Philosophy is meaningfully connected to virtually all other disciplines, and can prove a valuable major or double major for a range of professional interests. It is expected of the philosophy major to learn to read and analyze texts with attention to argument, to develop the ability to reason dispassionately and critically, to acquire the ability to articulate ideas and arguments both orally and in writing with clarity, precision and cogency.
While some philosophy majors continue in graduate school intending to embark on careers of teaching and research, a philosophy major can be advantageous for business, journalism and publishing, or any profession that demands abilities to think and write clearly. Philosophy is a superb pre-law major, looked upon with favor by many top-notch law schools.
The Discipline of Philosophy
“Philosophy” is our term for a specific academic discipline, and for a particular kind of human inquiry that is the subject of that discipline. The discipline of philosophy is rigorous and difficult, yet both creative and rewarding. The word “philosophy” derives from the ancient Greeks, to whom the Western world owes the discovery and systematization of philosophical thought. Literally, philosophy, whose object is insight into truth, is the love (philein) of wisdom (sophia). Philosophical thought is no one’s invention; it antedates the establishment of academic institutions; it is not confined to the Western tradition that coined the word we use to label it.; nevertheless, that word’s etymology provides a good first indication of the nature of this area of study.
Observe that the lover of wisdom is not necessarily wise: the designation describes an activity, not a possession. The discipline of philosophy does not maintain a treasure trove of truths, like gold coins, to be opened and displayed for the amazement of initiates; rather it engages and extends an intellectual enterprise: the rational inquiry into truth. If you think carefully about this, you might draw some conclusions about philosophical questions, and the nature of the questions reveals the nature of the process. The material for philosophical inquiry is drawn from virtually anything within the scope of human thought and experience; the tool for philosophical inquiry is reason. The questions of philosophy are questions that are meaningfully discussed, open to rational argument and demonstration, but rarely or never decisively provable. Philosophical questions are traditionally classified within several sub disciplines.
The traditional subdivisions of philosophy
The main divisions include the following, which are illustrated with a few representative topics.
This most general and most “abstract” area of philosophy examines questions of first principles: What is being? What is existence? What is the self? What is causality? How are appearance and reality distinguished?
The theory of knowledge, its definition, the kinds of knowledge, how it is obtained, how it is justified.
Moral philosophy examines theories of right and wrong, good and bad, as they pertain to the individual and the individual’s place in society.
The theory of art: What is art? What is beauty? Can art be defined? What is its function? What is its effect?
The science of argument, the rigorous study of the varieties of reasoning and how evidence supports, or fails to support conclusions.
Jason Hayob-Matzke, Professor of Philosophy
Ethics, Applied Ethics (Environmental and Medical), Philosophy of Law, and Social and Political Philosophy
Michael Reno, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy
Logic, Critical Social Theory, 19th Century European Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy and Technology, Aesthetics