The broad questions explored in pursuit of a philosophy degree can help students gain a valuable perspective in related sciences, such as psychology. Many students double major in both, or seek a major in one and a minor in the other. Only a handful of American institutions rank in the top 10 in the world for both psychology and philosophy undergraduate study, according to a 2012 ranking by U.S. News and World Report.
The field of psychology got its American roots at Harvard University. William James, a psychologist, philosopher and physician, offered the first-ever psychology course in the United States in 1875. Philosophy has been a cornerstone since the university’s founding in 1636, with transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson among its department graduates. In 2007, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Harvard as the best psychology department in faculty scholarly productivity. The philosophy department has a high faculty-to-student ratio, allowing for small lectures, tutorials from professors and a faculty adviser for each student.
The University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley’s, psychology and philosophy faculty are among the nation’s leaders in the profession. Among them is Arthur P. Shimamura, who has created a new discipline called psychocinematics, which seeks to understand how filmmakers successfully capture our sensations, thoughts and emotions. From 2001 to 2011, the number of philosophy majors at U.C. Berkeley increased by 74 percent. U.C. Berkeley philosophy graduates have gone on land jobs in law, business, medicine, technology and education, according to a 2011 report in the San Francisco Business Times.
The University of Chicago
Founded in 1893, the University of Chicago’s psychology department has long been a trailblazer in the field. One of its most respected alumni is John Dewey, a psychologist, philosopher and education reformer who believed an informed electorate is essential for democracy to flourish. The school also boasts alumnus John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism. The philosophy department has more graduate students than undergraduates, which allows undergrads to mix with graduate students in seminars. The department offers the intimacy of a small school with the professors and the resources of a world-class research institution.
Princeton University’s philosophy and psychology departments have consistently ranked among the top few in the country. The school’s professors use innovative psychological research to tackle age-old philosophical questions. They use functional magnetic resonance imaging to analyze brain activity in people asked to ponder moral dilemmas such as, “Would you push someone into an oncoming train if doing so would save the lives of five others down the track?” Jonathan Edwards, perhaps America's most important philosophical theologian, was president of Princeton for a few weeks before his death in 1758 when the school was still known as the College of New Jersey.
- Grand Valley State University: Double Majors Guide
- Harvard University: Department of Philosophy
- U.C. Berkeley: Psychology
- UC Berkeley: Department of Philosophy
- San Francisco Business Times: Philosophy majors up 74% at U.C. Berkeley
- University of Chicago: Department of Psychology
- University of Chicago: The Department of Philosophy
Rudy Miller has been writing professionally since 1996. Miller is a digital team leader for lehighvalleylive.com, a local news website and content provider to the Express-Times newspaper in Easton, Pa. Miller holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami.