include: Is meaning found in this life or in life after death? What makes a life meaningful --is it what we achieve, or the experiences we have, or our relationships, or something else? Is the meaning of life something we make for ourselves or is it provided by some other source, such as God? (GE2B)

PHIL 027. Fundamentals of Ethics. 4 Units.

This course is an inquiry into the question "How should we lead our lives?" Each student is asked to reflect on her/his own moral commitments and how she/he makes morally difficult decisions, and then to consider whether there is any coherent, unifying system or procedure underlying this. The course then explores several of the most durable and influential philosophical approaches to moral decision making which include the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and how each might apply to various real-life situations. Additional issues might include: why we ought to take morality's demands seriously; whether moral judgments are mere opinions; and whether it is legitimate to criticize morally the practices of other cultures. (GE2B, PLAW)

PHIL 035. Environmental Ethics. 4 Units.

Students investige into various environmental problems and the ethical attitudes and principles required to address them. Questions might include: Do animals have rights? Do plants, or whole ecosystems, or future generations of people, have interests, and if so, are we obligated to respect these interests? Are humans part of nature, and is that which is natural always good? Are you required to perform environmentally-friendly acts even in cases where doing so involves some cost to you and you lack assurance that enough others will join you to make a collective difference? Can we put a "price" on environmental goods like clean water, a species' existence, a beautiful vista, and even a human life---as economists frequently try to do? (ENST, GE2B)

PHIL 037. Introduction to Logic. 4 Units.

This course is an introduction to the basic concepts and methods employed in the analysis of arguments. The course begins with some of the basic concepts of logic, such as truth, probability, validity, soundness, proof, and consistency. Students learn how to translate arguments into symbolic languages (categorical, sentential, and predicate logics) and evaluate them using various formal techniques. Time may also be spent examining the notion of probability and the character of inductive inference, as well as detecting and explaining common fallacies. (GE3B, PLAW)

PHIL 047. Philosopher in Depth. 4 Units.

This course is a sustained study of a single, highly important philosophical figure. Typically, this course involves looking at this person's views in various areas of philosophy - ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics - and explores how these views cohere (or fail to cohere). The philosopher studied differs from semester to semester, but candidates include such thinkers as: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Mill, or Nietzsche. Course may be repeated with a different focus. (GE2B)

PHIL 053. Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. 4 Units.

Students examine influential philosophers up to roughly 1500A.D., such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Hellenistic philosophers (Epicureans, Stoics, Skeptics), Augustine, and Aquinas. Potential topics students investigate are: What does happiness consist of? Which character traits count as virtues, and how do we become virtuous? What is the origin and nature of justice? Why be moral? What are the aims of government and law? What is the difference between knowledge and opinion? Does a divine being exist, and if so what are its attributes? (GE2B)

PHIL 055. History of Modern Philosophy. 4 Units.

Students study central philosophers and issues starting from roughly 1500 A.D. Authors students read might include: Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Examples of questions addressed: Do we have assurance that the "real world" is as we perceive it to be? Is there actually a world that exists independent of our perceptions? When does what we believe count as knowledge? Does God exist? Do we have free will? Do we have souls? How can we best govern ourselves? (GE2B)

PHIL 061. Philosophy of Science. 4 Units.

Students examine the main philosophical issues regarding the nature and methods of science. Among the questions to be considered are: Can we clearly distinguish science and non-science? Is there such a thing as a scientific method? What counts as sufficient evidence for a scientific law? In what sense are new theories better than old ones? Is science converging on the ultimate truth about the natural world? What is it to say that electrons, black holes, or genes really exist? What are scientific explanations and how do they differ from descriptions and predictions? Examples are drawn from the natural and social sciences. No background in science is needed though science majors are especially welcome. (GE3C)

PHIL 079. Sensation and Perception. 4 Units.

This course is an introduction to human sensory systems and perception. Building upon a detailed analysis of visual processing, students explore through lecture, readings, demonstrations, case studies, and investigations how scientists research the various sensory systems and how they shape our experience of, and interaction with the world. This draws on diverse fields such as biology, physics, philosophy and art in addition to psychology. This course is open to all students. (GE3C)

PHIL 087. Internship. 1-4 Units.

PHIL 093. Special Topics. 4 Units.

PHIL 106. Philosophy of Law. 4 Units.

This course is an analysis of the nature and function of law. More specific topics in the course might include: the idea of law as an instrument of social control; whether democratically decided laws can ever be illegitimate; the extent to which we are obligated to obey the law; the justification for punishment, and its permissible forms; the relationship between law, morality, and justice; the appropriate role of legislators, lawyers, and judges; and the role of interpretation, coherence, and precedent in judicial reasoning. Readings draw from legal and political philosophy, social sciences, and judicial opinions. Not recommended for first-year students. (PLAW)

PHIL 121. Philosophy of Mind. 4 Units.

Students explore some of the majors issues and debates in recent philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Possible questions include: Are mental states just brain states? Are minds like computers? What are the prospects for artificial intelligence? Can non-human animals think? How essential are the body and external environment to the character of the mind? Can the subjective aspects of experience ever be explained in objective (e.g. physical) terms? Could one person's experience of the world be radically different from another's? How do thoughts get their contents? What is the relationship between thought and action? What can pathological cases teach us about the mental? Recommended: a previous course in philosophy.

PHIL 122. Philosophy of Language. 4 Units.

