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About the Discipline

Philosophy studies the most fundamental questions that human beings ask -- about individual and social action, the possibility and limits of knowledge, the truth and justification of beliefs, human nature and freedom, the existence of God, and the operations of nature. Philosophy approaches these questions in a systematic way, and philosophers have worked out more or less comprehensive theories to answer them (or show why they cannot be answered). The courses offered by the Philosophy Department are designed to introduce students to the main problems that philosophers study and to the main ideas of such profound and influential thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. Philosophy is one of the most important subjects a student can study because it develops the ability to reason clearly and critically, to write thoughtfully, to use intelligence and logic to deal with problems all too often ruled by emotion and prejudice. Philosophy also helps one develop intellectual flexibility and learn to appreciate ideas and beliefs other than those of one's time, place, class, or group. Since it develops these intellectual abilities and habits, the study of philosophy, either in individual courses or as a major or minor, is excellent preparation for any occupation. Students of philosophy pursue careers in law, business, medicine, government and the arts. Some go on to study philosophy at the graduate level with the aim either of teaching philosophy or of obtaining an advanced degree to further their career objectives.