Frequently Asked Questions
The following links provide answers to some common questions and concerns of philosophy undergraduates.
For more information, stop in to see the Undergraduate Advisor, Gerardo Sanchez, during walk-in hours.
What is Philosophy?
One way to answer this question is to look at the types of questions philosophers ask. Two such questions are: “How ought I to live?” and “Are my actions free?” At first glance these questions might seem simple; to have obvious answers. However, this apparent simplicity is deceptive; their answers far from obvious. For example, “How ought I to live?” cannot be answered by simply describing how I currently live or how most people live. What is being asked for is an ideal I can model my life after, compare my life to, and on the basis of that comparison, change my life so as to bring it closer to this ideal.
Asking “How ought I to live?” leads one to critically evaluate ideas and principles often used in answering this question. Ideas and principles such as truth, goodness, beauty, duty, obligation, virtue, vice, reason, justice, forgiveness, responsibility, liberty, loyalty, and love. It also leads us to question whether these ideas and principles are objectively true (true independent of our point of view) or subjectively true (true relative to our point of view). We must also decide whether or not these ideas and principles justify our actions.
Asking “How ought I to live?” assumes that I have a choice in how I live, but is this assumption true? This leads to the question, “Are my actions free?” A gust of wind picks a leaf up off the ground, carries it for a distance, and then drops it back to the ground. Was this action freely chosen by the leaf? No. It was determined by the laws of nature working on the particular circumstances of the leaf and its environment. The leaf had no choice. But what about you and me? If I raise my hand to greet a friend, is this action free? What distinguishes this movement from that of the leaf? My hand and I, being physical bodies, are bound by the same laws of nature as the leaf. So what leads me to believe that I am free and the leaf is not? Is it that I could have refrained from moving my hand? Or, that I could have chosen to greet my friend differently? If I (and everyone else for that matter) am not free, what does that mean for our practices of praise and blame, reward and punishment?
These are just a few of the questions that arise from reflecting philosophically on ourselves, philosophical reflection being the practice of asking foundational questions, critically examining the foundational ideas and principles on which we build our systems of beliefs. However, philosophical reflection is not limited to the subject of ourselves. Philosophical reflection can be applied to any subject: mind and consciousness, math and science, law, language, race and gender, art, culture, sex, politics, and so on. Philosophy is not defined or characterized by its subject matter; its subject matter is everything. However else philosophy is defined and characterized, it is a discipline that gives itself to the development of a set of skills, makes a habit of applying those skills to questions and problems, and does so in an attitude of respect and reverence for others and the truth.
What is the value of Philosophy? What skills do philosophers develop?
The values and benefits of philosophy are many, and can be loosely grouped under three headings: intellectual skills, breadth of vision, and enhanced perspective.
The analytical, critical, and interpretive skills developed and enhanced through the serious study of philosophy include the ability to analyze concepts, definitions, arguments, and problems, as well as the ability to organize ideas and issues, and to draw out what is central to a question from a mass of information. Philosophy teaches one to uncover relations that are not at first apparent, to make fine distinctions among commonalities and to find commonalities between opposing positions.
Philosophy also helps develop the ability to express ideas in a well-organized, well-constructed, systematic fashion. In other words, philosophy improves one’s communication skills. In writing, special emphasis is placed on clarity and the effective use of examples, illustrations, and analogies. In speech, the give and take of philosophical discussion helps one to think quickly on their feet, while developing an agile mind capable of addressing a wide range of topics. In other words, philosophy provides general problem solving skills, and encourages the habit of applying these skills to any question or problem one may encounter.
Breadth of Vision
Through the habitual application of its general problem solving skills, philosophy encourages the critical examination of the foundational ideas and assumptions on which we build our systems of belief. In so doing, philosophy enables one to develop a breadth of vision wide enough to take in and understand systems of belief while still maintaining a rigorous eye for detail, to see both the forest and the trees that make up the forest. This breadth of vision also strengthens the ability to synthesize; to bring together a range of views, sometimes seemingly opposing views, together under a single, more comprehensive perspective.
The examination of foundational questions, and the breadth of vision that accompany it, inevitably influence one’s perspective. Through philosophy one gains a better understanding of himself/herself and their place in the world. This broadened understanding improves one’s ability to recognize when and in what respect a view, including one’s own, may be correct or incorrect. It develops a critical eye for the strengths and weaknesses of the views being examined in order to determine if they are to be retained, revised, or discarded. In other words, philosophy helps to develop confidence and optimism in one’s intellectual abilities, as well as a sense of humility in the face of intellectual limitations. It also nurtures intellectual independence, pushing us to develop views through habitual, persistent, philosophical reflection.
