Philosophy and Religious Studies

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The ESU Philosophy & Religious Studies Department offers both a 30-credit major and an 18-credit minor in Philosophy. The five faculty members in the Department teach a wide range of courses, covering most of the significant areas of Philosophy. The Department also offers courses in Religious Studies.

Why Study Philosophy?

Whether you are interested in thinking for yourself on the great issues of human life, or you want to go on to graduate school in philosophy, or use your degree as a preparation for further study in other disciplines such as law or business, the ESU Philosophy program gives you a solid foundation. Philosophy majors and minors are prized even outside the discipline for their ability to think clearly, express themselves well and think on their feet.

Philosophy courses aim to train students in the ability to think clearly and analytically about the great questions of human existence as dealt with by the great philosophers of the past. But instead of learning established facts and methods the way you do in other disciplines, in philosophy you have the ability to question everything. While philosophy can focus exclusively on the process of correct thinking itself within the sub-discipline of Logic, philosophy also attempts to pursue some of the most important questions of human life without relying on past "authorities".

  • In Ethics, philosophy attempts to answer the question of whether there are standards for human action: Why can't I do whatever I want? Is anything (capital punishment, premarital sex, war) just wrong in itself?
  • In Metaphysics, philosophy asks about the basic nature of reality: Does God exist? Are we really free? Do we have a "soul" or even a "mind"?
  • Epistemology enquires into the nature and extent of human knowledge: What can I know? How do I know that life is not a delusion?
  • Social Philosophy and Political Philosophy ask what is the good for society and the state: Who should be in charge? Do we have human rights? Should the government regulate sexuality?
  • Aesthetics asks about the nature of beauty and art: What is really art? Is beauty really "in the eye of the beholder"? Can art teach us truth?

In all these sub-disciplines, philosophy examines major figures from the history of philosophy so as to learn how great thinkers grappled with these problems. The mission of philosophy is to realize that it is not that "it all depends on what you believe," as almost everybody nowadays will say, but that there are good and bad answers to every question, and these answers can be distinguished by the quality of their thinking. In addition to these general benefits of the study of philosophy, the philosophy major aims to prepare the student for graduate school by providing an intensive study of the history and problems of philosophy. To see why ESU provides an especially good program, see "Why Study Philosophy at ESU?".