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Department Overview

"Philosophy" comes from two Greek words meaning "love of wisdom.'' This may still be the best short definition of philosophy. The trouble with it, of course, is that it expresses an ideal, and an ideal whose meaning is vague. What, after all, is "wisdom''; and in what does wisdom consist? Is wisdom like knowledge? Science? Practical knowledge? Yes -- and no. Perhaps the best way to describe this "love of wisdom'' would be to say that it is the desire to find out what is real and true, to understand, and to be better off as a consequence of this. But how shall inquiry proceed? What is it to "understand''? And how might a human being be really "better off''? These are themselves among the fundamental questions of philosophy. They lead us to issues in the theory of reality, the theory of knowledge, moral and political philosophy, and aesthetics.

Philosophy is a kind of "calling," a kind of "vocation." It is not primarily a career, a profession, a job. It is a calling to anyone who wishes to take life reflectively and thoughtfully, rather than just acting on prevailing assumptions, habits, and prejudices. This is not to say that in thinking philosophically we need to separate ourselves from worldly activities; rather it is to say that we have the opportunity to bring critical judgment to bear upon the practices of social, political, religious, artistic, and business life with a view toward reform and improvement. But philosophy is first of all a deepening of one's own self.

Hope students can pursue their goals through a single course in philosophy or through any number of combinations of courses short of a major. Others will want to make the history of philosophical thought and its special fields of inquiry the core around which their overall education is built and will become majors. Still others will want to combine a philosophy major with a major in some other field. Recent fields combined with philosophy in joint majors include: Art, Business, Chemistry, English, Mathematics, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Social Work.