Undergraduate Major Goals and Structure
An education in philosophy is mainly aimed at equipping students with general-purpose conceptual resources that are needed for rationally penetrating problems of any nature and for communicating the results. Strength in philosophical work requires superior reasoning and writing skills. Critical reasoning, clarity in thought and language, and competence in synthesizing a good deal of information into a systematic, coherent picture are thus the main skills students acquire through the systematic engagement with the main accomplishments and milestones in philosophy.
Given its own curriculum, but also its central position between the special sciences (humanities, social and natural sciences alike), philosophy is relevant to foundational and conceptual questions arising in almost all other disciplines, with which it often shares its subject matter. By rigorous engagement with main figures, theories and concepts in philosophical fields, students also accumulate knowledge of principled approaches to ideas and conceptions that form a guiding background of our culture and the sciences.
Success in the program can thus be measured by assessing two related kinds of competence:
- the skills needed for the critical discussion of conceptual and foundational issues in written and oral form, and (2) the knowledge of substantive philosophical contributions to our understanding of the history, rational structure and conceptual connections that make general human phenomena what they are.
Objectives I: Skills
Students completing the major in philosophy acquire the core skills involved in the philosophically competent written and oral presentation, interpretation and critical discussion of important philosophical positions. These abilities are widely applicable in all fields that require superior writing skills and superior abilities in theoretical research and imaginative problem-solving, such as
- formal and informal analytic use of critical reasoning,
- clarity in thought and language, especially through writing and presentation of complex and abstract subject matters,
- the ability to synthesize large amounts of information into a systematic, adequate and coherent picture,
- the capacity to identify, impartially present, compare and critically assess systems of positions found in (philosophical) texts and classics,
- the ability to define questions and to answer them in open-minded and rigorous discussion by using arguments in support of reasoned conclusions,
- rational independence and attention to conceptual connections that enable principled research of alternatives to extant approaches.
Objectives II: Knowledge
The course of study requires students to develop a broad competence in general issues in philosophy from an appreciation of classics, followed by focusing on central positions in at least two of the areas metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, of science, logic, phenomenology, feminist philosophy, critical theory, critical race theory, hermeneutics, history of philosophy. Upon completion, the student will show
- a strong understanding of canonical texts, figures, and key concepts developed in diverse fields, areas, standpoints, traditions of philosophy,
- a basic mastery of formal logic and other theories of valid argument,
- a trained awareness of the structural relationships between culturally, scientifically and normatively fundamental concepts, positions and approaches,
- a developed ability to use and analyze a variety of principled ways of approaching questions of reality, knowledge, normative correctness, beauty, social justice, mutual understanding,
- a schooled capacity to recognize and critically examine conceptual structures and patterns of reasoning in systems of argument, aimed at developing and defending stronger alternatives.
Expected Outcomes: Excellence in critical, enlightened and engaged global citizenship
Students who have completed our major will be in an excellent position to take on responsibilities a complex, diverse, multicultural world because of their training in communicating and writing on complex and abstract matters with clarity. The resulting mindset typically can be expected
- to be conscious that the way existing theoretical and practical conceptions are at a time in most cases is not necessary (=how things must be), paired with the ability
- to imaginatively but rigorously think about alternative proposals
- to offer new perspectives on sometimes very complex entrenched assumptions and institutions and communicate these to wider audiences in written and also oral form.
Students who have acquired this overall range of abilities will typically have higher chances than average to successfully enter certain post-college careers in law, education, politics, medicine, social activism, but also in the cutting-edge regions of the natural and social sciences.