Degree type(s): Bachelor's; Minor
Degree field(s): Philosophy; Humanities
Location(s): Bismarck, ND

Philosophy Degree Program Overview 

Philosophy is the love for and pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom involves understanding the answers to philosophical questions. Philosophical questions include the most important and fundamental questions that humans ask: Who and what am I? Am I free? What is there? Is there a God? How should I live? How should we live together? Can I even know the answers to these questions? 

We all operate with answers to these questions whether we have explicitly considered the questions or not. Yet have we answered them well or poorly? To discover true answers to these perennial and difficult questions requires the development of a philosophical habit of mind. Such a habit of mind enables clear understanding of concepts, informed judgment, and logical reasoning. In short, it enables you to think well.   

Thinking well is an asset for any job. Further, the kind of thinking that philosophy develops contributes to higher performance on the many standardized tests that involve analytic and synthetic reasoning. Even so, the questions that philosophy engages are worth studying and seeking to answer for their own sake. Here is a helpful website by a philosopher about the practical value of a philosophical habit of mind.   

Above all, the goal of a philosophy education is to help you to live well and become wise. Education in philosophy helps you to order the various subject matters of an undergraduate education into a unified understanding. By engaging great ideas and fostering reflection, philosophy sharpens and enlarges our minds. It helps us to form a comprehensive view of the world and our place in it. At the University of Mary, every student will take at least two philosophy courses because it is a crucial component to a liberal arts education

Philosophical study plays an essential role at our Christian, Catholic, and Benedictine institution because of its commitment to the harmony of faith and reason and its support for the pursuit of philosophical truth for its own sake. Philosophy at the University of Mary reinforces our commitment to the Catholic intellectual tradition, which affirms the potential of the mind to discover and increasingly understand true answers to philosophical questions.

In the philosophy department, we contribute to the University of Mary’s mission to educate for life by cultivating a philosophical habit of mind, which is essential for living wisely, and offering a fellowship of students and faculty who are joyfully committed to discovering and deepening our understanding of the truth.

While studying philosophy at the University of Mary, you can:

  • Join our philosophical community in lively discussion at our philosophy colloquium
  • Receive preparation for Seminary or graduate study (particularly in Philosophy, Theology, English, and Law)
  • Study the relation between faith and reason and philosophy and theology
  • Study the history of philosophy in order to understand the history of ideas and avoid contemporary myopia
  • Enhance an existing major with a double-major in philosophy, which readily combines with most of our degree programs (e.g., Theology, English, Catholic Studies, Engineering)

Major in Philosophy (34 credits):

PHI Class Credits
108 Search for Truth 3
202 Logic 3
308 Ethics 3
310 Philosophy of the Human Person 3
372 Metaphysics 3
489 Philosophy Senior Capstone 1
150-450 Philosophy Colloquium 0

Plus 6 credits in the History of Philosophy:

PHI Class Credits
230 Ancient Philosophy 3
315 Medieval Philosophy 3
320 Modern Philosophy 3
406 Contemporary Philosophy 3
Plus 12 other philosophy credits, of which no more than 6 may be lower division. 

Minor in Philosophy (21 credits):

PHI Class Credits
108 Search for Truth 3
202 Logic 3
308 Ethics 3
310 Philosophy of the Human Person 3
372 Metaphysics 3

Plus an additional 6 credits in philosophy. No more than 3 credits may be lower-division.

Courses Required for the Major & Minor

PHI 108: Search for Truth

This course explores the very nature of truth itself. It provides a forum in which the most pressing questions of the human mind and heart are discussed and analyzed.  Students will be introduced to the great minds of history, the questions they raised, the challenges they resolved, and how their answers help us to understand the meaning and purpose of life. By joining in the search for truth, students will learn to develop well-reasoned positions on enduring philosophical questions.

PHI 202: Logic

The study and practice of sound reasoning, both deductive and inductive. Formal and informal fallacies are also considered.

PHI 308: Ethics

A study of the components of the moral life and its relation to human happiness. Topics may include objective goods, values, obligation, conscience, virtues and vices, and the norms for moral decision-making. It includes an analysis of major ethical systems, such as utilitarianism and deontology, from the perspective of the teleological systems of Aristotle and Aquinas.

PHI 310: Philosophy of the Human Person

A study of the human person. Topics may include some of the following: human knowledge, emotions, human reason, the nature of the human soul and its relation to the body, the immortality of the soul, free will, and others.

PHI 372: Metaphysics

An examination of being as such, culminating in a study of the first or ultimate causes and principles of all things.  Specific topics may include: the transcendental properties of being, act and potency, essence and existence, time, contingency and immortality, the existence of God, and divine attributes.

PHI 150-450: Philosophy Colloquium

Students will meet to discuss readings, student projects, faculty projects, or hear lectures by guest speakers on philosophical topics.

PHI 489: Philosophy Senior Capstone

Students continue to develop and refine skills in philosophical analysis and criticism through writing and presenting an advanced philosophical essay.  (Note: Students planning to pursue graduate studies are encouraged to complete their capstone project the Fall Semester of their senior year.) Prerequisites: Instructor’s approval. Not required for Philosophy Minors.