Philosophy can greatly enrich one’s life, opening doors to realms of thought that would otherwise be overlooked. Emphasizing the values of truth, wisdom, and intellectual independence, philosophy encourages one to develop one’s own perspectives rather than simply absorb uncritically what is presented as true. As such, it develops agile, adaptive, independent, critical minds, capable of meeting unforeseen challenges with intelligence and confidence.
What can I do with a major in Philosophy?
The intellectual and problem-solving skills developed through the serious study of philosophy are applicable to any subject, any question, and any problem, making a major in philosophy excellent preparation for a wide variety of careers. The article, “I think, therefore I earn,” (Guardian, 2007) explores employment prospects for the skill sets philosophy majors develop.
Philosophy is also excellent preparation for graduate and professional programs. Philosophy majors consistently perform best or near best on graduates and professional schools admission exams such as the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Click here for data on the LSAT and here for the GRE.
Philosophy majors develop the ability to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge as needed, not only in the world of work but also in the worlds of politics and community life. That is, in addition to providing skills valued within a variety of career fields, philosophy prepares one for a life of informed, engaged citizenship.
To further explore how a major in philosophy can prepare one for a chosen career path, students are strongly encouraged to visit the UCR Career Center and speak with their staff.
- What are the major requirements for Philosophy and Philosophy/Law & Society?
How do I declare a major or minor in Philosophy or Philosophy/Law & Society?
To declare either a major or minor in philosophy, a student must meet with the philosophy academic advisor, Gerardo Rangel Sanchez, to review requirements and eligibility. At the departmental level, eligibility to declare rest primarily on whether or not a student is in a position to complete all requirements within the 216 unit limit. At the college level, students from CNAS and BCOE who wish to declare a major in CHASS must be in good academic standing. Students who wish to declare a minor must have grades posted for two upper division courses in the minor, with a combined GPA of 2.000 or higher.
- What are the minor requirements for Philosophy?
Enrolling in Courses
The class that I want/need is closed. What do I do?
Continue to check the online schedule of classes for openings. While GROWL is open, students may add and drop themselves from courses. A course that is closed one moment may open the next.
If possible, place yourself on the wait list. (See FAQ regarding wait list.)
Review degree audit to see what breadth and major requirements you have left to complete. Review breadth and other offering in your major for alternative courses.
Please note that sitting in on a closed course does not guarantee enrollment in the course.
The schedule says there are open seats in a course. Why can’t I enroll in it?
There are various reasons why this may occur. Here are the most common:
Maximum Unit Cap – It may be that adding another course will exceed a student’s quarterly maximum unit cap. Students in Good Standing have a unit cap of 20 units, students on Academic Probation have a maximum unit cap of 17 units, and students Subject to Dismissal have a maximum unit cap of 15 units.
Initial Enrollment Period – During the initial enrollment period, students in Good Standing and Academic Probation are restricted to 16 units. During the make-up enrollment period, this restriction is lifted, and students are returned to their normal maximum unit caps.
Prerequisites and Placement exams – If a course requires a prerequisite course or placement test result which a student has not met, then the student will not be permitted to enroll in the course. Course prerequisites and placement requirements are found in the course description, which may be viewed by visiting the online Schedule of Classes or the UCR General Catalog.
Lecture and discussion do not correspond – If a department offers more than one lecture for a course with multiple discussion sections, occasionally a set of discussions will be assigned to the first lecture, and another set of discussions will be assigned to the second lecture. To properly enroll in such a course, a student must match a lecture with one of its corresponding discussions. A student cannot enroll in a course if its lecture and discussion do not correspond to each other.
Growl closed after the second week of the quarter. Can I still make changes to my schedule?
After the second week of the quarter, students may make changes to their schedule by submitting an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF). An EAF can be used to add a course, withdraw from a course, change a discussion section, change the grading basis of a course, or change the variable units of a course. The online EAF can be found at myforms.ucr.edu. Each of the enrollment actions listed above has a deadline by which an EAF must be submitted. These deadlines can be found on the Academic Calendar. Care must be taken to follow the directions on the form exactly. If an EAF is submitted with an error, it will be denied. As such, it is recommended that students submit EAFs at least three business days before the deadline so that, if the petition is denied due to an error on the form, there is time to submit a new one.
How do I know which courses will fulfill breadth requirements?
