American Catholic Philosophical Association Issues Statement Defending Philosophy

The American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA) has issued a public statement defending the role of philosophy in higher education. It is a response to a perceived increase in threats to the existence of philosophy programs and presence of philosophy requirements in curricula at colleges and universities, especially Catholic ones.

While directed at administrators and faculty at Catholic institutions of higher education, and written (reasonably, given its aims) with some language and presuppositions non-Catholic philosophers might bristle at, the document contains a number of points that may be worth drawing attention to not just when one’s department or curriculum is in jeopardy, but proactively, to forestall such attacks.

You can read the statement here.

Of particular interest may be the ACPA’s recommendation of what a philosophy requirement for all undergraduates at a Catholic college of university should look like:

  • Classes for each of the four years of a student’s college career so that students can benefit from philosophical integration at each stage of their development; philosophy is the only core subject to which students typically receive no exposure prior to a college or university education; this is therefore a unique opportunity to develop a lifelong habit of reflection.
  • A sequence of four or more courses that build upon each other so that students experience the satisfaction of higher-level philosophical thinking
  • Courses covering central philosophical areas, such as metaphysics, natural theology, epistemology and logic, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of nature, ethics, and the history of philosophy
  • Upper level courses that may relate to the student’s major, such as philosophy of language for English majors or philosophy of science for science majors

Does anyone know of schools which require four philosophy courses of all of their undergraduates?

(Thanks to Thomas Osborne and Chad Engelland for bringing this to my attention.)

University of Luxembourg Philosophy
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5 years ago

Most Catholic colleges and universities require philosophy courses for all undergraduates. Historically, that number was in some cases as high as six classes over four years–effectively a philosophy minor for all students. However, this level of commitment has eroded such that the range of requirements at Jesuit Colleges and Universities ranges from a low of one course for all undergraduates to a high of, I believe, three courses for all undergraduates (Gonzaga). [EDIT: Belay that, I just checked and while I know that in recent history Gonzaga was at four courses for all undergraduates–as I applied for a job there–it appears it is now down to two.]

The latest threat to this historical commitment to philosophical education is the turn of core curricula to “skills” based requirements. In some cases, students no longer need to take, for example, a course in philosophy, taught by a philosopher, but rather a course in “ethics and justice,” which might be taught through the political science department, the sociology department, or the school of business. Thus, the current commitment to philosophy at Jesuit Colleges and Universities of one to four philosophy courses for all undergraduates is in some cases further diluted by instances in which some of those courses need not be genuinely philosophical.

So, yes, some colleges and universities do require philosophy for all undergraduates–namely, the Jesuit colleges and universities (Boston College, Fordham, Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount, etc.). Unfortunately, the philosophy requirements at even these schools–which have both historical and mission-based reasons to remain committed to philosophy–are increasingly under attack and likely to continue to erode.

Reply to  Brian
5 years ago

I remember my years at Loyola U Chicago, and everyone was required to take 16 hours of philosophy, so technically graduated with a minor in philosophy. But those were the old days. I think LU now requires 9 hours, so only 3 courses, but I may be wrong and they require 12 hours, 4 courses.

5 years ago

I believe the University of Dallas still requires four philosophy courses for all undergraduates, three in a basic sequence and the fourth class relating to a student’s major. (This may have changed since I attended a few years ago.)

5 years ago

The Catholic University of America still seems to require four courses for all BA seeking students in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Brian Kemple
5 years ago

My own undergraduate institution–the short-lived Southern Catholic College in Georgia–began in its first two years of classes requiring four philosophy courses; subsequently reduced to three. Not coincidentally, a dramatically higher percentage of students in the first two years became philosophy majors.