Philosophy investigates the foundations of reality, knowledge, and value. Examples of philosophical questions include: what is time? What is the mind and how is it related to the body? What is the difference between knowledge and belief and how can we acquire knowledge? What is a just society? Why is there so much moral disagreement and what does this say about the nature of morality? Students who study philosophy can expect to receive training in these fundamental areas of inquiry, and also in clear thinking, inventive synthesis, and precise expression.

The department offers a wide range of courses, including courses on historical figures, such as Plato and Kant, traditional philosophical topics, such as the nature of the human mind, free will, and the just society, and several that deal with the philosophy of various disciplines outside philosophy itself, such as philosophy of science and philosophy of law.

Since philosophy often reflects on fundamental concepts in other areas of intellectual inquiry, philosophy is an excellent second major or minor to pair with many other programs of study. For example, students in political science can take courses in ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law; students in linguistics and computer science can take courses in logic, formal methods, and philosophy of language; and students in psychology can take courses in the philosophy of mind and human reasoning.

In studying philosophy, students develop the skills required to clarify and critically analyze ideas and arguments, both orally and in writing. As a result, studying philosophy provides excellent preparation for professions such as law, medicine, government, business, and any field that demands intellectual rigor (See Why Study Philosophy for more information on how studying philosophy provides preparation for a variety of careers). 

Program objectives

The philosophy program aims to:

  1. Equip students with an understanding of a range of philosophers and philosophical problems, while encouraging as deep a critical engagement with those philosophers and problems as is feasible in the time available.
  2. Promote respect for the norms of: clarity; careful analysis; critical reflection; rational argument; sympathetic interpretation and understanding; and impartial pursuit of truth.
  3. Promote independence of thought and a critical and analytical approach, not only to theories and concepts, but also to the assumptions on which they are based.
  4. Equip students with the core skills involved in: careful reading, comprehension and compression of textual material; clear thinking; sound argumentation; and the clear and well-organized expression of ideas.
  5. Provide excellent teaching which is informed and invigorated by the research activities of faculty.
  6. Facilitate an awareness of the application of philosophical thought to other academic disciplines or to matters of public interest, encouraging students to apply philosophical skills more widely where appropriate.

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Rachel Singpurwalla
Room 1122A, Skinner Building