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. 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.

The feeling of wonder is characteristic of a philosophy: wonder is where philosophy begins.



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 students' work in the Philosophy major. It is a substantial work of written scholarship that enables students to explore a philosophical problem that is of particular interest to them and to make a scholarly contribution to ongoing discussions of that problem.

Philosophy is the ungainly attempt to tackle questions that come naturally to children, using methods that come naturally to lawyers.

David Hills


Rhodes Scholarship

Economics and Philosophy double major Abdulla Alhashmi was one of two NYU Abu Dhabi students to receive the Rhodes Scholarship to do his masters at Oxford University.

What Makes Us Human?

Gabriel Rabin, a philosopher, makes a seemingly paradoxical statement. He says that the mind — something familiar, part of us — may be one of the last great frontiers of humanity's quest for knowledge.

True Grit

Philosopher Sarah Paul's research on the human condition explains how attributes like grit play a part in overcoming challenges.

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