The philosophy option provides students with a broad education in philosophy that is designed to complement the scientific curriculum at Caltech. Students who pursue the philosophy option will be expected to learn about some of the major figures and movements in the history of philosophy, as well as to gain familiarity with contemporary philosophical debates. The philosophy option also aims to provide students with new perspectives on the material they learn in their science courses, and to enable them to bring their technical skills and scientific learning to traditional problems in philosophy.
The philosophy curriculum will help students to acquire the basic tools of philosophical analysis: the ability to read and interpret philosophical texts; the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses of philosophical arguments; the ability to develop well-reasoned defenses of philosophical positions; and the ability to anticipate objections to one's own views. In addition, the philosophy option will train students to express themselves clearly and concisely in both writing and speaking. These critical thinking and communication skills provide an excellent foundation for any intellectual endeavor and are critical to those pursuing careers in fields such as law, business, medicine, and scientific research.
The courses in the philosophy option concentrate on three major areas: philosophy of science; philosophy of mind, brain, and behavior; and ethics. In their coursework, students discuss and debate philosophical issues in small groups and learn how to offer and receive constructive criticism. Students write a thesis in their senior year, when they will pursue more intensive research in a particular area of philosophy while working one-on-one with a member of the philosophy faculty.
The minor in philosophy is designed for students who want to pursue concentrated study in philosophy without the extensive coursework and the senior thesis required by the philosophy option.