Students investigate the main philosophical issues that concern the nature of language and communication. Questions include: How do words come to have meaning? What exactly do we know when we understand a language? Which comes first, language or thought? What are the functions of language, if not merely to convey information? How do we sometimes manage to communicate so much more than what we literally say? How do metaphor, irony, and other figurative uses of language work? To what do fictional names like Sherlock Holmes refer? Recommended: a previous course in philosophy.

PHIL 124. Philosophy of Religion. 4 Units.

This course is a philosophical treatment of questions such as: Does God exist? Is it prudent to believe that God exists, even if one cannot be sure? Is belief without sufficient evidence morally irresponsible? If God is all-knowing, can we actually have free will? Does the existence of evil in the world show that God is either not all-powerful or not all-knowing? Do we ever have reason to believe in miracles? Do science and religion make competing claims? Do we have souls that survive our bodily death? Does the very existence of morality depend on God? Recommended: a previous course in philosophy. (GE2B)

PHIL 127. Philosophy of Sport. 4 Units.

Sporting activity raises various kinds of philosophical questions: What defines a “sport”? What should be the purpose of sports? Do sports develop moral character? What is cheating in sports? What is sportsmanship? What is performance enhancement and what is wrong with it? Should violent sports be banned? Are university sports compatible with a university’s mission? Are students-athletes exploited? What is the role of sports in a meaningful of life? The philosophy of sport analyzes these and other philosophical questions that arise in sports and that have practical applications for athletes, coaches, sports organizations, fans, and society at large. (GE2B)

PHIL 135. Political Philosophy. 4 Units.

Students investigate issues such as: the justification for and limits on governmental power; the origin and extent of rights; the nature and proper extent of individual liberty; the nature and substantive demands of social, economic, and legal justice; the virtues and vices of various political systems; and tensions between political goods such as freedom, equality, fairness, security, and tradition. Not recommended for first-year students. (GE2B)

PHIL 145. Biomedical Ethics. 4 Units.

Students examine the ethical theories, principles, and concepts that justify decisions in health care and medical science. Topics covered may include: physician-assisted suicide, termination or refusal of life-sustaining treatment, abortion, reproductive technologies such as cloning, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy, the allocation of scarce medical resources (including transplant organs) genetic manipulation, and experimentation on humans and animals. Not recommended for first-year students. (GE2B)

PHIL 180. Metaphysics. 4 Units.

This course is a philosophical exploration of the ultimate nature of reality. Metaphysical questions include: What is the nature of existence? Of necessity and possibility? What kinds of things are there? In virtue of what is something the very thing it is (rather than something else)? Does an object persist as the same object through time and change? What, if anything, makes you the same person over the course of your life? What is it to be a person at all? To what extent are we genuinely free to choose our actions? If one could not have done other that what one did then how can one be held responsible for one's actions? What is the nature of time? Recommended: a previous course in philosophy.

PHIL 182. Theory of Knowledge. 4 Units.

Students study the nature, sources, and limits of human knowledge. Questions to be considered include: What is knowledge and how does it differ from belief or opinion? What justifies what I claim to know or believe? How do I acquire knowledge--via perception, testimony, memory, pure reason, etc.--and how reliable are these sources? Is all knowledge acquired through experience or are there truths that can be known by pure reason? Does knowledge require certainty? Can we know anything about the future (or the past)? Can I know that there is an external world or that there are other minds? What is the nature of self-knowledge? Do I know myself better than anyone else? Are humans really rational? Recommended: a previous course in philosophy.

PHIL 184. Meta-Ethics: What is Morality? 4 Units.

Questions such as "Which actions are right?" and "Which character traits are virtues?" are first-order ethical questions. Meta-ethics, by contrast, involves second-order questions--that is, reflecting philosophically on the nature of our first-order moral judgments. Thus, questions students explore in this course might include: What do terms like "good," "bad," "right," and "wrong" mean? Can these attributes be reduced to natural properties, such as the property of being desired, or being conducive to the production of happiness or social harmony? Do moral claims (such as "Lying is wrong") state objective facts, or merely express personal or social approval/disapproval, or what? If there are moral facts, how do we learn them? What is the relationship between judging an action to be right and having reasons or motives to perform that action? What is the relationship between morality and evolution? Recommended: a previous course in philosphy.

PHIL 187. Internship. 1-4 Units.

PHIL 191. Independent Study. 2-4 Units.

Permission of the instructor.

Philosophy majors should be able to:

1. Comprehend complex philosophical texts (content and structure).
2. Write clear, succinct, well-organized essays, that demonstrate understanding of the topic and critically evaluate the claims and arguments for them.
3. Express complex ideas and arguments clearly, succinctly and respectfully in both discussion and presentations.
4. Comprehend and apply formal techniques of reasoning.
5. Recognize, create and/or respond to reasoned objections to an argument using relevant and convincing evidence and arguments.
6. Contextualize and evaluate arguments relative to major philosophical movements and developments.

Philosophy Faculty

Lou Matz, Professor and Chair, 1999, BA, University of the Redlands, 1984; MA, University of California, San Diego, 1987; PhD, 1992. Member, Phi Beta Kappa.

James Heffernan, Emeritus, 1972, BA, Fordham University, 1964; MA, 1967; PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1976.

Ben Phillips, Visiting Assistant Professor, 2016, B.Sc./BA, University of Sydney, 2007; Ph.D., Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2016.

Ray Rennard, Associate Professor, 2005, BA, University of Pittsburgh, 1992; PhD, Johns Hopkins University, 2003.

Eleanor Wittrup, Assistant Professor, 1996, BA, Wellesley College, 1986; MTS, Harvard University Divinity School, 1989; PhD, University of California, San Diego, 1994.