Department of Philosophy

Welcome to the Department of Philosophy

Philosophy is the one field of study that aims at a general understanding of the whole of reality. It draws on the insights of the great historical philosophers, on what has been learned in all other major fields of study, and on the rich perspectives embodied in ordinary ways of thinking. Philosophers address a diverse array of deep, challenging, and profoundly important questions. Examples: the nature of the self and of personal identity; the existence or nonexistence of God; the nature of time, mind, language, and science; the sources and limits of human knowledge; the nature of the good life; the foundations of state authority; the requirements of social justice; and the nature of art, beauty, and aesthetic experience. Philosophical questions are addressed not by reference to empirical information alone, but by means of analysis, synthesis, argument, and the construction and evaluation of philosophical theories.

What attracts students to philosophy is the intrinsic interest of its subject matter. However, the study of philosophy has practical benefits as well. Philosophy majors and minors are practiced in the close reading of complex texts, in the careful analysis and evaluation of arguments, in original and creative thinking, and in the clear, precise, and persuasive communication of ideas. The skills thus acquired are not only a source of deep personal satisfaction, but a strong asset in any profession. That the study of philosophy is especially effective in enhancing academic skills is suggested by the fact that philosophy majors, as a group, receive exceptionally high scores on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test), the GMAT (the admissions test for MBA programs), and the GRE (Graduate Record Exam).

Consider, for example, the GRE General Test, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test contains three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. ETS publishes many statistics concerning the test, including the average scores received in each section by test takers in each of 50 (intended graduate) majors. The latest published report, covering the 3-year period ending June 30, 2004, shows that philosophy ranks first in Verbal Reasoning and first in Analytical Writing. In Quantitative Reasoning, philosophy ranks 15th, ahead of all other non-mathematical fields. If the 50 fields are ordered according to the average of their three rankings, philosophy places first, followed by physics and astronomy.