Mission and Student Learning Outcomes

The School of Athens (Detail)


Of all the university’s academic programs, the philosophy department is most uniquely situated to help the university achieve its stated mission: “Our liberal arts educational approach emphasizes life skills including critical thinking, clear and thoughtful expression, and honest open inquiry. Students undertake concentrated study in one area while simultaneously developing an understanding of the connections among disciplines. We encourage students to clarify, develop and live their own values while respecting the views and beliefs of others. In addition, we cultivate an understanding of the dimensions of human diversity while recognizing the common humanity of all.”

Philosophy, when rigorous, is thinking critically and consistently. Consequently, all of our courses entail critical thinking. In particular, the logic course offered by the department develops the use of students’ reasoning abilities and helps them make these abilities more reliable.

The department offers a major in the discipline which emphasizes the history of philosophical thought, but which also entails the rigorous ILS requirement as well as 12 semester hours in another discipline.

Genuine philosophy by its nature is dialectical; various points of view are brought into critical contact, their assumptions critically assessed, their connections and implications explored. This is the central task of the philosophical enterprise.

The issues of human values and “the good” are some of the oldest of philosophical questions and are addressed specifically in the department’s courses in ethics, applied ethics, Philosophy of Sex and Gender, and generally in other more historical courses.

The department offers a wide range of courses including courses in non-Western philosophy, e.g. Asian Philosophy, as well as non-traditional Philosophy, e.g. Philosophy of Sex and Gender, Race and Ethnicity, and Feminist Theory.

By strengthening human native powers, by bringing human intellectual capacities to maturity, and by raising issues such as the nature of the “good life” and what it means to be truly “human,” “rational,” and “free,” philosophy is at the heart of a truly “liberal” and “humanistic” education.

The Philosophy Department’s mission serves the university by providing a major in the discipline; offering ILS courses, including staffing the humanities program; and staffing other university programs, e.g. honors, Women’s Studies, etc. We also provide the “backbone” for certain other programs, e.g. Ethics and Social Institutions, Religious Studies, and Legal Studies.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students demonstrate the ability to think critically and communicate effectively about Western and non-Western traditions.
  • Students demonstrate knowledge of core concepts and central figures in major subfields in philosophy.
  • Students demonstrate understanding of comparisons and connections between Western/non-Western and traditional/non-traditional philosophies.
  • Students demonstrate skill in use of dialectical approaches to learning and discussion.
  • Students demonstrate understanding of ethics/human values as a foundation for life-long learning as well as for interaction with others in a diverse and complex world.