The aim of the Philosophy Department is to engage students in disciplined and imaginative thinking about philosophical issues. Philosophical questions fall primarily into four groups: questions about the nature of reality (metaphysics), about reasoning and inference (logic), about knowledge (epistemology) and about values and society, including moral values (ethics) and aesthetic values. These questions arise naturallly in the course of a liberal education; they are not only fascinating in their own right, they also touch on issues central to understanding and improving human life in society and the world. These are complex and controversial issues, and there are no easy answers. Yet it matters greatly which answers are accepted, and it is therefore important to engage in discussion with others who face these questions and to seek to learn from the philosophers of the past and present.
Engaging in philosophy develops skills in careful and fair-minded interpretation, creative but rigorous argumentation, and reflective and wise evaluation of complex issues. These abilities are extremely valuable for life as a whole and are applicable to any subject matter and in any human context. Most of our students discover that these skills make philosophy very useful for continuing their education not only in philosophy but in other fields as well and for negotiating the ambiguities of today’s career paths.