Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy: Emphasis in Philosophy and Law

Philosophy and Law Emphasis

The Philosophy and Law emphasis enables students to earn a philosophy degree while focusing on our department’s rich array of undergraduate courses that consider such topics as the foundation of law, legal reasoning, U.S. and global human rights, social justice, law and society, health care law, sex and the law, philosophical foundations of the U.S. Constitution, philosophy of criminal justice, wrongs as crimes and torts, and theories of ethics and political philosophy that influence jurisprudence. Philosophy majors consistently receive the highest scores on the law school admissions test (LSAT). This program positions them to excel in law and public policy.

The enterprise of philosophy requires sharpening the skills necessary for clarifying premises, uncovering presuppositions (one's own and those of others), weighing the pros and cons of conflicting values, and analyzing concepts and issues, all of which are crucial for graduate programs in law and public policy. Courses in philosophy serve to develop and enhance these skills. Some courses concentrate on specific philosophical issues. Others provide an overview of an entire area of human inquiry or endeavor (such as the sciences, the arts, political theory and law, medicine, social justice, and how our minds, senses, and emotions work) or of the philosophical foundations that characterize a historical period.

The department welcomes students from other majors or programs who wish to acquire excellent training for law schools, public policy programs, and the competitive admissions processes to these programs.

The emphasis in philosophy and law includes three units from related fields. This gives students an opportunity to integrate courses offered by other departments into the major, so long as those courses are substantially concerned with law and approved by an advisor. Undergraduate advisors are also authorized by the department to designate units obtained in other departments as satisfying unit requirements. Neither students nor advisors should view this as an escape clause which enables a student who has not quite satisfied the requirements of the philosophy and law emphasis to do so. Units outside the department are to be designated for use in the major on the basis of their contribution to the student's major program. To avoid confusion on this point, students should obtain written approval from an advisor before obtaining non-department units to be utilized in the major.

Students who have not taken PHIL 110 may begin the program but should complete this course or its equivalent at the earliest opportunity. Equivalencies must be approved by a departmental advisor.

The Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with Emphasis in Philosophy and Law requires a minimum of 43 units, with at least 31 of these units being upper-division. The program culminates in a one-unit personalized learning outcomes course in which students reflect philosophically on their own development of skills and knowledge. This learning outcomes course, PHIL 696, can be taken in either the first or second semester of the student's senior year.

To best take advantage of the program's tremendous resources in preparing students for law school, students pursuing the emphasis in philosophy and law are urged to lay out a tentative program of courses with their advisors early in their tenure at the university. Depending upon the student's area of specialization, up to six units of courses outside the philosophy department may be approved by a department advisor as elective units for the B.A.

Philosophy (B.A.): Emphasis in Philosophy and Law: 43 - 44 units

Required Courses (22 Units)

PHIL 205Formal Logic I3
PHIL 303Modern Philosophy3
PHIL 320GWPhilosophical Analysis - GWAR 13
PHIL 321Being and Knowing3
PHIL 330Political Philosophy3
PHIL 380Philosophy of Law3
PHIL 450Ethics3
PHIL 696Directed Reading: Learning Outcomes1

Disjunctive History Requirement (3 Units)

One of the following courses:3
PHIL 301Ancient Philosophy3
PHIL 302Medieval Philosophy3
PHIL 516Islamic Philosophy3

Metaphysics and Epistemology (broadly construed) (6 Units)

Two courses from the following list:6
PHIL 350Philosophy of Science3
PHIL 351Philosophy of Risk3
PHIL 605Metaphysics3
PHIL 610Theory of Knowledge3
PHIL 611Philosophy of Perception3
PHIL 620Philosophy of Mind3
PHIL 621Minds, Brains, and Computers3
PHIL 630Philosophy of Language3
PHIL 694Philosophical Logic Workshop3
PHIL 695Advanced Logic Workshop3

Normative Issues Requirement (9 units)

Three courses from the following list:
PHIL 335Law and Society3
PHIL 373The Ethics of Migration and Membership3
PHIL 375Peace Law and Human Rights in the U.S.3
PHIL 378Philosophy of Criminal Law3
PHIL 383Ethics in Medicine3
PHIL 384Philosophy of Research Ethics3
PHIL 395Ethical Issues: Science and Technology3
PHIL 435Human Rights in Global Perspective3
PHIL 436Islamic Political Philosophy3
PHIL 451Feminist Moral Issues3
PHIL 455Sex and the Law3
PHIL 470Environmental Ethics3
PHIL 494Philosophy and Personal Development3

