Philosophy has a reputation for being one of the most interesting subjects in the world to study and one of the subjects that arouses the most anxiety about practical usefulness. In fact, philosophy has a very solid track record in preparing students for professional and graduate exams like the MCAT, GRE, and LSAT. This is, in part, because all students learn basic skills in argumentation and in contextualizing claims – skills that can be applied in many other areas. But what really makes philosophy interesting is that it lets us ask questions about things that many other academic disciplines presume are already set in stone: What kind of life should I live? What does it mean to be a human? Why should I believe in a religion–or should I? Can one criticize a cultural tradition and still “belong” to it? How does friendship differ from love and what can I say when a disagreement about these questions comes up?
These are not matters of sheer opinion. We can give structured arguments for the way we define our terms, and situate our instincts with respect to supporting views and challenges posed by traditions of thought throughout history and around the globe. As a student at CWRU, you have the chance to get your toes wet or to take a full bath in this kind of questioning. Our department offers courses in philosophy of science and mathematics, ethics and political philosophy, and in the history of Western and non-Western thought. Maybe you’ll choose a SAGES departmental seminar or a USEM with a philosophy professor; or sign up for Introduction to Philosophy or one of the other lower level courses that satisfy breadth requirements; or get really immersed and pursue a minor or BA degree. Whichever you choose, you will have the chance to lean about these historical conversations and to figure out where you stand on topics that will be significant to you and to our nation and our world, no matter what career you end up pursuing.
When you can provoke others and support others in their own questioning, you join with those of us who are happy to be teachers in making the community a more thoughtful place.
Colin McLarty, Chair of Philosophy