Gateway Building

About the Program

Director of Undergraduate Programs: Associate Professor Jeffrey Helmreich ( 

UCI’s Department of Philosophy is world-class. Its faculty includes many philosophers recognized internationally as leading figures in their fields. All faculty teach introductory as well as upper-division courses, and many are willing to offer independent study courses for qualified undergraduates.

Philosophy is a skill, not just a subject matter (the skill informs the traditional subject matter). It is the skill of critical thinking, of questioning in such a way as to reveal the presuppositions of an issue, the connections among those things relevant to that issue, and the consequences of these connections in light of further considerations.
Philosophy is, then, a most valuable and transferable skill.

The traditional undergraduate program in the Department provides students a rigorous grounding in the history of Western philosophy, improves their critical thinking skills, helps them develop needed speaking and writing skills and enables them to pursue perennial questions in the main areas of the discipline. These questions pertain
  • Ethics. What is the highest human good? What is right and wrong? What is the source of values by which we guide our lives? How can we choose among values when they conflict?
  • Epistemology. What is knowledge? Why is it valuable? Is all knowledge founded on experience, or do we know some things prior to any experience? Given the risks of error and illusion, is it clear that we know anything at all?
  • Metaphysics. What is it to exist? What are the basic categories of being? Is everything material or are some things not made of matter? (Are there things that do not exist in space at all?) What is a mind? Do human beings have a will or freedom that animals lack? What makes a person the same as a baby and an adult?
For high-achieving students, the Department has instituted an honors designation. Pursuing this designation provides interested students with the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member to gain advanced philosophical training and to produce a paper of exceptional quality.

As critical thinking, philosophy has tremendous value, not merely in exploring these profound, theoretical questions, but also in exploring practical questions important to our society. In acknowledgment of this, the Department has introduced two new applied specializations to its program. One of these, Philosophy, Law and Society, should be of interest to those students who are considering law school. The other, Philosophy, Medicine and Well-being, should be of interest to those considering medical school. Both specializations will provide students with not only all-important critical thinking skills, but also with the means to apply them to real-world situations.