- Kathryn Semerau ('17)
The Undergraduate Program
The Program is divided into the following five basic fields:
Logic is the practice of distinguishing good reasoning from bad. It assesses how well our premises support our conclusions and elucidates what we are committed to when we take up a view. Logic also helps us develop strong arguments, notice logical relations, and formulate the minimum claims needed to prove our point.
Ethics addresses the meaning of our moral concepts—such as right action, obligation, and justice—and formulates principles to guide moral decisions, whether in private or public life. What are our moral obligations ? How should moral disagreements be settled? What rights must a society give its citizens? What is a valid excuse for wrongdoing?
Metaphysics seeks basic criteria for determining what sorts of things are real. For instance, are there mental, physical, and abstract things (such as numbers), or is there just the physical (mere matter and energy)? Are people physical beings through and through or do they have properties that cannot be reduced to anything physical?
Epistemology concerns the nature and scope of knowledge. What does it mean to know, and what is the nature of truth? What sorts of things can be known, and can we be justified in our beliefs about what goes beyond the evidence of our senses, such as the mental lives of others or events of the past? What are the limits of self-knowledge?
The History of Philosophy investigates major philosophers, periods, and movements in the development of philosophy since the Presocratics. Key figures and ideas—from the ancient period through the modern to the contemporary—are studied for both their historical importance and saliency today.