Our flexible and stimulating major and minor introduce you to the various areas of specialization within contemporary philosophy. You'll also study the major epochs of the Western philosophical tradition. While our program focuses on Western philosophy, we also provide numerous opportunities to study non-Western philosophical traditions.
Our small-class sizes and flexible program allow you to pursue your interests and tailor your experience to suit your goals. Since philosophy courses can be taken in any order, you can easily complement your philosophy degree with a second major. You'll be able to work closely with faculty through collaborative research, work-study opportunities and the development of a senior thesis.
The Department of Philosophy offers an undergraduate specialization in critical theory. Our critical theory curriculum consists of graduate and undergraduate courses taught by faculty across the humanities, including philosophy, communications, religious studies, English, economics, Emergent Digital Practices and Gender & Women’s Studies.
We host international scholars and present public lectures, seminars and other events open to the wider university and public. CAHSS also offers fellowships to both faculty and graduate students to fund summer study at The School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University; all CAHSS faculty and graduate students may apply.
Want to declare critical theory as your specialization? Download and return this form to the Assistant to the Chair in Sturm 266.
What is Critical Theory?
Critical theory seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them,” as Max Horkheimer writes. The concept of critique begins with the work of 18th and 19th century philosophers Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx, but was taken up in the 1920s by the Frankfurt School and expanded as a critique of cultural capitalism, fascism and the repression of desire. Critical theory was taken up again by later 20th century French theorists following similar and expanded aims. Today, critical theory has become even more broad in scope and includes a range of topical critiques of racial, gendered and colonial power structures.
Our Three Major Areas of Study
The specialization in critical theory within our department requires students to take at least one course in three major areas of critical theory at the undergraduate or graduate level.
- 19th Century Critical Theory, such as Freud, Kant and Nietzsche
- 20th Century Critical Theory, such as Adorno, Butler, Derrida and Du Bois
- Contemporary Topics in Critical Theory, such as Critical Race and Post-Colonial Theory, Queer Theory, and Structuralism and Post-Structuralism
The Department of Philosophy offers the Critical Theory Colloquium once a year.
Critical Theory Faculty
Christina R. Foust, associate professor in Communication Studies
Joshua Hanan, associate professor in Communication Studies
Darrin Hicks, professor in Communication Studies
Robert Urquhart, associate professor in Economics
Trace Reddell, associate professor in Emergent Digital Practices
W. Scott Howard, professor in English
Billy Stratton, associate professor in English
Lindsey Feitz, lecturer in Gender & Women's Studies
Thomas Nail, associate professor in Philosophy
Sarah Pessin, professor in Philosophy and Center for Judaic Studies
Jere Surber, professor in Philosophy
Sandra Dixon, associate professor in Religious Studies
Carl Raschke, professor in Religious Studies
- Progressive Geographies
- Verso Books
- Foucault News
- Foucault Studies
- Larval Subjects
- The Pinocchio Theory
- Critical Legal Thinking
- Reading Marx with David Harvey
- Critical Animal
- An und für sich
- Continental Philosophy
- John Protevi
- The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
- London Critical Summer Theory School
- The School of Criticism and Theory
Our department offers you the chance to graduate with distinction in the program by:
- earning a GPA of 3.85 or better for all the philosophy courses you take and an overall GPA of 3.4;
- taking at least 20 hours of philosophy courses at the 3000 level; and
- writing and defending an honor's thesis under the advisement of a Department of Philosophy faculty member.
Timeline for Earning a Distinction in Philosophy
- First quarter: Register for the program with the department.
- Second quarter: Choose a thesis adviser and begin work on your thesis proposal.
- Sixth week of the third quarter: Submit a formal written proposal that has been approved by the thesis adviser to the departmental honors adviser.
- Second quarter: Submit a complete draft of the thesis to the thesis adviser.
- Fifth week of the quarter in which the student plans to graduate: Submit the final version of the thesis to the adviser.
You must present an oral defense of your thesis before a committee of two to three faculty from our department and other appropriate ones. Other interested members of the faculty may attend and students may attend at the discretion of the candidate.
The oral exam will take place toward the end of the final quarter. The honors thesis fulfills the competency paper requirement for the philosophy major.
Earning Distinction Outside the Honors Program
You don't need to participate in the University Honors Program to earn a distinction in philosophy. However, students who are members of the University Honors Program must choose a major in which to achieve distinction and follow the above guidelines.
If you have any questions about honors in philosophy, contact Professor Candace Upton, director of the Department of Philosophy's Honors Program.