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Best philosophy undergrad programs in the US?

himehhabyhimehhaby Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
edited September 2012 in College Search & Selection
Hi, I am currently a senior in high school.
I am trying to look for the best/top philosophy programs for undergraduate students.

So far, I think NYU, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Columbia have the best programs.
However, I noticed that some philosophy programs are geared towards a more logical perspective, in that the programs concentrate more on the mathematical/scientific side of philosophy. I am the exact opposite; I would like to study morality, ethics, and epistemology, even religion, of philosophy.

Could anyone give me some top colleges that is geared towards moral philosophy than logical philosophy?

Post edited by himehhaby on

Replies to: Best philosophy undergrad programs in the US?

  • phantasmagoricphantasmagoric Registered User Posts: 2,200 Senior Member
    Stanford has a large variety of foci in philosophy, outside of the logical foundations. Stanford also runs the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is probably the most used/famous internet resource in the field (when you google "Stanford philosophy," the encyclopedia comes up before the department does). Most of the professors in the department work outside mathematical logic.

  • liek0806liek0806 Registered User Posts: 3,316 Senior Member
    Most major research universities will have a strong program in Philosophy, and most of them will concentrate on language/logic/math/science. If your interests are in the other topics, I suggest browsing through any given school's major requirements and the real course offerings to get a sense of what a Philosophy major is like at X school.
  • NYU2013NYU2013 Registered User Posts: 1,780 Senior Member
    You can see specialty ranking breakdowns by department here:
    The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2011 :: Summary Of Rankings By Department

    I personally would go with NYU as my #1 choice (I'm obviously biased because I came to NYU for philosophy).

    You have a very interesting mix of schools on your list.

    Your have Harvard and Yale, but not Princeton? Princeton is one of the 'big boys' of philosophy. The 'big boys' include NYU (1), Oxford (2), Rutgers (3), Princeton (4).

    Both Harvard and Yale are a step below the four schools mentioned above (in terms of faculty).

    Hopkins is definitely an outlier, being 3 tiers lower than NYU or Princeton and 2 tiers lower than Harvard and Yale.

    Rankings can be seen here: The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2011 :: Overall Rankings
  • UMTYMP studentUMTYMP student Registered User Posts: 949 Member
    I believe University of Chicago is very good at continental philosophy and decently regarded overall. You would probably also enjoy Chicago's humanities core.
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 2,251 Senior Member
    Rutgers, U Pitt, Notre Dame all top departments, with different specialties.
  • MooreeanMooreean Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Given your interests, I think Upitt or Michigan or Wisconsin would be the best places for you, they easily are the cream of the crop of ethics and political philosophy in the US, with the exception of NYU and Princeton, although I feel like you wouldn't be getting bang for your buck there and the professors are not nearly as attentive to undergraduates.

    Note that, if you're going to do philosophy, you are going to learn logic eventually, it doesn't matter whether you do the most incredibly humanistic, touchy feely philosophy imaginable, it's going to be assigned because you must be capable of making rational argumentation and understanding philosophical research. I wouldn't worry that much though, you'll probably start to like logic once you are introduced to it more and more.
  • rjkofnovirjkofnovi Registered User Posts: 9,871 Senior Member
    Here are your top four U.S. schools by faculty:

    1 New York University 4.8

    2 Rutgers University , New Brunswick 4.5

    3 Princeton University 4.4

    4 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 4.3
  • goldenboy8784goldenboy8784 Registered User Posts: 1,698 Senior Member
    He was asking at the undergraduate level, in which case I would strongly recommend Brown,Columbia, Notre Dame, and Duke if the OP can't get admitted to HYPS. The top liberal arts colleges like Amherst, Williams, Pomona, and Swarthmore are great picks as well.
  • rjkofnovirjkofnovi Registered User Posts: 9,871 Senior Member
    Top U.S. Philosophy schools by faculty:

    1 New York University 4.8
    2 Rutgers University , New Brunswick 4.5
    3 Princeton University 4.4
    4 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 4.3
    24 Duke 3.1
    24 Ohio State 3.1

    Nice to see that goldenboy "strongly recommends" a department at Duke that is ranked merely "good" by it's peers for philosophy as opposed to "distinguished" in the case of NYU.
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Registered User Posts: 2,222 Senior Member
    The idea of ranking philosophy departments is hilarious. Is there like a ranking system for philosophers? What exactly was Socrates' admit rate? And how did Aristotle's pay compare with Kant's?
  • MooreeanMooreean Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    I think this (rj's post) is a bit misleading. leiter himself says that duke, amherst, etc are excellent schools to go to as an undergrad for phil, since if you want to get into a good graduate program, the things they look at are what many other grad schools look at, prestige of institution, grades, etc.