Every quarter, the CHASS College Office provides a list of courses that can be used to satisfy CHASS breadth requirements. A PDF of the quarterly breadth list can be found at the CHASS Student Affairs website.
Dropping and Withdrawing From Courses
How do I withdraw from a course?
After the second week of the quarter, a student may request to withdraw from a course by submitting an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF). The EAF can be found at myforms.ucr.edu. Care must be taken to follow the directions on the form exactly. If an EAF is submitted with an error, it will be denied. As such, it is recommended that students submit EAFs at least three business days before the deadline so that, if the petition is denied due to an error on the form, there is time to submit a new one.
I’m thinking of withdrawing from a course. What should I consider or be aware in making my decision?
Withdrawing from a course can be an effective means of protecting one’s GPA. By withdrawing from a course in which one is performing poorly, a student can prevent a poor grade from lowering their GPA. However, students should weigh the benefit of withdrawing from a course against two potential risks.
First, withdrawing from a course, particularly when near graduation, could postpone graduation. For example, if a student is scheduled to graduate in spring quarter, and all of their enrolled courses are needed to fulfill graduation requirements, withdrawing from a course could postpone graduation to summer session (or beyond, depending on course offerings in future quarters). If you are unsure if withdrawing from a course will postpone your graduation, consult with your academic advisor.
Second, withdrawing from a course could affect Financial Aid eligibility. To maintain Financial Aid eligibility, students must complete a minimum of 12 units a quarter and 36 units a year towards their degree. If withdrawing from a course lowers a student’s enrollment to less than 12 units for the quarter, this could affect their eligibility. If withdrawing from a course will prevent a student from completing 36 units towards the completion of their degree by the end of the academic year, this could also affect eligibility. Students are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office to verify if withdrawing from a course will affect their Financial Aid eligibility.
Is there a Mandatory Attendence Policy? Can I be dropped from a course if I miss lecture?
CHASS has an attendance policy that states: “Students who fail to attend during the first and second week of instruction may forfeit their place in the class and have their names removed from the class roster. A student who is removed from a class roster for not meeting attendance requirements will not be allowed to continue in that course and will receive a grade of “F” or “NC” unless the student formally drops or withdraws from the course.”
Instructors may choose to enforce an attendance policy for their courses (individual course policies are usually announced at the first lecture and described in the course syllabus). If an instructor chooses to enforce an attendance policy, the CHASS Mandatory Attendance Policy gives them the authority to drop a student from a course roster for a single absence within the first two weeks of a quarter. Removing a student from a course roster does not mean that the student has been dropped from the course. It does, however, mean that if the student remains enrolled in the course, they will receive an “NC” or “F” for the course. Therefore, if a student is dropped from a course roster, it is in the student’s best interest to drop the course via GROWL or withdraw from the course using an Enrollment Adjustment Form (found online at myforms.ucr.edu).
It is strongly recommended that students attend all lectures and discussions (you are, after all, paying to attend them). If an absence is unavoidable, inform your instructor and TA in advance.
I have been dropped from all my courses. What do I do?
When students are dropped from all their courses, it is usually because fees have not been paid by the posted deadline. If fees were paid on time, and you were dropped from your courses by mistake, contact your academic advisor. Your advisor will work with the Registrar to help re-enroll you in your courses. However, if fees were not paid on time, and you were not dropped in error, the following is recommended:
- Determine the needed courses.
- Check Schedule of Classes for open courses.
- Re-enroll through GROWL during the make-up period.
- (Visit the online Academic Calendar for enrollment dates.)
- Place yourself on waitlists, if available.
- Enroll in at least 12 units.
Note: Students who have missed the initial payment deadline and who have been dropped from their courses and have re-enrolled, now have until the third week of the quarter to pay their fees (including late fees). However, students who do not pay these fees by the new deadline will have lapsed from UCR. That is, they will no longer be a continuing student at UCR.
Students are encouraged to visit the online Academic Calendar to find deadlines, so as to submit fees in a timely manner and avoid late penalties.
What is the deadline to withdraw from the quarter?
The deadline to withdraw from the university after the start of a quarter is 12pm (noon) on the last day of instruction for that quarter. The petition to withdraw from the university can be found at myforms.ucr.edu. It is strongly suggested that students meet with their academic advisor when considering withdrawing from the university.
I’m thinking of withdrawing from the quarter. How do I withdraw from the university and when will I be able to return?
