Majors are introduced to the central questions and movements in the history of philosophy as a foundation for tackling today’s philosophical problems. Faculty have an unusually wide range of interests, including contemporary-analytic, 19th- and 20th-century continental and American philosophy.
What is Philosophy?
Courses in philosophy present ways of thinking about those fundamental questions which continue to arise no matter how much we think we know: What does it mean to be human? Is there a right way to live as a human? Is there a right way to live together as a society? As a species? What is our relationship to each other and to the earth? Is truth possible? What is ultimately real?
Philosophers see questions like these cutting across the boundaries of science, art, politics, religion—crucial to all these areas yet belonging to none of them—and demanding that we subject both our experiences and our beliefs to critical scrutiny. Because it calls into question those grounding beliefs we otherwise tend to take for granted, philosophy has always been considered central to liberal education, whose point is to generate citizens thoughtful about what is essential.
Philosophy at Dickinson
The philosophy program at Dickinson aims to educate our students to be careful readers, critical reasoners, and finally, original thinkers by:
- exploring significant and enduring philosophical problems through the close reading of primary texts
- and acquiring and evaluating methods and skills requisite to doing philosophy.
As philosophy touches on so many other fields of study, the department strongly supports double majors and interdisciplinary studies. Members of our faculty contribute to Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, Policy Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies.
The department also encourages philosophy majors to study abroad. Experience of another culture is an excellent way of putting one's own assumptions into questions, and many of our students spend their junior year in a Dickinson abroad program. While many choose to study in Norwich, England, other majors have studied at universities all over the world: China, Cameroon, and Australia, for example.
What can I do with a major in Philosophy?
Because it couples rigor of thought with concern for all aspects of the human condition, the study of philosophy is an excellent foundation for public service, education, law, or policy-making. Philosophy is an ideal grounding for any field which requires a creative but critical approach to problem-solving, or an ability to get at the presuppositions which underlie our public institutions and personal commitments.
Our undergraduate major provides a strong foundation for those wishing to pursue graduate work in philosophy. Our alumni have gone on to Ph.D. programs in such institutions as Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnati, Penn State University, Stony Brook University, and Vanderbilt University. Other philosophy alumni have gone into law, medicine, teaching, or fields as diverse as arts management, human ecology, architecture, corporate management, urban planning, computer science, folklore, and film studies.