What is philosophy?
The 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant once suggested three questions human beings can ask, “What can I know?” “What must I do?” and “What may I hope?” Philosophy majors argue over many things, among them what questions we ought to pose, and that suggests a further question, “What should we ask?” The ancient Athenian philosopher Socrates lived by asking questions, so he exemplified this questioning spirit we cultivate in philosophy majors and philosophy classes. Socrates told the Athenians that the unexamined life was not worth living, suggesting that everyone can be a philosophy major by examining life and ourselves, not just the world before us. Philosophy courses at Wabash tie a desire to know, a desire for answers to our questions, to the development of character. For a full offering of philosophy courses, check out our curriculum.
Why study philosophy?
The Philosophy Department engages philosophy majors and minors in their own pursuit of such questions. Students in philosophy classes read historical and contemporary philosophy to see the questions asked by others and to help them to develop and ponder their own questions in preparation for a life of critical reflection and thoughtfulness. Such a life can be led along many career paths. The skills philosophy majors develop enable them to pursue a wide range of careers. Jobs for a philosophy major include careers in law, business, communications and marketing, sports management, diversity and inclusion work, public service, journalism, and an academic career in philosophy.
Philosophy classes have few prerequisites, but initial digits indicate their level. All courses in the 100s are appropriate introductions to philosophy. Students with interests in a particular area (e.g., the philosophy of race, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of science, philosophy and literature) might begin with a 200-level course in that area. Most students in 300-level philosophy classes will have had previous courses in philosophy. The senior seminar is required of majors but open to others.
A Wabash philosophy major:
- is able to recognize the names of and discuss the views of and relations among at least some significant figures in the history of philosophy
- can understand and is able to talk about the views of a philosopher in some depth outside the context of the history of philosophy
- is acquainted with some contemporary figures or styles of philosophical work
- has a basic ability to give an account of what is said and of the author's reasons for saying it as well as to pose and suggest answers to questions of interpretation
- is ready to discuss ideas without recourse to examples; is able to formulate and develop new concepts
- is disposed to offer and ask for reasons for assertions; can assess the overall strengths of a statement of reasons as well as identify and describe gaps and weak points in argument
- is able to articulate objections to his own positions
- is disposed to be dissatisfied with first interpretations, is willing to end discussion without conclusions, is able and ready to suggest new questions
- engages in philosophical conversation with non-philosophers and, in such conversation outside the classroom, can't stop being a philosopher; recognizes and explores conceptual difficulties in ordinary life and also in contexts where there are existing disciplined patterns of thinking.