The department offers a combined major in philosophy and religion. Students may choose one of the four concentrations: either philosophy, religion, philosophy with an interdisciplinary focus or religion with an interdisciplinary focus. Whether concentrating in philosophy or religion, students in the department acquire the following fundamental skills and knowledge: the ability to think critically and rigorously with increased capabilities for problem solving and analysis of arguments; thorough familiarity with the literature, major figures, issues, ideals and practices of the discipline and the ability to express themselves clearly, soundly and persuasively in oral and written form. These three skill areas are the foundation and substance of a major in philosophy and religion. On the basis of this training, students should be prepared to express their own creative thought in a disciplined and effective manner.
What is Philosophy?
Students completing a major with a concentration in philosophy are expected to know the major movements, problems, writings, concepts and terms in the history of Western philosophy. The program concentrates on major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant; on problems arising in contemporary movements such as analytic philosophy, existentialism and American philosophy and on the major subdivisions of philosophy, including logic, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and law, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. All students take PHIL 475 as a capstone course. In that course, students give an oral presentation of a term paper, receive criticism from faculty and students, and then formally write the paper and submit it for use in assessment of the major.
Philosophy concentrators should be able to:
Identify the major thinkers in the history of philosophy, explain the central tenets of those thinkers, and locate them within their respective traditions of issues and problems;
Identify and explain the major areas of philosophy--epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion and logic--and their interrelations;
Explain the concepts and problems distinctive to philosophy as a discipline;
Identify and explain the principles and techniques used in critical or reflective thinking;
Write expository essays and research papers in accordance with the standards of good writing, and clear thinking;
Analyze and evaluate arguments in the writing of major philosophers and to formulate and evaluate one's own arguments;
Carefully and critically read philosophical texts and to strive for clarity and rigor in interpreting texts;
Engage in effective oral communication, for example, in listening, presenting, defending, and criticizing positions in seminars, classes or scholarly gatherings;
Demonstrate proficiency in research skills, including the use of interactive and other media when appropriate;
Examine their lives and be willing to discuss openly and analyze critically the presuppositions of their philosophical beliefs;
Engage in philosophical dialogue that is respectful towards others, seeks out reasoned arguments, and responds appropriately to criticisms.