Philosophy, Bachelor of Arts
Welcome to the Philosophy Department of St. John's University. Here, you will find our objectives, programs, course list, and information about our faculty. The members of the Department feel that the study of Philosophy is central to a strong liberal arts and sciences education and often find it disturbing that the subject is relegated to a minor and an insignificant role in the programs of many universities. If you're interested in a strong liberal arts and sciences education with Philosophy as a key ingredient, consider coming to St. John's. We assure an exciting intellectual experience.
The Department offers programs leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree and five different Minors.
Paul Gaffney, Chair
St. John Hall, B-26
Mon - Thurs: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Fri: 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Literally defined as the "love of wisdom," Philosophy has come to encompass any intellectual pursuit that investigates the foundations of human thinking and reality. In essence, one can say it is "thinking about thinking." Traditionally this involves critical and reflective thought about such things as: the nature of knowledge and justification of belief (epistemology); the nature of reality and what can be said truly to exist (metaphysics); the conduct of life and what makes one moral (ethics); and the underlying structure of reasoning and language (logic).
While these are the customary branches of philosophy, they are by no means the only ones. Today we see such fascinating offshoots as the philosophy of science, which investigates the aims and methodologies of scientific theories and progress, aesthetics, asking questions about art and beauty, and philosophy of literature, which examines the philosophical content of novels, plays and poetry to the great ideas that have animated the great minds of human history. But it is not simply the history of philosophy that we want to teach them. We want to show them that a development of philosophical understanding can occur and we want to guide them toward a discovery of the philosophical understanding. In short, we want to show them how far the human mind has come in understanding God, nature, and the human person.
The Department also recognizes the Catholic and Vincentian character of the University. We respect the teachings of the Catholic Church and we seek to help Catholic students, and others who are interested, understand the philosophical foundations of the Church's theological reflections upon itself and the world. We also respect the Vincentian mission of service to the poor and the promotion of global harmony and economic development. In these matters we are guided by a deep and abiding respect for the dignity of the students we seek to educate. Our desire is to provide them with an unprejudiced understanding of the way things are, so that they might freely choose their own path. It is our hope that when they leave us they will have the ability to recognize what is wrong with the world and possess the character, courage and skills necessary to change it for the better.
In trying to decide which major to pursue in college, students often neglect to consider Philosophy. There are two very good reasons for this fact: Although students have had mathematics, English, history and science courses in high school they probably have not had a philosophy course. Thus students are often not sure exactly what philosophy is or whether they would enjoy studying philosophy in depth. Secondly and perhaps more significantly even if students have a general idea of the nature of philosophy they usually have no insight into what career philosophy might prepare them for.
The most obvious career goal that a philosophy major might serve would be the legal profession. Philosophy is considered by legal educators to be an excellent preparation for the study of law. It provides for the development of the logical and analytic skills required for sound legal reasoning as well as a theoretical and ethical perspective in which to understand law and its role in human society.
Philosophy is also an excellent major for anyone who simply wishes a strong liberal arts degree, fostering basic thinking, analysis, synthesis and judgment skills, valuable in any profession. Further a philosophy degree can provide a foundation for graduate study in many areas. Those who feel that philosophy plays an important role in shaping the lives of humans could use philosophy to pursue a teaching career.
Finally, it should be mentioned that Philosophy, because of its broad scope, is an excellent second major. It provides a depth and a perspective that enriches all other fields of study.