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.

Selective focus on the word philosophy.

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.


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Philosophy Major

See the full list of courses, graduation requirements, and employment outcomes.

Gabriel Rabin, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, NYUAD

I once had a student say to me: "Man, I thought philosophy was just going to be all poppycock and fluff, but actually it's like math. But with words."

Gabriel Rabin, NYUAD philosophy professor

Distinguished Philosophers-in-Residence

The Distinguished Philosophers-in-Residence series is one of the Philosophy program's signature programs. Each year we bring a different distinguished senior philosopher to NYUAD for a weeklong visit, during which the philosopher-in-residence meets with students, attends one or more classes, delivers a public lecture, and participates in a faculty seminar on issues related to his or her work. Past distinguished visitors include:

  • Peter Adamson, Professor of Philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich
  • Julia Annas, Regents Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona
  • P. Kyle Stanford, Professor of Logic and the Philosophy of Science, University of California, Irvine

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