Occasionally things happen in students’ lives which prevent them from performing their academic best: a personal illness or accident, the death of a loved one, financial hardship, etc. Under these circumstances, students may find it difficult to meet their academic responsibilities, which brings with it the potential for failing grades and a lowered GPA. To prevent this from happening, students may choose to temporarily withdraw from UCR, to give themselves time to heal, or to address the circumstances harming their academic performance. When a quarter starts to go bad, for any reason, students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to sort out the reasons for the academic difficulty, and to discuss options, such as withdrawing from the quarter.
Students may withdraw from UCR prior to the start of a quarter by emailing the Registrar to inform them that they will not be returning in the upcoming quarter. If a student is in good academic standing, they may apply for a leave of absence for up to one year with an automatic readmit by submitting a PELP (Planned Educational Leave Program) or PULP (Planned University Leave Program) application. Information for both programs can be found here.
Students may also petition to withdraw from UCR after the quarter has begun by submitting an application to withdraw from the University. Students who withdraw from the university while in good academic standing, may also petition for an automatic readmit within one year from the quarter withdrawn. For example, if a student in good academic standing withdraws in the fall quarter, the student may request an automatic readmit for the following winter, spring, or fall quarter. Students who withdraw from the university while on academic probation may need to meet certain conditions, such as raising their GPA through UCR Extension courses, to qualify for readmission. Students on academic probation who are considering withdrawing from the university should consult with their academic advisor to discuss readmission eligibility requirements and readmission application deadlines.
Can I petition to withdraw from a course after the deadline?
Very rarely is a late petition to withdraw from a course approved. A petition for late approval requires not only a reasonable explanation for why a petition was not submitted by the posted deadline but must be accompanied by documentation substantiating the explanation given. It is strongly recommended that students wishing to withdraw from a course submit an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF) requesting the withdrawal by the posted deadline.
What is the deadline to withdraw from a course?
The deadline to submit an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF) to withdraw from a course is 12 pm (noon) on the last day of week 6 of a given quarter. Students can find the date of the deadline by visiting the online Schedule of Classes.
I’m enrolled in 8 units and wait listed for 4 units. Does this make me a full time student?
To be full time, a student must be officially enrolled in 12 quarter units. Placement on a wait list does not guarantee enrollment in a course, and therefore cannot be counted as official enrollment. Students are advised to officially enroll in a minimum of 12 units before adding themselves to a wait list.
I’ve been added to an online wait list. When is it too late to be added to the course?
An online wait list may remain open till the end of the second week of the quarter, though departments have the option of closing an online wait list earlier. When an online wait list is closed, students on the wait list are notified of the closure via R’Mail.
I’ve been added to an online wait list. How will I be notified if I am enrolled in the course?
Students who are added to a course from its online wait list will receive an R’Mail indicating that they have been added to the course along with an updated course list.
How long does the wait list stay active?
Philosophy wait lists will remain active till the end of the second week of the quarter. After the second week, students may still enroll in a philosophy course with the permission of the instructor, but must now use the online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF).
Will I be notified if I am added to the course from the wait list?
Students added to a philosophy courses from the course wait lists will be notified via R’Mail.
How are students on the Philosophy wait lists prioritized?
Three items are taken into account when prioritizing students on a philosophy course waitlist: graduation term, total units, and whether the course is needed to fulfill a requirement. For example, a senior near graduation who needs the course for a requirement will have priority over a freshman who does not need the course for a requirement.
Attendance is also key. Students added to the waitlist must continue to attend the lecture. Students who do not attend class will lose their priority or be dropped from the waitlist.
A Philosophy course I am interested in is full, but it doesn’t have an online wait list. How can I be added to the course wait list?
During the first two weeks of the quarter, each philosophy instructor maintains its own course waitlist. Students who wish to be added to a closed philosophy course must attend the lecture and ask the instructor to add them to the course waitlist.
Are students allowed to S/NC any course at any time?
There are four rules that govern whether or not you can change the grading basis of a course to S/NC. They are:
- You must be in good academic standing in order to S/NC a course. If you are on academic probation, you must take your courses for Letter Grade.
- You can only S/NC courses outside your major and minor. Courses that are within a student's declared major or minor must be taken for Letter Grade.
- You can S/NC a total of 1/3 of your total courses at UCR. For example, a person with 36 completed units at UCR can S/NC 12 units of course work.
- You must submit a petition to change the grading basis of a course to S/NC by the posted deadline.
Is there any risk to changing the basis of a course to S/NC?