History of Philosophy

PHI 230: Ancient Philosophy

This course studies the major themes and figures at the beginning of Western philosophy. It may include a discussion of the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans, the Stoics, and Neo-Platonism; topics may include human nature, the nature of reality, and human life.

PHI 315: Medieval Philosophy

This course examines the continuation of Western philosophy in the medieval period. Central figures may include St. Augustine, Boethius, St. Anselm, and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others.  Possible topics are faith and reason, free will, the problem of universals, and the existence of God. A discussion of Islamic and Jewish influences in Western philosophy may also be included.

PHI 320: Modern Philosophy

Analysis of the major philosophical movements in the modern period. Figures may include Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Hegel.

PHI 406: Contemporary Philosophy

A study of recent philosophical developments from Hegel through Nietzsche and the present period. Topics may include:  existentialism, pragmatism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and personalism. Philosophical foundations for influential figures such as Freud, Weber, Foucault, and Derrida may also be addressed.

Additional Philosophy Courses

PHI 313: Business Ethics

Analysis of ethical issues arising in business. Topics may include the moral implications of various economic systems (e.g., free enterprise; socialism); the basis for just compensation; work place climate and culture; and the purpose of business in relation to other human ends and needs. Prerequisites: PHI 208/308 strongly recommended.

PHI 317: Political Philosophy I

The first of two courses designed to give an overview of the history of political theory. Topics may include the Greek and Roman understandings of justice and the best regime; the impact of the rise of the Church on political philosophy; and the revival of classical political thought in the early Renaissance. Such figures as Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Machiavelli, may be included.  Also cross-listed as POL 317.

PHI 318: Political Philosophy II

The second of two courses designed to give an overview of the history of political philosophy after the Renaissance to contemporary times. Topics may include sovereignty, the social contract, the political philosophy of German idealism, utilitarianism, and various conceptions of modern liberal democracy. Central figures such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Rawls, may be covered. (Note: PHI 317 is not required in order to take this class.) Also cross-listed as POL 318.

PHI 331: Philosophy of Science

A study of the methods of science and its relation to philosophy. Topics may include an examination of classical cosmology through the Newtonian and Darwinian revolutions, an assessment of contemporary scientific approaches, or issues such as causation, induction, scientific explanation, theory, or verification. Prerequisites: PHI 1XX and PHI 208/308 or permission of the instructor. Recommended: PHI 372 - Metaphysics.

PHI 410: Philosophy of Knowledge

An in-depth study of various theories of knowledge, with emphasis on direct realism.

PHI 415: Philosophical Theology

This course explores what human reason can know about God and the mysteries of faith. It examines how philosophical principles clarify issues especially related to theology. Topics may include both systematic and historical questions such as Divine attributes, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, scholastic theology and the integration of Aristotelian metaphysics, Kant and the limits of knowledge.

PHI 422: Aquinas and the Natural Law

An in-depth study of Aquinas' Natural Law theory and its modern commentators. Includes a close reading of primary texts. Prerequisites: PHI 208/308 strongly recommended.

PHI 426: Advanced Topics in Moral Philosophy

This courses provides an in-depth examination of an advanced topic in moral philosophy. Possible topics include particular ethical theories, issues in metaethics, various topics in moral psychology, or the ethical works of a particular philosopher.  May be repeated under different topics with advisor’s approval. (Repeated courses will be recorded as continuing credits.) Prerequisites: PHI 208/308 strongly recommended.

PHI 482: Biomedical Ethics

Analysis of ethical issues arising in healthcare. Issues may include: patient confidentiality, informed consent, honesty, the just distribution of healthcare resources, questions of death and dying, assisted suicide, the beginning of life, stem cell research, abortion, and cloning Prerequisites: PHI 208/308 strongly recommended.

Even as one of the most affordable private universities in the nation, the University of Mary does offer a variety of scholarships. In fact, 99% of main campus undergraduate students receive some form of scholarship! 

Some scholarships are available for specific academic programs, such as nursing, while other scholarships are available for certain student populations, such as military and veteran students

We strongly encourage you to contact your personal admissions representative to discover all of the options that might be available to you. In many cases, a program specific scholarship is just one component of a complete financial aid package. 

Our admissions professionals will work together with our Office of Financial Assistance to ensure that you get the best financial aid package possible to finance your education. 

Acceptance at the University of Mary does not automatically qualify you to pursue a program in one of the academic programs of study. Application requirements are specific to each major or academic program.

We recommend consulting your advisor for details. Applications are reviewed by the faculty members of the program. You will be notified that you have been admitted, admitted provisionally, or denied admission to the program.


W. Scott Cleveland, PhD
(701) 355-8192
[email protected]
David T. Echelbarger, PhD
Program Chair
(701) 355-8057
[email protected]
Michael F. Hickman, PhD
(701) 355-8038
[email protected]