Philosophy Mission Statement
The philosophy program seeks to impart knowledge and skills that fall under the three following general categories:
- Liberal education teaches the ideas of influential past and contemporary thinkers who have sought to understand the world and our experience of it. These ideas concern such topics as the nature of truth and reality, the limits of knowledge, standards of right and wrong, the experience of beauty and world religions.
- Methodology emphasizes methods of sound practical reasoning, deductive logic and language analysis.
- Application critically analyzes non-philosophical disciplines. For example, the philosophy of democracy analyzes the value assumptions behind democratic forms of government, while medical ethics seeks to identify and resolve dilemmas arising from conflicts between medical technology and the quality of life.
A major in philosophy first and foremost exposes students to the intellectual history of Western civilization, though it does not limit itself to this tradition. Students in our program complete coursework in at least one major historical period (Ancient, Medieval, or Early Modern), while taking other classes that regularly include thinkers from various historical eras.
But the philosophy major does much more than provide students with a thorough understanding of Western intellectual history. Students who major in philosophy also learn to apply principles of sound reasoning. Not only is a course dealing specifically with logic part of the requirements, but all courses also emphasize logic methodology and critical thinking. In addition, philosophy majors engage speculative questions in courses in metaphysics and epistemology, further developing the abstract reasoning skills and cognitive abilities central to the discipline.
Finally, philosophy majors train in value theory. All majors take a course in ethics or aesthetics, and they will also consider value theoretic questions in no fewer than a half dozen courses in ethics, religion and politics. In sum, a philosophy major offers students the opportunity to learn the foundations of an intellectual discipline that forms a central part of a liberal education, while at the same time developing practical, marketable skills including:
Critical thinking skills:
Logical analysis is at the heart of philosophical discourse. Students in our program must take at least one course in logic (deductive logic or critical thinking). These courses help students identify, reconstruct and evaluate arguments, skills that transfer directly to their other coursework and to their careers.
The practice of philosophy requires students both to evaluate the arguments of others and to construct and present their own reasoned opinions. This is most often done in written form, though philosophy classes also require that students discuss issues with each other and with their professors in less formal settings.
Creative thinking skills:
Because philosophy presents “perennial problems” of being, knowledge and value, students are encouraged to explore and develop their own solutions to these problems, as well as to engage critically the reasoning of others. Both of these tasks require students to engage in creative thought experiments and to construct their own arguments.
Philosophy is sometimes misunderstood as involving undisciplined speculation about the meaning of life. To the contrary, professional philosophers rigorously define philosophical problems, and the practice of philosophy requires that one understand the development and direction of philosophical discourse. Students who work in philosophy, especially at advanced levels, need to familiarize themselves with the research methods of, and resources available to, the profession.
Ability to understand the interrelations between various fields/subjects:
As suggested by philosophy course listings from universities around the country, philosophy serves as the foundation of virtually every other discipline. Students who study philosophy come to see the relations between these foundations and thus gain an appreciation of how seemingly disparate fields are often closely related at a fundamental level. In professional settings, philosophy graduates are thus well prepared to make connections between ideas that on the surface are not obviously related.
In offering a BA in philosophy at WSU, we help impart the above-referenced skills to our students, as well as expose them to a discipline that asks them to examine the most fundamental questions at the heart of the world’s intellectual traditions.