The Senior Essay

The senior essay (also called "the BA essay") is one of the requirements for students admitted to the intensive major.  Standard majors and philosophy and allied fields majors may also apply to write an essay.  Note that all majors will be required to meet with the ADUS at the end of their 3rd year to review their program of study and discuss the possibility of writing the senior essay.

Students writing a BA essay will have the supervision of two Philosophy Department faculty: the Director of Undergraduate Studies (in the Senior Seminar) as well as the primary faculty advisor to the project.  Students may write their senior essay on any topic in philosophy they choose, provided they can secure the agreement of a member of the Philosophy Department to supervise their work. In recent years, topics have included: omniscience and free will, the expression of emotion in music, Aristotle's ethics, the nature of coercion, Wittgenstein's legacy, the idea of authenticity, the philosophy of Michel Foucault, the role of context in shaping linguistic meaning, Kierkegaard on irony, and dualism about the mental. There is no length requirement.

The Senior Seminar serves as a forum in which BA essay writers gather for presentation and mutual criticism of their work in progress.  The course, under the supervision of the Director of Undergraduate Studies and graduate-student preceptors, meets the entire academic year, and participation in all three quarters is required for all senior essay writers.  Participants register for the course as Senior Seminar I and II in two of these three quarters, and receive College credit for both courses.  For intensive majors, both credits will count toward their 13 required Philosophy courses.  Standard majors (and philosophy and allied field majors) will receive College credit for both courses, but only one of these will count toward their 10 required Philosophy courses. (In other words, a standard-track major who writes a BA essay ends up taking 11, rather than 10, PHIL courses.) All senior essay writers receive a single grade for both courses based upon their work on the B.A. essay.

Students writing a BA essay in Philosophy are normally expected to have maintained a GPA of 3.25 in their Philosophy courses (this is the minimum GPA for departmental honors in Philosophy).  Students should submit, along with their application to write a BA, a record of their grades in the College. If a student who wishes to write a BA in Philosophy has a GPA in Philosophy courses below 3.25, they should also submit a petition in writing to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

BA Essay APPLICATIONS are due middle of Spring Quarter.  Applications are available from the shelves outside the Philosophy Department office (Stuart 202) as well as on the wiki (accessible only by current undergraduates).