Philosophy

Sewanee: The University of the South

Our Teaching Philosophy

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” - Socrates

“In the archer there is a resemblance to the mature person. When he misses the mark, he turns and seeks the reason for his failure in himself.” - Confucius

“What is time? If someone does not ask me, I know. If someone asks me, I do not know.” - Augustine

The Philosophy Department operates under the assumption that students can best learn philosophy by associating with those who have already made progress in their philosophical journeys (such was the view of Confucius and Plato, among others). All of us enjoy opportunities to discuss with students their academic as well as personal concerns. We all welcome the chance to work closely with students. We are available most afternoons in our offices, and we organize informal gatherings at our homes from time to time. Formal lectures by outside speakers or members of the department provide additional opportunities for intellectual development from time to time.

The Philosophy Department offers students an approach to philosophical thinking that is both historical and critical. We believe that our students must become acquainted with the fundamental ideas and arguments of philosophers that have importantly shaped and challenged western and non-western civilizations. We attempt to show that the intellectual movements and changes in the history of philosophy arise out of perceived dilemmas and crises within the established social, scientific, and religious traditions. This historical approach to teaching philosophy presupposes that various reflective traditions do have important things to say about the basic concerns of all human beings; for example, we think that Confucius, Socrates and Augustine deal with issues that are relevant to us today.

On the other hand, our courses are designed to help students think critically for themselves, to defend their own beliefs, and to appreciate the value of alternative beliefs. We endeavor to acquaint our students with diverse points of view, which will enable them, if they are so inclined, to form positions quite different from our own positions. Yet while we foster an atmosphere of tolerance, we do not encourage students to think that it really does not matter what beliefs they hold or whether they can defend their beliefs. Here again, we see our program as affirming one of the essential ideals of a liberal arts education--the encouragement of independent thought developed within an atmosphere of respect for and openness to views of others.

Although the Introduction to Philosophy (Philosophy 101) is normally the first course a student takes in the department, the department offers  an array of 200-level that are approariate entry points to the department.  These course satify the College general degree requirement.

Topics for examination in these entry-level courses inlcude the relation of classical theories to contemporary issues, the role of philosophy in film, and nature of God, death, and the meaning of life. Our two-hundred level courses offer a chance to investigate more specifically ethical issues, Eastern philosophical thinking, and a variety of ethical and theological issues.

The Philosophy Major offers a rigorous preparation for graduate study in philosophy, but the majority of our majors do not intend to become professional philosophers. Instead, many of them go on to law school, business school, medical school, or directly into the job market. We seek to provide our majors with a sophisticated appreciation of past and present work in philosophy, an opportunity to construct and defend their own personal philosophies, and with the analytic skills that will help them in any professional or life endeavor.

Sewanee: The University of the South