Philosophy Major: Political and Legal Philosophy Option (B.A.)

Philosophy Major: Political and Legal Philosophy Option (B.A.)
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What is the political and legal philosophy option?

The political and legal philosophy option in the philosophy degree program is designed for students who are interested in specializing in the systematic study of fundamental philosophical questions regarding politics, law and justice and how they apply to contemporary issues. This option allows you to specialize your philosophy major by studying topics such as the nature of justice, limits of state power, balancing liberty and equality, capitalism vs. socialism, authoritarian challenges to democracy, fascism and antifascism, privacy, freedom of expression, police ethics, racial and gender injustice, immigration, and other issues at the interface of ethics, justice, law and states.

Why study political and legal philosophy at UNH?

Our internationally renowned professors emphasize discussion, debate and writing. As a lively and nurturing faculty personally invested in the success of our high achieving students, we take pride in watching our graduates go on to excel in top law schools, elite graduate programs and prestigious positions from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Wrestling with big questions prepares our students exceptionally well for highly successful careers. We train you how to think clearly, argue, write and respond collegially to counterarguments. Philosophy is one of the highest scoring majors for the LSAT and GMAT as well as for career earnings.

Potential Careers

  • Business professional
  • Ethicist Healthcare professional
  • Lawyer Policy professional Politician
  • Professor Teacher
  • Technology professional
  • Writer

Curriculum & Requirements

The political and legal philosophy option in the philosophy major gives students interested in politics, law and justice the opportunity to focus their philosophy major courses around their interests in a systematic and rigorous way. Philosophy has long been a major for high-achieving students interested in law, and our graduates are admitted regularly to top law schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, University of Chicago, NYU and Duke, among others. We are also a home for UNH students interested and active in political philosophy. Our faculty members have considerable expertise in both political and legal philosophy, with some serving on UNH's pre-law advisory committee.

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: Yes

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

Students must fulfill the requirements of the philosophy major plus the requirements of the option. Majors must take a minimum of ten (10) philosophy courses, for a total of 40 credits. A single course can satisfy multiple requirements for the major. The required minimum overall GPA in major coursework is 2.00 and the minimum grade for all courses counting toward the major is a "C-."  Candidates for a degree must satisfy additional University requirements for graduation, such as: 

  1. University "Writing Intensive" Requirements,
  2. Philosophy majors must satisfy the language requirement for the B.A., as a part of their liberal arts education.  See the UNH Advising Handbook for how students may satisfy this requirement.  Students who would like to satisfy this requirement with a language not offered by COLA (such as American Sign Language) should speak with their advisor about how to petition for an exception,
  3. minimum number of credits (128 credits for B.A. degree), and
  4. University Discovery Requirements.

Consult with your adviser early and often to plan the optimal path for fulfilling major and University requirements. 

Core Requirements
PHIL 412Beginning Logic4
PHIL 500Workshop4
PHIL 530Ethics4
PHIL 570Ancient Philosophy4
PHIL 580Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant4
Electives 1
Select three (3) additional philosophy courses of the student's choice.12
Discovery Capstone Requirement
Select two (2) 700-level philosophy courses (excluding PHIL 795, PHIL 798, and PHIL 799) of the student's choice, at least one of these should be taken in the senior year8
Total Credits40

PHIL 495 Tutorial Reading and PHIL 795 Independent Study normally do not count toward fulfilling major requirement credits; exceptions may be granted by special permission.

Political and Legal Philosophy Option Requirements

This option requires four philosophy courses (for a total of 16 credits) from those listed below. Students may “double count” these courses toward the general requirements of the philosophy major, for example, by counting three of these courses as the elective courses required for the major.

Select four of the following courses:16
PHIL 405
Critical Thinking
PHIL 419
Race, Gender and Social Justice
PHIL 420
Introduction to Philosophy of Law and Justice
PHIL 424
The Future of Humanity: Science, Technology, and Society
PHIL 430
Ethics and Society
PHIL 431
Business Ethics
PHIL 436
Social and Political Philosophy
PHIL 450
Environmental Ethics
PHIL 510
Philosophy and Feminism
PHIL 531
Topics in Professional and Business Ethics
PHIL 620
20th Century European Philosophy
PHIL 630
Neuroscience and Philosophy
PHIL 660
Law, Medicine, and Ethics
PHIL #701
Topics in Value Theory (by permission)
PHIL 780
Special Topics (by permission)

Note that it is in the nature of 700-level seminars to presuppose by default that students have completed the main 400-level and 500-level core requirements (PHIL 412 Beginning Logic, PHIL 500 Workshop, PHIL 530 Ethics, PHIL 570 Ancient Philosophy, PHIL 580 Modern Philosophy from Descartes to Kant) and so free reference is made to materials, views, techniques, etc. covered in those lower-level core requirements.