    If you want to take a very research oriented bent towards philosophy, then the PGR guide is a good guide (that's why I recommend pitt and mich and such). However, if you're aim is just to get a regular phil course and go to grad school in it or anything else, you ought to go with US News.
  • rjkofnovirjkofnovi Registered User Posts: 9,871 Senior Member
    "Hi, I am currently a senior in high school. I am trying to look for the best/top philosophy programs for undergraduate students."

    Sorry, I didn't realize that I was the one who was misleading the OP.
  • MooreeanMooreean Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    I don't think your intention was to mislead the OP, and I think the PGR should always be posted in a thread requesting help on choosing a phil grad program, *with qualification*.

    The reason being that the PGR doesn't even claim to be a ranking of the strongest graduate programs, let alone the strongest undergraduate programs. What it claims to rank is the strongest graduate *faculty*, as you mention in your own post. This is an important distinction because *faculty* quality is a ranking based on research, not teaching skill (many faculty at top schools do no teaching at all).

    An undergraduate at say, rutgers, is actually extremely unlikely to get into a top ranked pgr school (even rutgers itself!) for grad school. Evidence for this can be seen just by going to the website of any top graduate school, you will see most of the grad students hail from places like Harvard, Princeton, Amherst, and the standard US news fodder, that's precisely why Brian Leiter advises that undergraduates just go to top ranked undergrad schools if they want to maximize their chances of getting into grad school.
  • rjkofnovirjkofnovi Registered User Posts: 9,871 Senior Member
    Are not NYU and Michigan top ranked undergraduate schools Mooreean?
  • hevydevyhevydevy Registered User Posts: 275 Junior Member
    Oy vey. Listen guys, there is a special place on the Leiter report for undergrad:

    "Over the years, many high school students or their parents have contacted me to inquire how to use the Report with respect to choosing an undergraduate institution. The first point to make is that the focus of this Report is on graduate study only: Pittsburgh may have an outstanding philosophy department, but it might make more sense for a good student interested in philosophy to do his or her undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins or Amherst, where student-faculty ratios are more favorable, and where there is a stronger focus on undergraduate education. Many faculty at major departments did not do their undergraduate work at institutions with top-ranked PhD programs. The tenured faculty at Michigan, for example, includes folks who did undergraduate work at Wesleyan, Tulane, Oberlin, and John Carroll, among other places. The tenured faculty at Texas includes folks who did undergraduate work at Missouri, Michigan State, and UVA. There are eminent philosophers—who have held or now hold tenured posts at top ten departments—who did their undergraduate work at the University of New Mexico, Queens College (New York), and the University of Pittsburgh. It is possible to get good philosophical training in many undergraduate settings.

    High school students interested in philosophy would do best to identify schools that have strong reputations for undergraduate education first. Only then, should they look in to the quality of the philosophy department. Some ranked PhD programs have good reputations for undergraduate education, like Princeton, Yale, Brown and Rice, among many others. The larger universities (like Harvard or Michigan or Texas) tend to offer a more mixed undergraduate experience, largely due to their size. Since much of the teaching at those institutions will be done by graduate students, it pays to go to a school with a strong PhD program, since that will affect the intellectual caliber of teachers you will encounter.

    Among schools that do not offer the PhD or MA in philosophy, those with the best philosophy faculties would probably include: Amherst College, California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Reed College, University of Vermont, Western Washington University, and Wellesley College. The colleges in the Claremont system (Claremont-McKenna, Pomona etc.) have, collectively, excellent faculty resources for philosophy students as well. Needless to say, many other good liberal arts colleges and universities that only offer a B.A. have strong philosophy faculties (i.e., faculties doing philosophical work at the research university level) and offer good undergraduate programs. In general, when looking at the philosophy department of a liberal arts college or university without a graduate program, you should look at two things. (1) Does the department provide regular offerings in the history of philosophy (ancient, modern, Continental), formal logic, value theory (moral and political philosophy), and some combination of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. You will need courses in most of these areas to be adequately prepared for graduate study, not to mention to get a serious education in philosophy. (2) Where did the faculty earn their PhD? The majority of the faculty at any good department should have earned PhDs from well-ranked programs (as a rule of thumb, those in the top 50). If significant numbers of faculty earned their PhDs elsewhere, be wary. Some liberal arts colleges, even some very good ones, have philosophy faculties that are now pretty far on the margins of the discipline.

    You might also consider contacting the philosophy department at an undergraduate institution you are considering to inquire about where graduates have gone on for PhD study. A school like Reed sends more students on to top PhD programs than most universities with top twenty philosophy departments; that says something important about the quality of the philosophical faculty and curriculum. Amherst also provides interesting and impressive information about its alumni in academia: see https://cms.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/philosophy/alumni/alumni_in_philosophy. "

    Personally, Reed is just as high on my list with schools like Columbia and U of C for this reason alone. Reed will most likely send more grad students to Harvard than Harvard.


    Although, most "good" programs specialize in analytic, which is far from your "moral" philosophy. Of course you'll learn it, but you will be analyzing argument after argument. Also, if you plan on actually becoming a philosopher, good luck studying continental.
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