Philosophy, BA

The undergraduate major in philosophy begins in the Core Curriculum, and then traces the quest for wisdom from ancient Greece to the present. It culminates in advanced courses on Ethics and Philosophy of God. Along the way, students cultivate the essential skills of professional life: close reading, reasoned conversation, and clear, precise writing and public speaking.

“Are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation, and honors as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom and truth and the best possible state of your soul?”

So Socrates addressed his contemporaries, and so philosophy addresses us today, inviting us to care for wisdom, truth and virtue above all else.

In the University of Dallas Philosophy Department, we take this Socratic summons seriously. In doing so, we also give our students the best possible foundation for success in a wide variety of professions. After all, the love of wisdom and professional excellence have something crucial in common: they require a well-trained mind.

Reflecting on the life and conversations of Socrates, Aristotle discerned three, nested arenas within which the pursuit of wisdom unfolds: the universe as a whole, with its first principles and causes; the well-lived life of human beings in community, and the productive work by which each of us serves that life.

Eternal beauty

“The foremost type of understanding … has to do with things that are both separate from matter and immovable. [It is] theological, for it is not hard to see that if the divine is anywhere to be found, it is in things of this sort.”

More than three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle affirmed that the ultimate task of the philosopher is to ascend, carefully but courageously, from the changing material world to its unchanging, invisible causes. This was not to turn away from the world, but to understand the world as a whole by discovering traces of the divine in all that exists.

We too affirm that to cast one’s mind toward God is the chief task of all who aspire to wisdom. We undertake this task in our third core course, Philosophy of Being, and in our senior-level course on Philosophy of God. 

A life well-lived

“One who is just, … when he does anything, whether acquiring wealth, taking care of his body, engaging in politics, or in private contracts—in all of these, he believes that the action that preserves this inner harmony and helps to achieve it.”

In the Republic, Plato presents the philosopher as a captain guiding a ship through stormy seas, steering with one eye on eternal truth and the other on everyday life. These two realities, the divine and the human, come together when we realize our integrity is more important than our external accomplishments or possessions.

We study human beings and their integrity in our first two core courses, Philosophy and the Ethical Life and The Human Person, and in our senior-level course on Ethics. 

Professional success

“I say that a cultivated intellect, because it is a good in itself, brings with it a power and a grace to every work and occupation which it undertakes.”

In these words, St. John Henry Newman sums up the practical benefits of the “philosophical habit of mind” that, he argues, is the proper end of a university education. Similarly, Aristotle argues that the philosopher’s ability to give reasons and discern causes can, and often must, take a firm practical turn.

The ability to grasp and articulate principles informs the practical vision of the educated person. This ability is the difference between having only the 5,000-foot view of a task or problem and having the 30,000-foot view as well. Perhaps that’s why, in terms of mid-career earnings, philosophy majors outpace business majors nationwide.

The Philosophy Major at a Glance

“Some people will cross mountain and sea for money. So should you labor for wisdom.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

Philosophy and the Ethical Life; The Human Person; Philosophy of Being

Reading the great philosophers with their peers from other majors, students enter an exciting conversation that blends the perspectives of philosophy, literature, politics, theology, natural science, and so forth.

From Ancient to Medieval Philosophy; From Medieval to Modern Philosophy; From Modern to Postmodern Philosophy

Those who pursue advanced study through the Philosophy Major begin to search for the truth through a deeper study of what the great philosophers have said. In the dialogue of these thinkers with one another and with their contemporaries, aspects of the truth shine forth. 


Through the study of logic, students learn to assess the claims and arguments of others, and to craft precise claims and compelling arguments ourselves.

Contemporary Philosophical Approaches; Junior Seminar; Senior Seminar; Senior Thesis

In seminar discussions and individual tutorials with a professor, majors learn key philosophical skills: careful reading; respectful conversation; thoughtful assessment of historical and contemporary sources; cogent argument; and attractive, effective expression in writing and speech.  This training culminates in the Senior Thesis and the Senior Conference in Philosophy, in which students present their most mature philosophical work.

Majors must take at least one elective in philosophy, but many more are on offer. Popular choices include Aesthetics, Bioethics, Philosophy of Language, and Thought of John Paul II. The major also leaves plenty of room for electives in other subjects.