One Course from the Following List, or on advisement (3 - 4 units)

Select 3-4 units of the following or on advisement:
AFRS 375Law and the Black Community3
AIS 205American Indians and U.S. Laws3
C J 501Criminal Law3
I R 330World Law4
LABR 251Know Your Work Rights3
PLSI 552Individual Rights and the Constitution4
PLSI 553Legal Issues4
PLSI 561Jurisprudence4
USP 513/GEOG 668/PLSI 513Politics, Law, and the Urban Environment4
WGS 534Gender and the Law3

Complementary Studies for the Philosophy Major

Twelve units of complementary studies are required of all candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degrees in Philosophy. These units must come from courses bearing a prefix other than PHIL, and not cross-listed with PHIL. Philosophy majors are given a multitude of pathways toward completing this requirement, each of which is designed to facilitate graduation in a timely manner and deepen the student’s knowledge and appreciation of a philosophical topic in a multi-disciplinary way. Philosophy majors may, with the approval of a department advisor, elect to apply 12 units in a single foreign language of their choosing or courses taken in an approved study abroad program (e.g., CSU Study Abroad). Otherwise, with the approval of a department advisor, the student may take 12 units of courses that complement an area of philosophical specialization. Philosophy is rich in such specializations. Here are some illustrative philosophical specializations in which studying philosophy and studying other disciplines is complementary: Philosophy of the Arts, Ancient Philosophy, Asian Philosophy, Bioethics/Medical Ethics, Business Ethics, Philosophy of Cinema, Philosophy of Dance, Philosophy of Economics, Environmental Philosophy, Global Justice, Islamic Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Literature, Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophy of Music, Philosophy of Mind, Modern European Philosophy, Philosophy of Music, Philosophy of Perception, Philosophy of Photography, Philosophy of Psychology/Cognitive Science, Political Philosophy and Social Justice, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Sexuality, Philosophy of Science and Technology, Philosophy and Society, Philosophy of Social Science, Philosophy of Sport, Philosophy of Under-represented Groups, Philosophy of Women and Gender. To accommodate emerging areas of philosophical study, students are encouraged to design 12 unit modules for the review and approve of the department advisor.

General Education Requirements

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication I LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Social Sciences: US & CA Government LD 3 D3
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

Find the correct roadmap (A, B, C, or D):

  1. Select the row that matches your English Course choice for A2.*
  2. Select the column that matches your QR Category (found at your student center under Math Alert).
  3. Click the Roadmap that lines up with your row and column.

For example, if you are taking ENG 104 as your first English course and your student center math alert says you are QR Category III, you should choose Roadmap D.

Pathway QR Cat I/II QR Cat III/IV
ENG 114 Roadmap A Roadmap C
ENG 104/ENG 105 Roadmap B Roadmap D

*Composition for Multilingual Students: If taking ENG 209 as your first English course, choose the ENG 114 row. If taking ENG 204 for your first English course, choose the ENG 104/ENG 105 row.

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AA-T in Philosophy. This roadmap opens in a new tab.

For students with an AA-T in Social Justice StudiesThis roadmap opens in a new tab.

For students with an AA-T in Law, Public Policy and SocietyThis roadmap opens in a new tab.

This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Social Justice Studies

California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). 

Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.

All Students Must Meet the Transfer Eligibility Requirements Outlined Below for Admission.

For more information, visit the Undergraduate Admissions section.

  • Complete 60 or more transferable semester units or 90 or more quarter units.
  • Earn a college grade point average of 2.0 or better in all transferable courses. Non-local area residents may be held to a higher GPA standard.
  • Be in good standing at the last college or university attended.
  • Complete 30-semester units (45-quarter units) of General Education, including four basic skills courses:
    1. One course in oral communication (same as CSU GE Area A1)
    2. One course in written composition (same as CSU GE Area A2)
    3. One course in critical thinking (same as CSU GE Area A3)
    4. One course in mathematics or quantitative reasoning (same as CSU GE Area B4)
  • The four basic skills courses and a minimum of 60 transferable semester units (90-quarter units) must be completed by the spring semester prior to fall admission, or by the fall semester prior to spring admission. Earn a C- or better grade in each basic skills course.