Mary C. MacLeod, Chair
Terri Smith, Assistant Chair
Three degree programs are available: the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy/Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), and the Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. A philosophy minor is also offered, as is a minor in religious studies.
BA in Philosophy
The discipline of philosophy involves sustained, rigorous focus on some of the deepest questions human beings ask, questions about the nature of reality, thought and consciousness, the scope and limits of human knowledge, the value and essence of art, and the foundations of ethics and justice. Philosophy distinguishes itself by its methods: unpacking concepts, questioning beliefs, evaluating arguments, and examining the methods and assumptions of other disciplines, including natural science, social science, law, and fine arts. Interdisciplinary focus is inherent in philosophy, and most courses offered by the department are designed to be accessible to a broad range of students, not just those majoring in philosophy.
Students of philosophy learn to read carefully, think independently, communicate clearly, argue cogently, spot fallacies, clarify muddled reasoning, and identify questionable assumptions. Surveys show that such critical reasoning and analytical writing skills are those most sought by potential employers. Standardized exams for graduate, business, and law school test for such skills, and the data demonstrate that philosophy majors do extraordinarily well on them. Historically, according to Educational Testing Service data, philosophy majors outperform all other majors on both the Verbal Reasoning section and the Analytical Writing section of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
The BA in Philosophy is best suited for students intending a broad education in philosophy. Some philosophy majors earn advanced degrees and pursue academic careers, but most pursue careers in law, medicine, public service, business, or information technology.
Students interested in exploring interdisciplinary connections may choose philosophy as a second major, both for its flexibility and the new perspective it provides on the primary major. Course work in metaphysics (PHIL 420 ), the philosophy of science (PHIL 330 ), and the theory of knowledge (PHIL 421 ) deepens students’ understanding of the methods and assumptions of natural science and social science. Course work in the history of ideas deepens students’ appreciation of the Western intellectual tradition and their understanding of academic pursuits, generally (PHIL 324 , PHIL 325 , and PHIL 326 ). Course work in ethics (PHIL 122 ) and political philosophy (PHIL 323 ) provides orientation for work in social science, business, law, criminology, or safety science. Philosophers also take a distinctive perspective on aesthetic questions of interest to fine arts majors (PHIL 223 ) and questions about the nature of the mind of interest to psychology majors (PHIL 360 ).
BA in Philosophy/PPE
The BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics is designed to help students understand the social institutions and structures that shape our world by looking at them through the lenses of three disciplines. To understand how the social world actually is, could be, and should be, the track combines the expertise and perspectives of philosophy, political science, and economics: economics to explain how economic systems operate and predict the effects of potential policy changes; political science to explain how political systems operate and how those systems might be changed; and, philosophy to analyze the moral costs and benefits of different economic and political systems. This program is best suited for students concerned about the impact of law, policy, business, and government on individuals, social groups, and the broader world, preparing them for careers in law, government, public policy, public administration, the non-profit sector, advocacy, or consulting.
BA in Religious Studies
The BA in Religious Studies program is designed to provide a balanced, nonsectarian, cross-cultural approach leading to a better understanding of the phenomenon of religion in human experience. It emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach and encourages the minor or a double major, as well as a single major in religious studies. The BA in Religious Studies helps students understand the relationship between religion and politics, economics, and social structures. In addition to learning about the faiths, world views, and ways of life of people all over the world, religious studies students develop analytical, public speaking, and cross-cultural communication skills. In upper-level courses in Asian, Indigenous, and Western traditions, they gain experience in factual description, comparative and critical analysis, and historical judgment, while enhancing their knowledge of cultural diversity and the complexity of world views. Coursework in religious studies is essential in order to produce an educated citizenry that is not only more precise in its understanding of religious differences but more inclusive in its embrace of diversity.
The BA in Religious Studies has significant practical vocational impact. The program is valuable for those planning to teach about religions or religious studies in schools at the primary, secondary, or college level and provides an excellent background for graduates planning to enter Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant seminaries. The need for attorneys, educators, journalists, law enforcement personnel, public servants, mental health and social workers who are well versed in the complexity of the national and international religious landscape is both broad and deep. Consequently, our graduates also find themselves well prepared for employment in social services, non-profit organizations and political, international and museum related concerns, exhibiting great success in securing employment.
Religious studies is a good complement to majors in such fields as anthropology, English, fine arts, history, international studies, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology.
Liberal Studies Offerings:
The department offers Liberal Studies Knowledge Area courses in philosophy and in religious studies. The student may choose from PHIL 100 , PHIL 101 , PHIL 122 , PHIL 130 , PHIL 223 , PHIL 240 , RLST 100 , RLST 110 or RLST 120 (GMA).
The department also offers Liberal Studies electives in philosophy and in religious studies.