Philosophy is the rational, critical inquiry into fundamental questions of human existence. As such, it involves examining the nature of knowledge, reality, human existence, ethics, and social and political structures. For just about any area of human inquiry, such as mathematics, science, religion, law, art, etc. there is a branch of philosophy devoted to the critical study of the fundamental assumptions of that area of inquiry. For instance, in the philosophy of religion the philosopher asks what religion is and what is the nature of religious experience or in the philosophy of science she might ask what is the nature of science and how does it differ from other areas of intellectual inquiry.
As the preceding comments suggest, the range of issues considered in philosophy is vast. Among the many questions considered by philosophers are the following: Is there a God? What is the nature and extent of human knowledge? Are human beings purely material beings or is there some good reason to think there is a nonphysical aspect of the self? What is the nature of human freedom and do human beings possess freedom of the will? Are there objective standards of moral conduct, and if so what are they? What is the nature of justice and what sorts of social and economic structures best serve the ideals of justice?
Generally, students are interested in studying philosophy because they find the raising of such questions and the critical examination of the answers to such questions to be intrinsically interesting. But, the study of philosophy develops skills and habits of mind that are also of great practical value. The study of philosophy develops one’s reading, writing, and reasoning skills. In philosophy, great emphasis is placed on the understanding of theories and their implications and on the critical examination of the arguments for and against competing theories. Insofar as philosophy students are expected to read and write about different theories and to develop positions of their own, they are driven to become clear thinkers and skilled arguers, who, while understanding the different views of others, are able to explain and defend their own views. Philosophy students are expected to be able to exhibit these skills in the context of class discussions and in their writing. Well-developed reading, writing, and speaking skills are valued commodities in our society. As such, philosophy helps prepare one for success in life after college.
The Philosophy Program at Coe offers both a major and a minor. The members of the Philosophy Faculty all hold the highest degrees in their fields and they are active scholars and committed, caring teachers. To learn more about our program feel free to examine other aspects of this web page or, better yet, stop by and visit with us on campus in Hickok Hall.