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Philosophy majors at Reed study the main branches of philosophy to think about the most difficult and enduring questions. Along with all Reed students, they first encounter some philosophy in Humanities 110, Reed’s yearlong first-year humanities course.

Majors learn the basic structure and types of thought and valid reasoning in the course on logic. In metaphysics, the study of categories of being, they ask, “What kind of being am I?” and “Are all the facts physical facts?” Students in epistemology examine the scope and limits of human knowledge: What can we know about the world around us on the basis of our experiences? How does what each of us perceive about others give us knowledge of their thoughts and feelings? Ethics is the study of how to live and what to do: Are our moral judgements relative? Are the consequences of our actions the only morally relevant factor in evaluating those actions?

Courses of interest to students of philosophy are also taught in the political science and mathematics departments, including Classical Political Philosophy, Modern Political Philosophy, Hegel and Marx, Judgment, and Mathematical Logic.

“What separates philosophy at Reed from programs at other schools is commitment on behalf of the professors to the students. When I visited Reed for the first time, I met and spoke with a professor for over 45 minutes—four years later, he’s now my thesis adviser.”AARON RAMCHARAN ’17

Professor profile

Professor Troy Cross

Metaphysics and Epistemology
photo of Professor Troy Cross

Although Professor Troy Cross knows more about metaphysics and epistemology than other subfields of philosophy, he thinks of himself simply as a philosopher. He says, “In philosophy, our problems and theories have a way of spilling into one another; very often insights in one area end up undermining what has been ‘built’ in an isolated subarea. Everything is vulnerable to everything.”

The divisions between subareas are real, he says, but shallow: “As any Reed student and colleague in philosophy will confirm, I am ‘up for’ any philosophical question at any time, provided the occasion promises spirited, rigorous, and honest investigation.” His recent courses include investigations into the philosophy of religion and the nature of color.

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Related Majors

Interdisciplinary Programs

Many students engage in cross-disciplinary majors:

  • Philosophy-Religion
  • Philosophy-Math
  • Philosophy-Physics
  • Philosophy-Psychology

Graduate Schools Most Frequently Attended by Reed Philosophy Alumni

• University of Chicago
• University of California, Berkeley
• Cornell University
• University of California, Los Angeles
• University of Washington
• Columbia University
• Lewis & Clark College
• New York University
• Yale University
• Harvard University
• University of Pittsburgh

What Do Alumni Do?

Clyde & Co
Ian Kidwell ’20

Amazon SEO Specialist
Diverse Marketing
Rita Vungsuntitum ’20

Philosophy and Mathematics Teacher
Great Hearts Academies
Rowen Veratome ’20

Health Advocate
Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Caitlin O’Brien-Carelli ’07

Larry Sanger ’91

Managing Partner
Blue Hill Partners, LLC
Joyce Ferris ’80