[For additional information on Philosophy at UC Merced, please visit the Philosophy website.]
The minor in Philosophy provides students with an understanding of the principles, methods, and areas of application of contemporary philosophy. Philosophers study conceptual questions within and between the humanities, arts and sciences: What is art? What is justice? What is the relation between mind and brain? Philosophy at UC Merced combines a traditional curriculum with an emphasis on these interdisciplinary linkages. Because of this, students should be able to use their training in philosophy to complement their other coursework and to identify connections between their various areas of study.
Program Learning Outcomes
Upon graduation, we expect students minoring in Philosophy to have gained experience in and be capable of doing each of the following:
- Criticize philosophical arguments, including arguments presented in classic texts and in contemporary philosophical literature.
- Present well-defined claims of one's own, to give clear philosophical arguments in defense of these claims, and to respond to critical objections others might raise against these claims.
- Distinguish between logically valid and invalid deductive arguments, and be able to identify additional premises or logical relationships that could transform an invalid argument into a valid argument.
- Use philosophy in an interdisciplinary way, for example, by philosophically analyzing non-philosophical texts (e.g. texts from literature, history, psychology, or physics), or by using formal methodological tools, such as mathematical and computer models, in the analysis of philosophical problems.
Additionally, we expect students minoring in Philosophy to have gained experience in and be capable of doing at least two of the following:
- Provide and assess evidence for causal claims and identify various fallacies in inductive reasoning (e.g. sample bias)
- Distinguish between descriptive and normative philosophical claims, and to use certain descriptive claims either to support or to criticize certain normative claims.
- Appreciate how the discipline of philosophy has developed over time in response to internal challenges and to advances in science and changes in social life. (E.g., the renaissance in philosophy of mind was stimulated in part by the development of contemporary artificial intelligence).
See the Curriculum Map to see the coherency between the Program Learning Outcomes and our course offerings.
Each year, we assesses the learning experiences of students inour program to ensure that students are building the necessary skills and knowledge-base in this discipline. The assessments allow our program to engage in continued creative and visionary curriculum and instruction approaches that ensure students are exposed to rigorous undergraduate training. Every discipline has a unique assessment schema and set of student performance benchmarks, reflecting the priorities of the discipline.
From the 2012-2013 program assessment, we examined how well the students use philosophy in an interdisciplinary way (Program Learning Outcome 4). The student population sampled (N=14) included only students minoring in Philosophy. The students were tested on this PLO with a quiz delivered in-class but without the quiz tied to the students overall grade in the class.
We found that 71% of the students achieved “Proficiency” or better for the PLO. Specifically, we asked students open-ended questions that were then scored by faculty members including prompts like these:
- Elaborate on how you have used philosophy to analyze a problem in another field.
- Elaborate on how tools or ideas from the discipline of philosophy have influenced how you read news articles or view news programs.
We also assessed this PLO by surveying feedback for the same group of students about their ability with this PLO. 50% of the students reported that prior to studying at UC Merced, they had “not much ability.” At the point of completing the quiz 100% of the students reported that they have “moderate ability” or better for performing on this PLO.
While we are pleased that 100% of students reported “moderate ability” or better, the results from the quizzes only reached our expectation for student performance at a rate of 71% when our program goal was 80% for this PLO. However, the degree requirements allow students to choose any four upper division PHIL courses (aside form the required PHIL 1 and PHIL 5) -- these degree requirements do not ensure that our students receive interdisciplinary training in courses where interdisciplinarity is of greater focus (i.e. PHIL 110 and PHIL 111). Students suggested that class discussions, lectures, study groups, and internships could promote their ability to use philosophy in an interdisciplinary way. These are reasonable suggestions that will be considered as we move forward as a program. Going forward, we will revise our tool for testing students on PLO 4, considering the motivation factor for students to perform their best on the tool utilized to sample direct evidence.
Graduates from the Philosophy program are working in a variety of professional settings including as administrators in medical companies. One now works as a Washington correspondent with a talk radio station. We congratulate our graduates in their after-college endeavors. If you have an alumni update to share, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations so we can share your success!