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Department of Philosophy

Department of Philosophy, Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Department of Philosophy

Honors in Philosophy


Charles R. Lamb Design Sketch for Mosaic in Sage Chapel Honoring Arts and Sciences, 1900

Southeast Corner of Goldwin Smith Hall in Springtime

South Facade of Goldwin Smith Hall in Autumn


Goldwin Smith Hall on the Arts Quad, looking southeast, silver gelatin print circa 1909

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Honors in Philosophy

taughannock-180x270The pursuit of honors in philosophy affords students an opportunity in their senior year to undertake a specialized, in-depth research project under the supervision of a member of the Sage School faculty resulting in a substantial piece of written work, an honors essay. Honors are awarded to candidates upon completion of a satisfactory honors essay. Honors candidates typically devote two courses (8 credit hours) during their senior year to honors work. Students interested in pursuing honors should consult with their faculty advisors in their junior year. Application to pursue honors can be made in the Department of Philosophy office, 218 Goldwin Smith Hall.


Students interested in pursuing honors should normally have:

  • a GPA of at least 3.5 in the major
  • completed at least five courses in the department by the end of their third year (with at least one at the 3000 level or above)
  • done at least some coursework in the area in which they propose to write
  • identified an area
  • recruited an advisor

Admission to the honors thesis course is decided on a case by case basis by the student's proposed advisor in consultation with the DUS (Director of Undergraduate Studies) and faculty who have taught the student in the past. Some requirements may be waived for students in special circumstances. Students meeting the other requirements but unable to recruit an advisor should consult the DUS.

PHIL 4900/4901 and the Honors Essay 

In either or both semesters of the senior year a candidate for honors, with the permission of the faculty member who will supervise the honors project, enrolls in PHIL 4900/4901 and undertakes research leading to the writing of the honors essay by the end of the final semester. Honors students normally need to take both PHIL 4900 (fall) and 4901 (spring)  in their senior year to write a satisfactory honors essay. Neither PHIL 4900 nor 4901 counts toward the eight philosophy courses required for the major. 

Honors Awards

The decision to award  a degree in philosophy with honors (cum laude), high honors (magna cum laude), or highest honors (summa cum laude) is made by the faculty of the Sage School. The faculty  primarily considers  the quality of the honors essay, but may also give some weight to the student's overall academic record, record in philosophy, and performance in PHIL 4900/4901. Candidates whose honors essays are judged by the faculty not to merit the award of honors may, at the discretion of the faculty, be awarded a passing grade for PHIL 4900/4901.