Philosophy is best described as the attempt to think clearly and deeply about the fundamental questions that arise for us as human beings. What is the nature of knowledge (epistemology)? How are we to distinguish between what really is and what only seems to be (metaphysics)? What is the right thing to do (ethics)? Is there any meaning to existence? To study the history of philosophy is to study the best, most enduring answers that have been given to these questions in the past. Because every other field of study adopts some stance toward these questions, though often implicitly, philosophical issues arise in the natural and social sciences, history, linguistics, literature, art, and so on. Special courses in philosophy deal with each of these. Characteristic of philosophy are commitments to the construction and evaluation of arguments, to expressing thoughts clearly and precisely, and to defending one’s ideas and evaluating the ideas of others. The study of philosophy thus provides resources for critical participation in all realms of human endeavor.
The graduate program trains students to teach and pursue research in the main areas of department concentration: ethics (especially bioethics) and social and political philosophy, core portions of analytic philosophy (especially philosophy of mind), history of philosophy, and continental philosophy.