I'm majoring in philosophy at my undergraduate university but I've also taken a fair number of math classes. I've generally found that taking math classes is very time consuming and dramatically limits the amount of time I can spend working on philosophy classes. On the other hand, I feel like I learn a lot in the math classes that sometimes influences how I think about philosophy. I'm a junior and I would need about 4 more math classes for a math major (I have three semesters left before I graduate). For purposes of admissions to philosophy phd programs, should I continue to take math classes and get a math major (in addition to philosophy), or should I just focus on philosophy?

ADDED: I understand that math will be helpful to me in studying philosophy. I am specifically interested in whether it is worth studying in the remainder of my undergraduate career given the opportunity cost for my ability to focus on philosophy.

  • Mathematical logic should be one topic useful to philosophy
    – yoyostein
    Jan 9, 2016 at 1:20
  • @Kendall Philosophy phd programs only require a bachelors degree in philosophy or even undergraduate coursework in philosophy without a degree in philosophy. I will be getting my B.A. in philosophy.
    – Smithey
    Jan 9, 2016 at 19:30
  • Ah, you know what, I had read the question as I'm majoring in math, but want to do a PhD in Philosophy, please disregard me!
    – CKM
    Jan 9, 2016 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


Recommend getting the math major if you can. (I have double bachelor's in philosophy & math myself, although my graduate school and professional work was in math.)

The undergraduate study is the best time to expand yourself into as many fields as you'd care to take. Generally, graduate school is the place that demands exclusive focus on one narrow area. So the opportunity you have now will not be available later on; and the degree will document permanently that you can achieve in any field you need to work in.

Plus, there's the possibility that later in life you may wish to adjust or switch fields. Having the math degree will allow you to immediately step into programs in any science-related area you wish.

Standing astride two separate fields like an academic Colossus gives you a perspective and options that few others can match, and now is the very best time to establish that.


I get the feeling that it always helps to have a second major, and math is seen as a difficult subject (most often) from the perspective of social sciences/humanities (reflecting well on your abilities). If it's only a course or two I'd probably say its worth it regardless if you end up using it or not. Ultimately, it will depend on the specific professors and their subject areas that you apply for -I'm sure a logics or cognitive science professor would be more inclined than an ethics one. This also depends on if you can spin your math interest in a philosophy area -just having a second major in math and then wanting to work in an area that never uses it, or, never including that in your applications to professors/universities, doesn't really make it worth your while (unless its minimal effort). Being in psy+phi myself, we'd probably have more use for you in psy than phi, but that's my specific area. Match what you want to do with what you are doing, and think about if you can use it as an argument in your favor when applying to PhDs (then roughly match the effort for the gain).

[Edit1: I'm doing Ecological Psychology and Dynamic Systems, we check our assumptions far more than other psychological areas and philosophy is tremendously helpful with that. Dynamic Systems relies, in part, on difference equations and ODEs, so maths would be great to be good at ;).]

[Edit2: Also read Daniel's answer for a more long-term perspective than the 'getting into grad school' part.]

  • 1
    Please elaborate psy-phi.
    – Sathyam
    Jan 9, 2016 at 16:32
  • I'm doing Ecological Psychology and Dynamic Systems, we check our assumptions far more than other psychological areas and philosophy is tremendously helpful with that. Dynamic Systems relies heavily on equational modeling and other maths-based reasoning, so maths would be great to be good at ;).
    – PsyPhi
    Jan 9, 2016 at 17:41
  • Edit your answer to include this information.
    – Sathyam
    Jan 9, 2016 at 17:45

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