The Senior Essay (or “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 Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies at the end of their third 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 departmental faculty: the Director of Undergraduate Studies (who generally leads 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 departmental faculty member 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. The BA essay should be between 15 and 25 pages long.
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 (or sometimes another faculty member) and graduate student preceptors, meets the entire academic year. Participation in all three quarters is required for all senior essay writers.
Academic Honors and Awards
Special Departmental Honors: The requirements for Honors include a 3.25 GPA in Philosophy courses, an "A" on the BA Essay, and, in addition, the department's recommendation. Details may be obtained from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
The Lee Essay Prize: Two awards are given to the best essay each year in practical and theoretical philosophy. The most recent recipients in 2017-18 were Lauren Richardson and Rajiv Hurhangee.
The Manley Thompson Book Prize: Every student who writes a Senior Essay and receives departmental honors will receive a book chosen by faculty with whom they have worked.
Oliver Cromwell Cox and Ernest Everett Just Award: The Office of the Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues awards annually a $500 prize to an undergraduate senior thesis recommended for departmental honors. The prize-winning thesis must best exemplify the aspirations and achievements of Oliver Cromwell Cox and Ernest Everett Just, graduates of the Division of Social Sciences and the Division of Biological Sciences, respectively. In recognition of the distinct areas of study of the named honorees, college-honors-level theses from all disciplines are eligible for nomination. See Cox-Just Prize for details.