Honors Program

Honors work in philosophy provides the opportunity for especially well qualified students to complete their undergraduate education by engaging in individual research on a tutorial basis. Admission to the program is restricted to those individuals who, in the opinion of the Philosophy Department, have sufficient preparation, ability, and motivation to complete the program successfully.      

Procedures for Securing Admission to Candidacy
  1. Cap and DiplomaINITIAL APPLICATION: By February 15 of their junior year, students should submit to the chairperson a written application for permission to preregister for Philosophy 495. This application should include: 1) a description of the proposed project (200 - 500 words); 2) a list of philosophy courses taken and currently being taken, including names of instructors and grades received; 3) cumulative quality point average and quality point average for the previous semester; 4) any other relevant information which would assist the Department in determining the candidate's adequacy of background for the proposed project. Students are urged to consult informally with interested faculty members as they prepare their initial proposals.
  2. TENTATIVE APPROVAL: If the initial application is approved by the Department, the student will be assigned a temporary advisor. Since only tentative approval has been given, the Department is not yet bound to allow final registration for Honors. It is advised, therefore, that students preregister for another course which they would be willing to take if admission to Philosophy 495 is ultimately denied.
  3. FINAL APPLICATION: Working with their temporary advisor, the student will select an honors project and submit a new description of it by April 15. This statement should be from four to six double-spaced typewritten pages and include a list of sources to be consulted. Under unusual circumstances, such as when students are spending their junior year abroad, this final statement of the proposed project may be submitted as late as the end of the first week of the semester at the beginning of the senior year. It should be pointed out, however, that a proposal submitted at this late date is less likely to be accepted because of probable limitations on the availability of faculty. Please note that the Charles Center offers fellowships to support Honors Research during the summer; the deadline for applications in 2015 is March 18. Students who wish to be considered for these fellowships must have received final departmental approval order to apply. To guarantee that such approval has been obtained, the final version of the proposal must be submitted to the department by March 10. Students who do not wish to apply for Charles Center funding can adhere to the date in April as specified above. Details of funds available through the Charles Center can be found on their webpage: http://www.wm.edu/sites/scholarships/scholarshipsfellowshipsawards/summer/wmhonorsfellowships/index.php.
  4. FINAL DEPARTMENTAL APPROVAL AND REGISTRATION FOR PHILOSOPHY 495: Students will be notified of the Department's final decision no later than the last day of scheduled classes in the spring semester. Those students whose proposals are approved will be assigned a permanent faculty advisor. Students will be registered for Philosophy 495 by the Charles Center, upon completion of step 5, below.
  5. APPLICATION TO CHARLES CENTER: Students who receive the Department's final approval of their project should immediately file an application for admission to Honors with the Charles Center for Honors and Interdiscipliunary Study (on special forms provided by the Charles Center), and if qualified, will automatically be enrolled in Philosophy 495. Normally the student will receive written certification of admission to the Honors program sometime during the summer. Continued enrollment in Philosophy 495 is contingent upon being certified as eligible for Honors work by the Charles Center.
Procedures for Honors 495 and 496
  1. FALL SEMESTER GRADES: Students enrolled in Philosophy 495 will be assigned a letter grade for this course by their advisor at the end of the fall semester.
  2. NONCONTINUATION IN THE HONORS PROGRAM: Upon recommendation of their advisor and with the approval of the Department, students whose progress toward completion of their Honors work is unsatisfactory will be denied permission to enroll in Philosophy 496. Advisors who intend to make such recommendations should so inform their advisees at least one week before the Department makes any final decision. During this period, if the student will desires to remain in the Honors Program, he or she should consult with the chairperson of the Department and prepare with him or her a written statement of the student's reasons for wishing to continue in the Program. The faculty member consulted will present the student's statement to the Department prior to its final consideration of the advisor's recommendation.
Final Grades for Honors 496

Students who receive "Honors", "High Honors", or "Highest Honors" will be awarded the grade of "A"for their work in Philosophy 496. Students whose work is judged by their examining committee to be of insufficiently high quality to merit "Honors" will be assigned a letter grade for Philosophy 496 by their advisor. That letter grade may also be an A.

