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The fundamental educational objective of the philosophy major is to turn students into lovers of wisdom (the original meaning of the Greek term, philosophos). As a field, philosophy is more than 2,500 years old. In the first instance, philosophy is a body of ideas and doctrines that have been articulated by thinkers who have sought to understand the basic features of what is, what could be and what ought to be. Philosophy students need to know these rationally developed positions in order to avoid repeating past errors and to build upon what is best in our philosophical heritage.
Students who complete the philosophy minor (a) understand the historical scope of philosophical discourse, especially the main movements of Western thought; (b) gain familiarity with the history and contemporary relevance of at least one non-Western tradition; (c) develop skills in critical and evaluative analysis of philosophical texts; and (d) accomplish some advanced work in composition of well-reasoned philosophical argumentation.
Equally important, philosophers attempt to rationally justify their most basic intuitions about the nature of reality. Philosophy is an activity that students engage in by thinking clearly, carefully, and systematically about fundamental problems of existence. This activity is not a replacement of but a complement to scientific investigation. Philosophy is a reflection upon hypotheses that, because of their fundamental and general character, cannot be verified or falsified by the current methods of modern science. For example, philosophers examine the claim that our consciousness is nothing more than a series of neurological events of the brain. They also consider the grounds of political obligation, or whether certain human actions are wrong beyond our happening to think they are, or whether our knowledge can be valid for all time periods and all cultural circumstances. Members of the department deal with fundamental and grave issues facing all of us in the 21st century, including war and peace, global justice, environmental health, and gender equity. Philosophical approaches include Western European traditions, East Asian and South Asian thought, and critical and feminist theories.
Because of the intensive and extensive training in conceptual analysis of fundamental problems, the philosophy major provides an excellent preparation for virtually any professional career. Philosophy prepares us not only to earn a living, but also to address such questions as why we should live, and how we live, our all-too-human lives.