Philosophy is a central component of a liberal arts education. It raises fundamental questions about the nature of reality and the place of human beings within it. What is the nature of morality? What is free will and are human beings free? What is the relation between mind and body? What, if anything, can we know about the material world? Does God exist? What makes a state just? What makes for a good life?
In attempting to answer such questions, students of philosophy reflect on their own responses to these questions and the ways in which past thinkers have defended their answers to them. The process of formulating and testing these answers requires education in logical analysis, reasoned argument, and analytic thinking. In acquiring such education within the philosophy curriculum, students develop their ability to solve problems and to think, read, and write critically—skills that are always in high demand. In the past, majors have gone on to very successful careers in law, consulting, finance, and medicine. Many have also embarked on academic careers.
The department offers a number of courses that serve as gateways to the practice of philosophy for potential majors. These courses are also recommended for majors from other departments who seek an introduction to philosophy. These courses include: PHIL 101, Introduction to Philosophical Problems; PHIL 111, Ethics; PHIL 202, Environmental Ethics; PHIL 216, Existentialism; and PHIL 225, Logic I; which are offered in Fall 2020 (see below for descriptions). The department expects to offer the same range of introductory courses in Spring 2021, but with PHIL 121, Political Philosophy in place of PHIL 216. Other courses at the 200- and 300-level are either courses in the history of philosophy or courses that focus on problems in specific areas of philosophy. Many of these courses do not have specific prerequisites and are open to all interested students.