The Honors Thesis
  1. ROUGH DRAFT: Candidates for Honors are expected to submit a rough draft of their thesis to their advisors early in the second semester, and not 1ater than March 15.
  2. FINAL DRAFT: Candidates must submit three copies of their thesis of about fifty double-spaced typewritten pages on or before April 15.
  3. THESIS FORMAT: The final draft of the thesis must be in the following format (see the Swem guidelines):

a.  A binding margin of 1 1/2" must be provided on the left side of each page. All other margins must be at least one inch.

b.  The ribbon copy must be on white bond paper of at least 30 per cent rag content. Erasable bond is not acceptable. The second and third copies should be photocopied.

c.  The title page must conform to the format prescribed by the College Committee on Honors and Experimental Programs. 

The Oral Examination
  1. THE EXAMINING COMMITTEE: The oral examination will be conducted by an Honors examining committee of at least three members. The Committee shall include at least two examiners from the Philosophy Department, one of whom will be the candidate's Honors advisor, and one external examiner. A member of the Department who is not the candidate's advisor will serve as chairperson of the Committee.
  2. ATTENDANCE AT EXAMINATION: All members of the philosophy faculty are invited to an Honors oral examination. Normally, students other than the candidate are not permitted to attend.
  3. SUBJECT MATTER OF EXAMINATION: The oral examination is designed to test both the candidate's ability to defend the arguments of his/her thesis and his/her knowledge of relevant philosophical discussions of similar material. Thus, a candidate writing on a historical subject is expected to be familiar with contemporary discussions of the problem and also with the broader aspects of the historical period. Candidates primarily exploring a particular contemporary problem should be familiar with historical treatments of similar issues and also with any broader philosophical implications of their subject.
  4. FORMAT OF EXAMINATION: At the beginning of the examination, the committee will meet briefly without the candidate to decide on procedures for the examination. The candidate will then be admitted to the examination. Questioning will proceed in whatever fashion is agreed upon by the examining committee. Philosophy faculty who are not members of the examining committee may participate in the questioning at the discretion of the committee. When the committee determines that the examination should be concluded, the candidate will be asked to leave the room but to remain nearby so that he/ she may be informed of the committee's decision.
  5. AWARDING OF HONORS: After deliberation, the examining committee will determine whether the candidate's work is of sufficiently high quality to merit the award of Honors. If this decision is favorable, the committee will select among the designations "Honors," "High Honors," and "Highest Honors." In making these decisions the procedures specified below will be followed.

a. The basic decision whether or not to award Honors is to be based solely on the thesis and the oral examination. The second decision regarding the degree of Honors to be awarded (Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors) shall also be based primarily on the thesis and the oral examination, with the greater weight given to the thesis. The student's overall academic record in philosophy courses may be used to lower, but not to raise, the degree of Honors that would have been awarded on the basis of the thesis and the oral examination alone.

b. Philosophy faculty members who are not members of the examining committee may participate in the committee's deliberations, but the decisions concerning the awarding of Honors and the degree of Honors are to be made by the examining committee alone.

c. In cases of disagreement among the members of the committee, the opinion of a simple majority prevails.

d. If Honors is awarded, all members of the examining committee are to sign the committee's report to the Charles Center and the title page of the candidate's thesis, even in those cases in which the decision of the examining committee is not unanimous.

The Deposition of the Honors Thesis
  1. The final responsibility of the successful Honors candidate is to see that Swem Library has the original signed copy of his/her thesis and that the Department also has a signed copy. Since these copies belong to the permanent collections of the Library and the Department respectively, the candidate should endeavor to make them as attractive and as free of typographical errors as possible. A sample title page follows.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Philosophy from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.


Gregory E. Pence

Accepted for______________