What Is Philosophy?

Philosophy — perhaps the oldest academic discipline — explores enduring fundamental questions about the world and our place in it: What is the ultimate nature of reality? What really exists, and what is mere appearance? What, if anything, can we genuinely know? How are our conscious minds related to our physical bodies? What is value, and which values should we adopt? What makes for a good or valuable life? Are we ever responsible for the actions we perform, or are we merely victims of our environment and our genetic inheritance? How should societies be organized? How should we understand the relationship between science and religion, or between reason and faith?

Such questions are not the inventions of philosophers, of course. Many of us ponder them as children. Yet later we come to ignore them — or simply accept answers to them unreflectively. Philosophers, though, strive to keep pondering, and to address these questions as thoroughly as possible through reasoned discussion and argument.

By engaging in this process, philosophers illuminate aspects of the world that people routinely take for granted: phenomena such as perception, causation, consciousness, meaning, and obligation structure our lives and our practices in ways we rarely notice or pause to consider. We are everywhere guided by unexamined assumptions about truth, knowledge, reality, goodness, beauty, freedom, and justice. Philosophy lays bare these assumptions and then analyzes and questions them. And so those who aspire to live reflective lives cannot help but be gripped by philosophical inquiry. For them, philosophy is essential.

Tibetan Contemplative, by Aga Szemiot


The Philosophy major prepares students for any profession that requires rigorous and cogent thinking, reasoned argumentation, and clear and persuasive writing. Most importantly, the study of philosophy prepares students for a more reflective and examined life — one of deepened awareness and understanding.


The Capstone project in Philosophy represents the culmination of your work in the Philosophy major. It is a substantial work of written scholarship that enables you to explore a philosophical problem that is of particular personal interest to you and to make a scholarly contribution to ongoing discussions of that problem.

Philosophy Faculty

Name Research and Teaching Interests
Kevin Coffey Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, Metaphysics, Formal Epistemology, Logic
Jonardon Ganeri Philosophy of Mind, Indian Philosophy, Perceptiopn, the Self and Identity, Buddhist Philosophy, Metaphysics
Taneli Kukkonen Arabic Philosophy, Islamic Theology, Ancient Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Medieval Philosophy, Metaphysics
Phillip Mitsis
 Ancient Mediterranean Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Greek Epic and Tragedy
Gabriel Rabin Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Logic, Philosophy of Mathematics
Matthew Silverstein Ethics, Metaethics, Philosophy of Action, Political Philosophy, Modern European Philosophy, Kant, Philosophy of Music