Philosophers' ideas have become the very roots of the great social, political, educational, economic, literary, and scientific movements of every age. Thus, philosophy includes as one of its tasks a consideration of the presuppositions of other academic disciplines as well as the presuppositions of our fundamental social practices. This is one reason why philosophy is viewed as an essential component of a truly liberal education.
All students at Saint Michael's take one basic course in philosophy to enable them to meet with these fundamental questions and to see how thinkers of the past and present have responded to them. This course introduces you to some basic philosophical issues with the help of Plato's dialogues and other philosophical texts. After completing the Introduction to Philosophy course every student has a choice to fulfill the Liberal Studies Curriculum requirement in "Study of Christian Traditions and Thought" by taking any 200-level course in Philosophy or in Religious Studies. For those students who wish to deepen their knowledge of the subject, philosophy electives are offered to acquaint them with the history, development, methods, and content of nearly the entire range of philosophy.
Some course topics you might explore are ethics, logic, philosophy of religion, of science, of technology and the environment, of mind, of human rights, of human existence, and of society. Additional topics include truth and propaganda, otherness and marginalization, and ethics of the heroic. There are also courses that cover the entire history of philosophy from Ancient times to the contemporary period: ancient, medieval, modern, contemporary (both continental and analytic) as well as more focused courses on major philosophers of the past. Philosophy majors will also complete an independent thesis or a senior seminar at the end of their studies.
Philosophy Learning Outcomes:
Students will demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental questions about human existence and ultimate reality.
Students will demonstrate familiarity with the major currents in the history of Western Philosophy.
Students will demonstrate knowledge of diverse methodologies, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as possess a critical understanding of the very concept of "method".
Students will analyze philosophical truth claims.
Students will articulate and evaluate the values, principles and assumptions on which individual and social decisions rest.
Students will construct sustained logical arguments and anticipate counterarguments.
Students will demonstrate intellectual and inter-personal habits that enable one to participate in a (philosophical) dialogue in which different perspectives can engage one another in a way that fosters the maturation of the perspective of the participants.
Recently, Saint Michael's signed an agreement with Vermont Law School that guarantees Saint Michael's graduates admission into Vermont Law providing they meet the entrance requirements.
Several among the philosophy faculty emphasize the value of service-learning courses, wherein, as associate Professor Katherine Kirby puts it, "there is practical engagement with the community that breathes a certain life into the texts we read and discuss." Students and professors in such courses find that service-learning opportunities set the stage for "a close philosophical (phenomenological) exploration of our lived experiences, especially in courses that challenge students to think about ethical or moral responsibility and engagement," she says. She regularly leads service trips to Guyana built around philosophical reflection on "otherness."
Assistant Professor Crystal L'Hôte notes two other special opportunities that she enjoys being a part of: "On campus, our philosophy students are encouraged to join in the lunchtime conversations that take place at the Philosophers' Table, an informal, student-centered venue that has students debating topics ranging from the freedom of the will to the military draft. Off-campus, Saint Michael's has been able to send a number of our students to present their work at an annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference outside Portland, Oregon; here, these students have presented their work and forged professional relationships with motivated undergraduates from colleges and universities across the nation."
The philosophy major can be applied in a number of fields, including law, government and education. As a philosophy major, you will have the chance to work with professors on independent study projects. For example, one student is currently working with a professor on the study of Aristotle's logic. The philosophy major is an excellent foundation for graduate school, teaching, law school and federal service of all kinds. In recent years, our alumni have attended such graduate schools as St. Louis University, Fordham and Penn State University.