In light of the Socratic dictum "The unexamined life is not worth living," the members of the Department of Philosophy seek to engage today's student in authentic wonder about the ultimate questions that people can raise concerning the nature and meaning of life in all its dimensions, including our physical, mental, and spiritual experiences.
Philosophy courses raise the following kinds of questions: Is existence meaningful? Is there a purpose to life? What is the nature of our body? When we die, does the mind die? Is there a soul? Can we know what happens when we die? If a person is dying, does that person have a right to hasten his or her death? If someone wants to commit suicide, should the state have a right to prevent it? What constitutes good conduct? Is happiness the goal of life? If so, what is happiness? Do we have any moral obligations? What form of government is best? Is government necessary? Are there any limits to the power of the state? If so, how can we determine those limits? If a government violates those limits, what should be done? What are a person's obligations to the state and what are the stae's obligations to the people it serves?
The questions raised here are based on the four traditional and fundamental areas of philosophy: Metaphysics (an inquiry into the ultimate nature of reality, such as questions relating to the relationship between mind and body as well as the assumed reality of human freedom), Epistemology (an inquiry into the possibility and nature of knowledge), Ethics (an inquiry into the nature of the good life as well as what constitutes good conduct), and Political Philosophy (an inquiry into the nature of the state, its legitimacy, and the relationship between the state and the individual). Most philosophy course offerings will raise questions in one of these classic areas of philosophical inquiry.
While philosophical inquiry began with these types of questions, it expanded quickly into numerous areas of human experience. For example, does God exist? Is there one true religion? Is permanent world peace possible? Can you imagine an ideal society? Does history have a goal or pattern? Questions relating to religious experience, God's existence, the problem of evil, the relationship between religions and life and faith and reason, as well the nature of religious languange are addressed in the Philosophy of Religion. Questions that focus on the possibility of a more compassionate, just, and peaceful world, as well as questions regarding the possibility of a just war, are addressed in Perspectives on the Pursuit of Peace. Ethical issues raised by contemporary science, especially by contemporary science and medicine, are addressed in courses on Biomedical Ethics. The skills necessary for analyzing and evaluating arguments are examined in courses in Critical Thinking. Contemporary moral issues facing the business community are addressed in Business Ethics. A critical inquiry into the nature and value of sport and play occurs in Philosophy of Sport and Play. An inquiry into the relationship between law and society, focusing on issues such as free speech, freedom of the press, and civil rights, is conducted in Philosophy, Society, and Law. An analysis of the nature, meaning, and justification of punishment, including such issues as the distribution and severity of punishment, including capital punishment, is offered in Perspectives on Punishment.
Most of these courses are offered at least every other year. Once students take two courses in philosophy they can take an independent studies course on a topic that they want to pursue more specifically and fully. The areas of philosophical inquiry are virtually endless. Independent studies courses offer students the opportunity to work closely with a professor on a philosophical topic or issue that cannot be addressed fully in courses offered in the traditional classroom format.
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