Discovery Requirements

For students majoring in only philosophy: philosophy majors may "double count" any two courses toward the major and also to satisfy Discovery requirements. For example, a philosophy major can count (1) PHIL 412 Beginning Logic toward the major requirement as well as using this course to satisfy the Quantitative Reasoning Discovery Category and (2) they can also count PHIL 421 Philosophy and the Arts toward both the major and the Fine and Performing Arts Discovery Category. Because PHIL 412 Beginning Logic and PHIL 570 Ancient Philosophy are required for the major and also satisfy Quantitative Reasoning and Humanities Categories, respectively, all majors could simply count these two courses toward their Discovery requirements. In various circumstances—for instance if a student already satisfied those Discovery requirements before becoming a philosophy major—one might prefer to count other philosophy courses toward different Discovery Categories, and they are free to do so.

For students double majoring with philosophy: The Department sets no limits on how many courses students may "double count" toward both the philosophy major and Discovery categories if philosophy is your second major. A double major with philosophy as the second major could in principle count any of the following courses toward the major while satisfying five Discovery Categories:

  1. Quantitative Reasoning (QR) Discovery Category could be satisfied by PHIL 412 Beginning Logic.
  2. Fine and Performing Arts (FPA) Discovery Category could be satisfied by PHIL 421 Philosophy and the Arts.
  3. Humanities (HUMA) Discovery Category could be satisfied by PHIL 401 Introduction to PhilosophyPHIL 405 Critical ThinkingPHIL #405W Critical ThinkingPHIL 410 Happiness, Well-Being , and a Good LifePHIL 419 Race, Gender and Social Justice, PHIL #419W Race, Gender and Social Justice, PHIL 420 Introduction to Philosophy of Law and Justice,  PHIL 430 Ethics and SocietyPHIL 431 Business Ethics, PHIL 436 Social and Political PhilosophyPHIL 440A Honors/Who Are You? Personal Identity and Humanity, PHIL 440B Honors/Who's Human Now?PHIL 510 Philosophy and Feminism, PHIL 525 ExistentialismPHIL 531 Topics in Professional and Business Ethics, or PHIL 570 Ancient Philosophy.
  4. World Cultures (WC) Discovery Category could be satisfied by PHIL 440C Honors/The Copernican Lens: Finding a Place for Humanity or PHIL 520 Introduction to Eastern Philosophy.
  5. Environment, Technology, and Society (ETS) Discovery Category could be satisfied by PHIL 424 The Future of Humanity: Science, Technology, and Society, PHIL 435 Human Nature and Evolution, PHIL 447 Artificial Intelligence, Robots, and People, or PHIL 450 Environmental Ethics.

UNH philosophy majors acquire the ability to think systematically and imaginatively about fundamental and enduring issues such as morality, justice, happiness, beauty, gender, race, nature, artificial intelligence, space, time, and the meaning of life and death. Our internationally-renowned professors emphasize discussion, debate and writing in our courses. Wrestling with the “big questions” from diverse and global perspectives prepares students exceptionally well for a variety of fulfilling careers. Cultivating a lively and nurturing community personally invested in the success of our high achieving students, we take pride in watching our graduates excel in top law and graduate schools, innovative social justice programs, and various positions from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

More concretely, we monitor the following learning objectives.

  • Students understand major philosophers and philosophical ideas accurately.
  • Students apply their understanding of ideas in novel contexts.
  • Students write effectively.
  • Students speak effectively.
  • Students argue with depth, precision, balance, and insight.
  • Students understand the formal structure of arguments and understand rules of inference.
  • Students read analytically, critically, and empathetically.
  • Students critically assess their own preconceptions, commitments and ideas.

The main way we oversee student progress is through close mentorship, early on in our 2nd year orientation designed for new majors (PHIL 500 Workshop), and culminating in their presentation of research in two required 700-level seminars. We also strongly encourage participation in the annual Philosophy Department Undergraduate Research Conference.


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