Department Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major in Philosophy

(1)  KNOWLEDGE

All students completing the major in Philosophy should acquire knowledge which they can demonstrate in recognition, creative application, and effective use.  Specifically, they should understand:

a)  The main outlines of contemporary philosophical terrain, including the traditional sub-disciplines or branches of philosophy (e.g., epistemology or ethics) and their purview, i.e., the profound questions which each explores and attempts to answer;

b)  A large set of key philosophical concepts and terms drawn from philosophical methods, arguments, or theories (e.g., premise, or naturalistic fallacy or dualism)—the particular lexicon to reflect a student’s emphasis within the field;

c)  The history of philosophy (at least in useful outline) as global, multi-traditional, and inter-relational—including the nature of the philosophical enterprise as essentially contested;

d)  A set of landmark philosophical texts—the particular set to vary in accord with a student’s emphasis in the program—along with relevant critical perspectives on those texts (e.g., feminist, post-colonial, or multi-cultural critiques); and

e)  The distinctive differences in modes of discourse and forms of language, (e.g., the difference between empirical and conceptual or linguistic issues, between asserting and providing an argument, between a proof and a reason).

 

(2)  SKILLS

All students completing the Philosophy major should likewise acquire skills, which require practice and may be demonstrated through application in a range of contexts and in a wide variety of assignments.  Graduating philosophy majors should be able to:

a) Read philosophically sophisticated texts with understanding, comprehending philosophical ideas and their import;

b) Read a philosophical text or explore a philosophical position sympathetically, “dwell within” the author’s system, and explain the author’s concerns, aims, methods, and conclusions;

c) Read a philosophical text or explore a philosophical text critically, effectively employing tools of logic, counterexamples, alternative conclusions and approaches, and personal narratives—all with an understanding of the import of the critique offered and possible responses;

d) Develop one’s own philosophical orientation and a considered position on one or more important philosophical questions—supported by a thoughtful argument reflecting genuine intellectual commitment, and informed by major philosophical thinkers who are like-minded or contrasting;

e) Communicate philosophical ideas in writing and oral or visual presentations, with clarity, precision, and incisiveness, in expository, narrative, analytical, and argumentative modes;

f)  Discern the assumptions on which intellectual constructions (theories, arguments, schools of thought, etc.) rest; and

g) Apply more than one theory, tradition, school, or perspective to the attempt to answer significant philosophical problems (e.g., How are we to understand human nature? Or, How are the mind and body related?).

 

(3)  HABITS OF THE MIND AND HEART

There are also attitudes or dispositions or values which, we believe, will be inculcated in students who successfully complete the Philosophy major.  These cannot often be taught directly; they are typically more difficult to assess.  Yet they are an important component of our mission as a department.  Graduating majors in philosophy should display:

a) A taste for philosophical conversation and the examined life,  and an appreciation of the introspective and dialogical rhythms of philosophizing, valuing the learning that may come through thinking together about difficult issues;

b) A receptivity to alternate viewpoints, an openness to new ideas, that is balanced and secured by one’s own intellectual conviction;

c) A sense of connectedness to other thinkers reflected in a global outlook, a perspective of the history of philosophy, and an alertness to cross-disciplinary contributions and synergies;

d) An adherence to high standards for oneself and others in constructing and communicating intellectual positions—and an intolerance for specious reasoning, vacuousness, deceptive argument, and other such offenses;

e) A disposition to apply reflective thought to order and inspire one’s life and the choices and commitments it may contain.

 

Learning Goals for the Minor in Philosophy

(1)  KNOWLEDGE

All students completing the minor in Philosophy should acquire knowledge which they can demonstrate in recognition, creative application, and effective use.  Specifically, they should understand:

a) The general sense of the philosophical terrain, including the traditional sub-disciplines or branches of philosophy (e.g., epistemology or ethics) and their purview, i.e., the profound questions which each explores and attempts to answer;

b)  A familiarity with some key philosophical concepts and terms drawn from philosophical methods, arguments, or theories—the particular lexicon to reflect a student’s emphasis within the field; and

c) Exposure to a subset of landmark philosophical texts along with relevant critical perspectives on those texts (e.g., feminist, post-colonial, or multi-cultural critiques); and

 

(2)  SKILLS

All students completing the Philosophy minor should likewise acquire skills, which require practice and may be demonstrated through application in a range of contexts and in a wide variety of assignments.  Graduating philosophy majors should be able to:

a) Read philosophically sophisticated texts with understanding, comprehending philosophical ideas and their import;

b) Read a philosophical text or explore a philosophical position sympathetically, “dwell within” the author’s system, and explain the author’s concerns, aims, methods, and conclusions;

c) Read a philosophical text or explore a philosophical text critically, effectively employing tools of logic, counterexamples, alternative conclusions and approaches, and personal narratives—all with an understanding of the import of the critique offered and possible responses;

d) Develop one’s own philosophical orientation and a considered position on one or more important philosophical questions—supported by a thoughtful argument reflecting genuine intellectual commitment, and informed by major philosophical thinkers who are like-minded or contrasting;

e) Communicate philosophical ideas in writing and oral or visual presentations, with clarity, precision, and incisiveness, in expository, narrative, analytical, and argumentative modes;

f)  Discern the assumptions on which intellectual constructions (theories, arguments, schools of thought, etc.) rest; and

g)  Apply more than one theory, tradition, school, or perspective to the attempt to answer significant philosophical problems (e.g., How are we to understand human nature? Or, How are the mind and body related?).

 

(3)  HABITS OF THE MIND AND HEART

There are also attitudes or dispositions or values which, we believe, will be inculcated in students who successfully complete the Philosophy major.  These cannot often be taught directly; they are typically more difficult to assess.  Yet they are an important component of our mission as a department.  Graduating majors in philosophy should display:

a) A taste for philosophical conversation and the examined life,  and an appreciation of the introspective and dialogical rhythms of philosophizing, valuing the learning that may come through thinking together about difficult issues;

b) A receptivity to alternate viewpoints, openness to new ideas, that is balanced and secured by one’s own intellectual conviction;

c) A sense of connectedness to other thinkers reflected in a sense of the applicability of philosophy to problems of the world, and an alertness to cross-disciplinary contributions and synergies; and

d) An adherence to high standards for oneself and others in constructing and communicating intellectual positions—and an intolerance for specious reasoning, vacuousness, deceptive argument, and other such offenses.