Changing the grading basis of a course to S/NC increases the risk of not earning units for the course. For example, if a student takes ANTH001 for a letter grade and earns a grade of D- or higher, the student will earn 4 units for the course (since a D- is a passing grade), and it can be applied towards breadth requirements if needed. However, if a student takes ANTH001 for S/NC and earns the equivalent of a C- or lower, the student would not get units for the course, nor could it be applied towards breadth requirements. This potential risk is particularly important to students near graduation who might need to pass all of their courses in order to graduate, and for students on financial aid, as not passing a course could jeopardize their eligibility.
What is the benefit of changing the grading basis of a course to Satisfactory/No Credit (S/NC)?
The benefit of changing the grading basis of a course to S/NC is that it can help protect your GPA. Courses graded S/NC are not calculated into your UCR cumulative GPA. In other words, if a student with a 4.000 GPA changes the grading basis of a course to S/NC, regardless of whether they earn an S or NC for the course, their GPA will remain 4.000. Only letter grades are calculated into a student’s cumulative GPA.
How does the Satisfactory/No Credit (S/NC) grading basis work?
S/NC is similar to Pass/No Pass. If a student changes the grading basis of a course to S/NC, and then earns the equivalent of a C grade or higher, a grade of S (Satisfactory) will be posted on their transcript for the course, indicating that they passed the course and received units for it. However, if a student earns the equivalent of a C- or lower, a grade of NC (no credit) will be posted on their transcript for the course, indicating that they did not pass the course or receive units for it.
Can I ask an instructor for an Incomplete? If I receive an Incomplete, when must the work be submitted?
An instructor can issue a grade of “Incomplete” to a student whose work is of passing quality, but is incomplete for good reason. If a student believes they have good reason, they may request an Incomplete from the instructor. The instructor may request documentation to substantiate the reasons given for requesting an Incomplete before determining if an Incomplete is appropriate.
If an Incomplete is issued, then the student has until the end of the following term to submit the remaining work. For example, if an Incomplete is issued for a course taken in fall quarter, then the student has until the end of winter quarter to submit the remaining work.
My record says that I received a GD for a course. What does GD stand for?
GD stands for Grade Delay. A GD is posted in place of a grade when an instructor is late in submitting grades to the Office of the Registrar, or when a student is suspected of academic misconduct and a decision of responsibility is still pending. An instructor can change a GD to a letter grade by submitting a Grade Change Form to the Office of the Registrar.
I received a “D” in a Philosophy course. Do I have to repeat the course?
Unless the general catalog states otherwise, a grade of “D-” or higher is a passing grade. For example, the general catalog states that ENGL001A-C require grades of “C” or better. Therefore, should a student earn a “D” in one of these courses, they will need to repeat it. PHIL007 on the other hand, does not specify that a specific grade is needed. Therefore, for PHIL007, a grade of “D-” or higher is a passing grade.
When can I expect to be added to the course from the waitlist?
The department will begin adding students to philosophy courses from course wait lists at the start of week two, provided there is space available.
Can I petition to S/NC a course after the deadline?
Very rarely is a late petition to change the grading basis of a course approved. A petition for late approval requires not only a reasonable explanation for why a petition was not submitted by the posted deadline, but must be accompanied by documentation substantiating the explanation given. It is strongly recommended that students wishing to change the grading basis of a course to S/NC submit an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF) requesting the change by the posted deadline.
What is the deadline to petition to S/NC a course?
The deadline to submit an online Enrollment Adjustment Form (EAF) to petition to S/NC a course is 12 pm (noon) on the last day of week 8 of a given quarter. Students can find the date of the deadline by visiting the online Schedule of Classes.
Academic Probation and Dismissal
I have been placed on Subject to Dismissal. Am I going to be dismissed from the university?
Students placed on Subject to Dismissal status face the real possibility of being dismissed from UCR. Whether or not a student is dismissed will depend on their next quarter’s grades. For example, if a student is placed on Subject to Dismissal status based on the results of their fall quarter grades, then their winter quarter grades will determine whether or not they are dismissed. If winter grades show adequate improvement, the student will not be dismissed. If there is no improvement, then the student will be dismissed.
Students experiencing academic difficulty are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to investigate the root causes of their difficulties, and to discuss methods for protecting their GPA.
I have been placed on Academic Probation (AP). How did this happen and how do I return to good academic standing?
To remain in good academic standing students must have both a cumulative GPA and a quarter GPA of 2.000 or higher. Students are placed on Academic Probation (AP) if their cumulative or quarter GPA falls below this minimum standard. To return to good academic standing a student must have a quarter in which both cumulative and quarter GPAs are 2.000 or higher.
Students experiencing academic difficulty are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to investigate the root causes of their difficulties, and to discuss methods for protecting their GPA.