Portfolio and Exit Exam for Philosophy BA Majors
Portfolio & Exit Interview
The undergraduate catalog requires that all Philosophy Majors complete the portfolio and exit interview in order to graduate. This short guide will walk you through these requirements. Please read it carefully—it covers everything you need to know.
You’re going to submit your portfolio during one of your last two semesters at Texas State. Most people opt to do it during their final semester, but the one before it is just fine. (If you’re graduating in the summer, then be sure to do it in your last spring semester.) The portfolio is a collection of your work that demonstrates your progress as a philosophy major. So, we aren’t just interested in your best and most recent work: you should include the major papers you wrote and exams you took for every class. (If those papers and exams don’t demonstrate that you’ve achieved the objectives below, but other materials do, then please include them as well.) You need to keep a file of all these things so that you can assemble them later on.
During your final semester, you’ll need to organize and annotate everything that you’ve saved. This means that, after you’ve put everything in a binder, you’ll need to go through it and flag certain portions using post-it notes or highlighting (so that we can find the relevant bits easily). In particular, we want to know that the contents demonstrate that you’ve achieved these objectives:
- Understanding of the History of Philosophy (UHP). An understanding of the history of philosophy includes knowing the seminal figures, their major doctrines and their methodologies.
- Proficiency in Philosophical Investigation (PI). A proficiency in philosophical investigation includes the ability to interpret texts, explain theories, and identify relevant arguments.
- Proficiency in Critical Thinking (CT). A proficiency in critical thinking includes the ability to ask relevant questions, examine different sides of an issue, and recognize and evaluate arguments.
- Proficiency in Independent Thinking (IT). A proficiency in independent thinking includes the ability to develop and defend original positions.
- Proficiency in Writing (W). A proficiency in writing includes being able to state and defend a clear and substantive thesis.
So, for example, if a particular paper (or passage in a paper) is a good example of your independent thinking, then write “IT” on the paper or near the passage, and flag the spot with a post-it note.
After you’ve organized and annotated your portfolio, you need to write a two- to three-page essay that summarizes and evaluates your philosophical development in the five areas above. Offer specific examples of your progress. In addition, please answer at least one of the following questions:
- Why did you major in philosophy?
- What connections, if any, have you explored between philosophy and the rest of your studies at Texas State?
- What themes or issues have you considered to be significant during your time at Texas State? How might you investigate them further?
- Which philosophical texts were the most significant to you? Which were your favorites? Which did you find to be the most difficult? Why?
- How has your work as a philosophy major affected your beliefs and practices?
Place this essay at the beginning of your portfolio, followed by a list of all the philosophy courses that you’ve taken and the grades that you earned in them.
The exit interviews are always on the last Thursday of classes, and the faculty needs to review your portfolio before then to determine whether you’ve met the expectations for the program. So, please submit it to the main office (Comal 102) three weeks before the exit interviews.
We don’t keep your portfolio—you get everything back. You can pick it up at the exit interviews.
The Exit Interview
The exit interview is an opportunity for you to demonstrate some of the abilities that you’ve cultivated in the program. It’s held on the last Thursday of classes each semester; we always meet at 3:30 PM in the Dialogue Room.
At your exit interview, please be prepared to do the following things in three minutes:
- explain an argument that you find especially interesting or compelling,
- locate that argument in the larger historical conversation of which it’s a part, and
- reply to some objections from the faculty.
Here is a brief example.
In Plato’s Euthryphro—written sometime after 399 BCE—Socrates questions Euthyphro about the nature of piety. At one point, Socrates asks him whether “the pious is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved by the gods.” This dilemma is often used to criticize Divine Command Theory—an ethical theory according to which an action is morally required just in case it is commanded by God. Here is the argument.
- Either actions are right because they are commanded by God, or God commands them because they are right.
- If they are right because they are commanded by God, then murder could be morally right, since God could have commanded people to murder.
- Murder could not be morally right.
- So, actions aren’t right because they are commanded by God.
- Therefore, God commands actions because they are right.
- However, if God commands actions because they are right, then God is not the source of their rightness.
- If Divine Command Theory is true, then God is the source of their rightness.
- So, Divine Command Theory is false.
After presenting this argument and objection, a faculty member might ask you to consider and objection to the effect that God is essentially good, and so couldn’t command people to murder. If that’s right, then Premise 2 is false. And if Premise 2 is false, then the argument fails: actions could be right because they are commanded by God. At that point, you would need to offer a reply on behalf of the Euthyphro Dilemma.
Notice that this argument is concise (it can easily be presented in three minutes) and precise (it’s very clear how the argument works). Also note that this is not “your” argument and “your” objection. We’re not after originality here; we’re after clarity. So, while you may present your own work, please don’t feel any obligation to do so. We care about how you present and reply to questions; we don’t care about what you present.
You may bring notes to your presentation, but do not read them. The notes should be there to remind you of details that you’ve already mastered.
Before the interview, be sure to run your argument by either Bob Fischer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a faculty member with whom you feel comfortable.
Once your portfolio is approved and you’ve completed your exit interview, the Department will notify the Liberal Arts Advising Center so that they can update your degree audit. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Fischer (email@example.com) or the main office (512.245.2285).