The teaching and research in our department spans many areas including philosophy, mathematics, computer science, biology, medicine, neuroscience, linguistics, and more.
Education in philosophy involves becoming aware of major figures and developments in the history of philosophy, learning up-to-date techniques and accepted answers to philosophical questions, and learning critical, interpretive, and evaluative skills that, in the overall scheme of things, may be considered to be of greatest value.
The Philosophy Department houses four distinct majors:
Why study philosophy?
Much of what is learned in philosophy can be applied in virtually any endeavor. This is both because philosophy touches so many subjects and, especially, because many of its methods can be used in any field.
The study of philosophy helps us to enhance our ability to solve problems, our communication skills, our persuasive powers, and our writing skills. Below is a description of how philosophy helps us develop these various important skills.
General Problem Solving Skills
Writing is taught intensively in many philosophy courses, and many regularly assigned philosophical texts are also excellent as literary essays. Philosophy teaches interpretive writing through its examination of challenging texts, comparative writing through emphasis on fairness to alternative positions, argumentative writing through developing students' ability to establish their own views, and descriptive writing through detailed portrayal of concrete examples. Concrete examples serve as the anchors to which generalizations must be tied. Structure and technique, then, are emphasized in philosophical writing. Originality is also encouraged, and students are generally urged to use their imagination to develop their own ideas.
The general uses of philosophy just described are obviously of great academic value. It should be clear that the study of philosophy has intrinsic rewards as an unlimited quest for understanding of important, challenging problems. But philosophy has further uses in deepening an education, both in college and in the many activities, professional and personal, that follow graduation. Two of these further uses are described below.
Understanding Other Disciplines
Development of Sound Methods of Research and Analysis
Among the things that people educated in philosophy can do are the following: They can do research on a variety of subjects. They can get information and organize it. They can write clearly and effectively. They can communicate well, usually both orally and in writing. They can generate ideas on many different sorts of problems. They can formulate and solve problems. They can elicit hidden assumptions and articulate overlooked alternatives. They can persuade people to take unfamiliar views or novel options seriously. They can summarize complicated materials without undue simplification. They can integrate diverse data and construct useful analogies. They can distinguish subtle differences without overlooking similarities. They can also adapt to change, a capacity of growing importance in the light of rapid advances in so many fields. And well educated philosophers can usually teach what they know to others. This ability is especially valuable at a time when training and retraining are so often required by rapid technological changes.
These abilities are quite general, but they bear directly on the range of careers for which philosophers are prepared. Philosophers have the skills necessary for an enormous range of both academic and non-academic jobs. The kind of basic education which philosophical training provides is eminently useful in some major aspects of virtually any occupation.