Professors: Richard Fleming, Gary Steiner

Associate Professors: Peter S. Groff (Chair), Sheila Lintott, Matthew Slater, Jeffrey S. Turner

Assistant Professors: Maria Balcells (visiting), Jason Leddington

Philosophy examines questions pertaining to the nature of language, truth, knowledge, reality, beauty and ethical commitment — questions that are so fundamental to human existence that they are neither easily answered nor easily ignored. The study of philosophy develops skills in interpreting texts, thoughtfully responding to other viewpoints, constructing and evaluating argumentation, and the disciplined imagining of novel possibilities for human knowing, valuing, and living. In addition to its intrinsic interest and value, it also provides excellent training for graduate, medical, law or business school and prepares students for a variety of potential careers, from the corporate world to nonprofit work to creative, educational, or entrepreneurial pathways.

Bucknell's philosophy curriculum offers courses in a wide variety of subjects, figures, historical periods, traditions, movements and methodological perspectives. Some courses focus on general fields such as ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology and logic. Others raise philosophical questions about topics such as mind, language, art, music, science, religion, politics, gender and law. Historically oriented courses range from the earliest Greek philosophers up through revolutionary 20th century thinkers such as Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Still others span whole philosophical traditions (Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Jewish) or survey specific movements (existentialism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, feminist philosophy).

The philosophy major consists of a minimum of nine courses drawn from different areas,

  1. Introduction to Philosophy requirement: any section of PHIL 100. (This course is a prerequisite for most 200- and 300-level PHIL courses.)
  2. Logic requirement: PHIL 103 or PHIL 201.
  3. Two Core Historical Period requirements: PHIL 205 and PHIL 207.
  4. Axiology (Value Theory) requirement: PHIL 212, 213, 214, 215, 218, 228, 246, 265 or 271.
  5. Metaphysics and Epistemology requirement: PHIL 204, 220, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 268 or 272.
  6. Movements and Traditions requirement: PHIL 206, 219, 222, 230, 233, 256, 258, 260, 262, 266, 267, 269 or 270.
  7. Senior seminars/Culminating Experience: Two 300-level seminars or one 300-level seminar plus PHIL 321, or PHIL 322, or PHIL 323.

This curriculum aims at providing students with a balance of breadth and depth in the field, while allowing them a large degree of flexibility in choosing the specific courses that best fit their particular interests.

The learning goals of the philosophy major include (1) a general comprehension of several major periods and authors in the history of Western philosophy, (2) skill in constructing and evaluating argumentation, (3) skill in developing and evaluating interpretations of philosophical texts and (4) an appreciation of the fundamental ambiguities and complexities involved in the human attempt to answer questions about knowing, valuing and living.

In addition to these discipline-specific goals, the philosophy major is designed to cultivate a number of more general skills and competencies, in accordance with the "Disciplinary Depth" component of the College Core Curriculum. They are:

  1. Skills in writing. Students majoring in philosophy will gain significant experience in the written analysis and evaluation of texts and arguments. Almost every course offered by the philosophy department includes both an intensive and an extensive focus on writing skills.
  2. Skills in formal presentation. Regardless of one's eventual choice of profession, one must develop skills in oral argumentation, articulate discussion, and persuasion. Many of the courses offered by the philosophy department include work that will enhance students' oral presentation skills, including individual and/or group presentations, oral summaries and other presentations of assigned work, and formal classroom debates. All students in PHIL 207 will develop skills in preparing, revising, and delivering oral presentations of various kinds, including individual presentations, group presentations, and/or formal in-class debates. In addition, in many of the 300-level seminars offered by the philosophy department, students will further develop their formal presentation skills.
  3. Information literacy. Students majoring in philosophy will gain facility in the use of both primary and secondary sources; learn how to locate, access, and retrieve both primary and secondary materials; learn to evaluate these materials critically through in-class discussion and their written work; become familiar with the legal and ethical standards of information access and use; and learn to use various technological resources in support of their academic work. All students in PHIL 205 will devote special attention to the development of information literacy.
  4. Culminating Experience (CE). Students majoring in philosophy will complete a two-part Culminating Experience, usually during the senior year. The Culminating Experience is designed to distill and synthesize students' previous studies in philosophy, enriching and cementing the knowledge and skills mentioned above. Students engaged in the Culminating Experience will typically have completed most if not all of the other major requirements. In order to fulfill the Culminating Experience in philosophy, students will either take two 300-level seminars in philosophy or take one 300-level seminar in philosophy and write a senior or honors thesis. At least one of these seminars (or the student's thesis, if the student elects to write one) must be taken during the student's senior year, with the exception that second-semester juniors may complete this Culminating Experience in the major with permission of the adviser and the department chair.

Philosophy majors interested in study abroad are encouraged by the department to do so, and may work with faculty in the department to find a program of study suitable to their interests. Qualified students are also encouraged to pursue honors study in philosophy; they should consult with their department advisers or with the chair of the department in advance about this option. Students will be expected to submit a substantial honors thesis, the equivalent of two semesters of work in their senior year. Credit may be taken either in one semester of the senior year or two. Students pursuing this course of study are exempt from one of the two required CE-related senior seminars. Students wishing to do graduate work in philosophy may want to supplement their philosophical studies with language courses, for example in ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, Chinese or Arabic.

The minor in philosophy consists of four courses, two of which must be 200 level or above. No particular combination of courses is required and students may wish to design a minor with their particular interests and aims in mind.

Philosophy courses (listed by area requirement).

 

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