2023-2024 Catalog 
    Feb 20, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog

Philosophy Major

Professors Calef, Flynn, Stone-Mediatore                                                                                                                                                               

Major Content Areas

While we offer a wide array of courses, we emphasize two areas in particular. One is the history of philosophy. A good education in philosophy requires training in its history. One of our missions is to introduce our students to historically important works that have influenced the thought of cultures and people well beyond the recognized boundaries of philosophy itself. In addition to courses dedicated to the histories of ancient and modern philosophy, we offer courses covering more recent developments in nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy as well as classes allowing students to concentrate on the study of individual philosophers, such as Plato or Nietzsche. To understand the present state of philosophy, one must understand its past.

But philosophy is also a practical discipline, and practical philosophy is our other main area of focus. By practical philosophy, we mean philosophy dedicated to questions about how to live, act, understand, and evaluate our lives. Coursework in practical philosophy endeavors to help students raise and answer questions about how to live well as individuals and as members of social, cultural, and ecological communities. Many of our courses are dedicated to aspects of these questions, including social and political philosophy, feminist philosophy, ethical theory, and courses dedicated to the application of ethics to business, medicine, and the environment. Many of our courses in the history of philosophy also take up these types of questions, just as our courses in practical philosophy engage the history of philosophy.

In sum, our goal is for philosophy majors to leave OWU with a broad understanding of the history of the discipline and deep appreciation for philosophy as an eminently practical pursuit. Our confidence is that philosophy helps our students live better, freer, and more reflective lives.

Skills Development

Philosophy is not only about the content it provides but also the skills it cultivates. Philosophy students are professionally trained in the arts of critical thinking, including logical analysis, argument construction and evaluation, creative adjudication of competing views, and facility with seeing complex issues from diverse perspectives. Philosophy students learn how to scrutinize not only their own views but also those that are common or culturally dominant. Critical thinking is the cornerstone of philosophy and is essential for all intellectual and personal development. Every course we offer focuses on the development of critical thinking.

Another essential skill in philosophy is writing. Philosophy courses offer training in thoughtful, clear, precise, and persuasive writing, a skill essential to clear thinking and invaluable in many professional endeavors. Our majors and minors have won university writing prizes and been published in peer review journals. 

Good philosophers are good readers. Perhaps no other discipline attends so closely to the meaning of words. Hence, close and careful reading is a fundamental skill we develop. Our courses guide students in developing careful, precise, and meaningful interpretations of difficult philosophical texts. We also help students appreciate the ways that interpretation functions in all spheres of life and distinguish better from worse interpretations. Once students gain skills in reading and interpreting philosophical texts, such skills extend to other areas, and students become more adept and thoughtful interpreters in other text-based disciplines.

Finally, philosophy is about conversation. In our courses, students develop an array of abilities associated with conversation and oral communication. These include the ability to listen carefully to the ideas of others, to raise precise and interesting questions, and to articulate and defend complex ideas. In numerous courses students also are forced to work together to try to find common ground or points of consensus in areas that are inherently controversial.

As you can see, these skills are crucial for many aspects of intellectual and professional life. Our development of these skills helps explain why philosophy majors do so well in their post-graduate endeavors, whether academic or professional. Philosophy majors routinely perform at or near the top in the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT. A crucial part of our mission is helping each student develop these skills to their greatest potential.

Learning Objectives

1. To think critically, in the sense of being able (a) to analyze, evaluate, and construct arguments, (b) to critique one’s preconceived notions as well as culturally dominant viewpoints, (c) creative adjudication of competing views and facility with seeing complex issues from diverse perspectives, and (d) to analyze how philosophical ideas are influenced by and affect social and cultural practices.

2. To communicate philosophically complex ideas in clear written prose and spoken language.

3. To be able to read and comprehend philosophically complex texts.

4. To identify and articulate philosophically interesting problems.

5. To be familiar with important ideas and developments in the history of Western philosophy, including a diversity of approaches within that history.

6. To appreciate philosophy’s practical applications to contemporary social and individual life.

7. To listen carefully and charitably to the ideas of others.

8. To know and appreciate the limits of one’s knowledge.

Degree Requirements

Our major and minor requirements have a relatively open structure. This enables our students to craft their philosophy degree according to their interests and needs. It also allows many of our students to double major, which is something we encourage. Part of our mission is to help students see the value of philosophy as a discipline that complements many other disciplines. Our graduates attest to philosophy enriching and improving their knowledge of those other disciplines, and many have gone on to professional or graduate work in disciplines as various as law, neuroscience, education, psychology, classics, and design analysis, as well as philosophy. We are not a department narrowly concerned with producing graduate students in philosophy. Rather, we aim to make philosophy part of a student’s whole life, and to enrich that life, no matter where life takes them.

Students with special interests—for example, students who desire to study philosophy as preparation for law school—are encouraged to consult with the department for assistance in tailoring their specific major.

Major Requirements

Eight courses in philosophy.