Welcome to the Philosophy Department!
Philosophy is, broadly put, the endeavor to make sense of the world, of oneself, and of one's relations with others. Philosophy addresses a wide array of issues, from practical dilemmas that arise in business, medicine, and law to theoretical questions concerning the nature of knowledge, existence, and truth. Here’s a sample of some questions a student might grapple with in philosophy class.
“What does it mean to be human?” “What responsibilities do humans have to the natural world?” “What is the best way to live a good life?” “What is justice?” “Can judgments of value be rationally supported or are they just a matter of taste or social convention? “ “Is there anything in the world that is stable and reliable? Or does everything change?” “Does the past still exist?” “What is the difference between justified knowledge and mere opinion?” “If all our actions are caused by prior circumstances, what happens to free will?” “Can computers think?” “If we met aliens for the first time, how would we decipher their language?” “If there were no laws and no government, would this lead to chaos or to utopia?” “With so many competing opinions, how can we know which, if any, are true?”
But, more than a subject area, philosophy is an activity - a way of life - that aims at sound thinking and responsible living as its goals. To study philosophy is to think deeply and critically about the questions and problems that impact our lives, personally and collectively, and to develop our own philosophical solutions: theories inspired by a creative imagination and supported by good reasoning.
The value of Philosophy
The value of a philosophical education lies first and foremost in its subject matter: we study in depth the views and arguments of influential thinkers across time and place, thinkers who have shaped society, transformed culture, or enhanced our way of life. But the value of a philosophical education goes far beyond the classroom -- philosophy prepares students for meaningful and productive lives beyond campus. At Muhlenberg, we train our students to solve problems logically, to develop ideas collaboratively, to argue respectfully and persuasively, to write with depth and clarity, and to produce arguments that meet the highest standards of reasoning. These skills are invaluable in everyday life and beneficial in nearly every career. In fact, contrary to popular belief, independent statistics show that philosophy majors are among the most successful after leaving college.
Recent Muhlenberg philosophy alumni have entered law, medicine, theatre, education, business, finance, and the ministry, among other fields. Our majors have also gained employment in companies such as Bloomberg, Cigna, and DHL.
We offer an unusually broad range of courses in philosophy—from Philosophy of Science to Metaphysics, from Logic to Law and Morality, and from Bioethics to Philosophy of Feminism and Philosophies of China. Our curriculum is integrated into other majors and programs across campus, including Asian Studies, Business, Environmental Science, Neuroscience, Political Science, Public Health, Sustainability Studies, Theatre, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Students also have the option to specialize in an area of concentration.
Our department consists of active scholars who are also devoted to excellence in teaching. True to the spirit of a Liberal Arts college, our professors are dedicated to opening up the philosophical traditions from around the world to our students, and providing them with the skills to understand and participate in profound philosophical discourse. In addition to our extensive regular offerings, our professors work one on one with students on Independent Studies of their own choice. We have supervised summer research projects and Honors theses. We have also prepared students to participate in conferences, and regularly write letters of support for graduate school, internships, law school, and employment.