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California State University, Long Beach
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Student Learning Objectives

The philosophy program at CSULB is the primary agency of the university in providing instruction in logic, critical thinking, and ethics. Our curriculum is central in the General Education “Humanities” category. Philosophical training is intrinsically valuable but also exposes GE students to a discipline that fosters skill at developing and sustaining an argument, that is, a reasoned attempt to justify a claim that looks for alternatives to the obvious or widely-accepted view, that examines deep issues that divide claims by seeking underlying principles, and that distinguishes what is significant from what is not. Philosophy students are expected to express their ideas and arguments in written form, and we expect to improve their analytical writing skills. Philosophical discussions in the classroom are expected to foster listening and speaking skills and to provide practice at exploring, defending, and criticizing ideas and claims with others. Students are expected to become familiar with some of the major figures and schools of thought in the philosophical tradition, and to develop an appetite for further study and learning.

Students completing a B.A. in Philosophy are expected to achieve learning outcomes in the following four primary areas:

  1. Symbolic Logic
  2. History of Philosophy and History of Ideas
  3. Metaphysics and Epistemology
  4. Values and Evaluation

Learning Outcomes are further subdivided within these four areas as follows:

  1. Symbolic Logic
    • Knowledge of the formal techniques of evaluating arguments and deductive systems
  2. History of Philosophy and History of Ideas
    • Knowledge of western philosophers, major movements, issues and philosophical systems of the ancient world
    • Knowledge of western philosophers, major movements, issues and philosophical systems of the medieval era
    • Knowledge of western philosophers, major movements, issues and philosophical systems of the medieval era
    • Knowledge of western philosophers, major movements, issues and philosophical systems of the early modern era
    • Knowledge of western philosophers, major movements, issues and philosophical systems of the modern era
    • Knowledge of non-western philosophers and philosophical systems
  3. Metaphysics and Epistemology
    • Knowledge of major movements and issues of philosophy of religion
    • Knowledge of major philosophical movements and issues in ontology and causality
    • Knowledge of major philosophical movements and issues in meaning and theories of knowledge
    • Knowledge of current developments and issues in philosophy of mind and language

    4. Values and Evaluation

        • Knowledge of ethical theory
        • Knowledge of ways in which ethical theory is applied to specific disciplines and/or issues, including:
          • Business
          • Sciences
          • Medicine
          • Technology
          • Feminism and gender issues
          • Philosophy of law
          • Political philosophy
          • Philosophy in literature
          • Philosophy of art
          • Philosophy in education.

Learning Outcomes Competencies

Students completing a B.A. in Philosophy should achieve the following competencies:

1. Ability in critical thinking skills. This skill is carried through all Philosophy courses at lower and upper division levels. (See curriculum grid for specific classes assigned specific learning outcomes).

2. Understanding of concepts of right, wrong, good and bad; understanding of moral principles and their application in everyday life. These skills are largely, but not exclusively, applied in our Values and Evaluation classes, particularly Ethics and Applied Ethics classes and our Philosophy of Law classes. (Again, see curriculum grid).

2. Ability to read and interpret philosophical texts. This skill is acquired in all of our lower and upper division Philosophy classes. Reading texts and interpreting them is fundamental to all of our Philosophy classes. Each class uses a combination of what could be called ‘ur-texts’, or original texts by the prime movers of philosophy, combined with text books and other literature as assigned. One of the principal concerns of our faculty is to make sure that students in the Philosophy major have a meaningful intellectual encounter with original texts in the field in each of the three sub-disciplines cited elsewhere in the report.

3. Ability to recognize, express, and analyze arguments in philosophical texts. This is a crucial skill. Students must be able to extract arguments from philosophical texts. In upper division classes across each of our three sub-disciplines of History/History of Ideas, Metaphysics/Epistemology, and Values/Evaluation, faculty teach strategies and methods for extracting arguments from texts.

4. Ability to summarize and explain difficult ideas and concepts. This goes hand in hand with the previous competency. It is achieved through analysis and critical thinking and student practice in class discussions, presentations, and argumentation. This happens in all upper division classes in the major.

5. Ability in writing that reflects careful attention to language, logic, and subtleties of reasoning. The Philosophy major is writing intensive. Students are taught skills as to how to write succinctly, clearly, thoroughly, probingly. Writing assignments are prevalent in our History and Values sub-disciplines. Our 400 level Philosophical Psychology, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, and Special Topics in Metaphysics courses are also writing intensive.

6. Ability to write philosophical essays that have coherent theses and reasonable supporting arguments.

7. Ability to understand reality from different perspectives and thus to understand that different people will define issues in different ways. This competency is especially relevant in our Values and Evaluation courses, which includes our Ethics classes as well as Philosophy of Art and Philosophy of Law classes.

8. Ability in research methodology. Research methodology includes learning to utilize the resources available at libraries for conducting philosophical research. It also involves learning the discipline standard for citation and bibliographies, abstracts and prospectus writing. Most importantly, research methodology helps students understand how to pick an appropriate topic, in subject and length, for various philosophical projects, including papers, presentations, and theses. This competency applies in upper division Philosophy classes especially where deeper research into a particular topic is required.

Moreover, the Philosophy program develops in students a sense of the value and limits of philosophy, a reflective attitude and sensitivity to the subtleties and complexities of philosophical judgments and a life-long commitment to learning and inquiry.

In the Undergraduate Honors Program, students learn how to conduct research and write a substantive thesis paper under the supervision of a tenure/tenure track faculty member.