Honors in Philosophy

Overview of Program

The philosophy major offers an honors program for seniors, in which a student writes an original thesis under the supervision of a faculty mentor. A student who successfully completes the honors program will graduate with honors in philosophy.

Students interested in applying to the honors program should contact the departmental Coordinator of Honors during the spring of junior year. The Coordinator of Honors will meet with interested students to determine eligibility and approve admission to the program.

Prerequisites for admission to the program are as follows:

  1. A major in philosophy
  2. A minimum 3.67 GPA in philosophy courses taken at Georgetown
  3. A minimum of six philosophy courses taken at Georgetown, at least three of which must be at the 200-level or above

In unusual circumstances, a student who does not meet the second and/or third requirement above may petition the Coordinator of Honors for an exception.

The honors thesis is designed to take a full academic year to complete. During the fall semester, the student takes a one-credit pass/fail research tutorial. At the end of that semester, the student submits a detailed thesis proposal to the Undergraduate Committee. In order to advance to the second stage of the program, the proposal must be approved by the Undergraduate Committee and the student must maintain good academic standing in their philosophy courses. The student then enrolls in a three-credit tutorial in the spring semester, during which the student will complete the writing of the thesis. The thesis must be defended at the end of the semester in front of a committee appointed by the Coordinator of Honors. If the thesis defense is successful, the student will receive honors in philosophy.

More information about the honors program is available from the current Coordinator of Honors, Professor Neil Lewis (lewisn@georgetown.edu).

Evaluation of Honors Theses Proposals

The Undergraduate Committee will look for a thesis proposal that accomplishes the aims indicated below, secures the thesis supervisor’s recommendation, and shows sufficient evidence that the thesis will be successfully completed during the following semester. The thesis proposal should be ten pages plus a one or two page bibliography and include a 100-word abstract. It is important to note that it is not a paper, but is a project description. In writing the thesis proposal, the student should:

  1. Clearly articulate at the outset the aim in the thesis project; that is, offer a direct statement of the thesis of the project. The project should go beyond a simple characterization of conflicting positions; it should articulate a philosophical claim that the student will defend.
  2. Explain the philosophical significance of the problem being taken on, and why the project promises to be a contribution to the topic.
  3. Briefly situate the student’s position with respect to the relevant literature.
  4. Summarize/outline the basic structure of the argument that the project will advance.
  5. Strive for conceptual clarity; i.e., define key terms, use examples to illuminate and illustrate central concepts so that anyone with a background in philosophy can understand the argument.
  6. Remember that the audience is philosophically sophisticated but not necessarily composed of specialists in the topic area.