Undergraduate at St. George


Welcome to the Department of Philosophy on the St. George Campus of the University of Toronto. Here you can find information about undergraduate programs in philosophy (including bioethics).

⚠ If you are looking for information on undergraduate studies at the UTM or UTSC campuses, please visit their campus-specific sections:


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What is philosophy?

The word “philosophy” is derived from the Greek words for “love of wisdom”. Wisdom is thought to be an understanding of the ultimate principles of things.

Philosophy takes no belief for granted, but examines the grounds or foundations for those beliefs which make up people’s fundamental views of the world. Philosophers think about these beliefs as thoroughly and systematically as possible, using methods of conceptual analysis, reasoning, and detailed description. You can learn more about philosophy’s goals, branches, and methods on our What is Philosophy? page.

What can I do with a degree in philosophy?

Undergraduate philosophy has long been considered a central part of liberal education. It provides basic skills in logical thinking and analysis, familiarity with major moral outlooks and problems, and an overview of human existence and reality.

Philosophy, especially formal and informal logic, with their emphasis on argument, is an excellent preparation for law school. For a few, philosophy will be preparation for graduate study and teaching, and many organizations, including businesses, like to hire philosophy students because of their training in critical analysis and argumentation.

For a few, those interested in teaching will need to acquire a PhD in philosophy. This process takes four to five years, including two years of course work and a doctoral dissertation (a major piece of research and writing). Professional philosophers tend to find careers as university and community college teachers. Philosophers in the area of applied ethics, such as biomedical ethics, often find careers as clinical ethics consultants in hospitals and health care centres.

What high school preparation do I need for philosophy?

For most, philosophical study will begin in first year of university. Students who are interested in studying philosophy should apply to the humanities and social sciences program area on the St. George campus. This requires at least six senior high school credits, including English.

What should I do in first year?

Incoming students are encouraged to select one of the first-year courses, which are especially designed for students with no previous philosophical background. They include both lectures and small group discussions, and emphasis is placed on developing critical reading and writing skills. These courses are:

Introduction to Philosophy, PHL100Y1

An introduction to the central branches of philosophy, such as logic, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. Writings from the central figures in the history of Western and non-Western philosophy, as well as contemporary philosophers, may be considered.

Introduction to Philosophical Problems, PHL101Y1

An introduction to some of the central problems of philosophy. Examples of questions that may be considered include: What is sound reasoning? What can we know? What is ultimately real? Is morality rational? Do humans have free will? Is there a God? What is consciousness? Should we fear death? What is justice?

Philosophy programs

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Science do not choose their program of study until the end of first year or after the completion of four credits. If you want to focus your undergraduate studies in the area of philosophy, or are planning to do graduate work, you should enrol in the philosophy specialist program.

If you want to concentrate in philosophy, but either less intensively than those in the specialist program,or in conjunction with another topic, you should enrol in the major program.

If you want to study philosophy as part of your general education, or to supplement studies in a different area, you should enrol in the minor program.

Take a look at the Program Requirements page for detailed information on program fulfillment, course information, course groups, and more.

Bioethics program

The department sponsors a program in bioethics, which offers specialist, major and minor options, for those interested in this growing field.

Those planning to take the program should take PHL100Y in first year and PHL281H in second year. These courses are an introduction to the study of moral and legal problems in medical practice and in biomedical research and the development of health policy. Topics include: concepts of health and disease, patient rights, informed consent, allocation of scarce resources, euthanasia, abortion, genetic and reproductive technologies, human research, and mental health.

A more detailed summary of requirements and courses is available on the Program Requirements page.

Other programs of interest to philosophy students

Students who are interested in the scientific study of cognition and consciousness are encouraged to consider combining a philosophy program with a cognitive science program. For information on cognitive science, visit the Cognitive Science Program website.

You may also wish to supplement your philosophy program with a program offered in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.