undergraduate program overview

Why Major In Philosophy?

If you are thinking about majoring in philosophy, you will naturally have a number of specific questions as well as some more general concerns that are harder to formulate. The choice of a major is a difficult problem, perhaps one of the most difficult you will face in your undergraduate years. The information provided here will not provide a quick and easy solution, but we hope it will give you the kind of information you need in order to make a carefully considered decision. You will find specific information about the requirements of the regular major, the Distinguished Majors Program, the Honors Program, the Philosophy Minor, and the Bioethics Minor on the "Degree Programs and Opportunities" page .

Philosophy majors learn two different but closely related kinds of things. First of all, one learns how some of humankind’s greatest and most profound thinkers have tried to answer certain basic and perennial questions. Among these are questions about morality, about our knowledge of the world, about the existence of God, about the relation between mind and body, and about the conditions of a just society. These quite general questions and the answers to them that have been advanced represent some of the most important themes in the history of our civilization. Acquaintance with this material is a necessary component of a balanced liberal education.

A philosophy major, however, does more than simply learn the views held by various philosophers. For in attaining a grasp of those views he or she must extract the principal points from complex material, evaluate the soundness of the arguments involved and, most important of all, justify his or her own position on any given topic. Writing papers, an integral part of almost any philosophy class, requires the ability to express one's thoughts in a lucid and concise fashion and to defend them cogently. These components of a philosophical training enable the philosophy major to develop sophisticated skills that are valuable in almost any field in which one might work, from business through law to highly technical scientific fields, including medicine. Two of the benefits of a balanced liberal education are to provide you with knowledge and skills that will last a lifetime, and the aspects of philosophy we have mentioned do have exactly those benefits.