Gateway Building

About the Department

Director of Undergraduate Programs: Associate Professor M. Oreste Fiocco, 

The undergraduate program in Philosophy provides students a rigorous grounding in the history of Western philosophy, improves their skills in critical reasoning, and teaches them to pursue fundamental questions in the main areas of the discipline. These questions include:
  • Ethics. What is the highest human good? What is right and wrong? What is the source of values by which we guide our lives? How can we choose among values when they conflict?
  • Epistemology. Is all human knowledge founded on experience, or do we know some things through pure reason, independently of experience? Given the risks of error and illusion, can we be certain that we know anything at all?
  • Metaphysics. What are the basic categories of being? Is everything material, or are there also spiritual and mental beings? What is the “mind” and its relation to the natural world? Do human beings have a will or freedom of choice that animals lack? What makes a person the same person over the course of a lifetime?
Although the Philosophy major demands unusual clarity in thought, discussion, and writing, the number of courses required for the major is not very high. A wide range of upper-division courses gives students the opportunity to explore in greater depth the areas they find most interesting. The size of these courses is restricted in order to encourage the kind of questioning and discussion that form an indispensable part of education in philosophy.

Because we believe that the study of philosophy improves one’s analytical skills in other areas, we try to make it easy for Philosophy majors to pursue a double major or a minor. The minor in Philosophy and Law has proved especially popular. We also encourage students to expand their perspective by studying outside of the United States. The Center for International Education, which includes the Education Abroad Program (EAP) and the International Opportunities Program (IOP), assists students in taking advantage of many worldwide opportunities for study and research. Those interested in analytic philosophy might benefit from EAP programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand. Students interested in Continental philosophy might benefit from EAP programs in France, Germany, and Italy. Those interested in the history of philosophy, who can equally benefit from study abroad, may find EAP programs in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy especially rewarding. Consult your academic counselor for additional information.

The Philosophy minor requires one three-course Philosophy sequence, plus four upper-division Philosophy courses.