The Department of Philosophy helps students, whether or not they are majors in the discipline, to develop the reflective, analytical, and critical skills that are required for thoughtful engagement with problems and issues that arise in all aspects of life. Students are introduced to seminal ideas that have changed, or have the potential to change, our most fundamental understanding of who we are and how we should live our lives. And because the study of philosophy is essentially reflexive, students are encouraged also to reflect on and if need be to problematize not only the methods of philosophy but also its history, goals, and achievements.
In studying the discipline of philosophy, students:
- Learn to recognize and articulate philosophical problems, whether those that arise within philosophy or those to be found in other academic disciplines and outside the academy;
- Become skilled at thinking, reading, writing, and speaking thoughtfully, critically, and well about philosophical problems through learning to recognize, assess, and formulate cogent and compelling pieces of philosophical reasoning both in writing and verbally;
- Achieve literacy in a wide range of philosophical works and develop thoughtful views about their interrelations;
- Develop attitudes and habits of reflection, appreciation for the complexities of significant questions in all aspects of their lives, and the courage to address those complexities.
In all philosophy courses, through classroom work and sequences of written assignments, students learn to:
- Read philosophical texts from across the discipline thoughtfully, creatively, and critically;
- Engage in philosophical discussion of texts, both listening well to contributions of others and making constructive and knowledgeable contributions of their own;
- Recognize and formulate interesting, manageable essay topics;
- Write philosophical essays that develop a cogent line of reasoning about some significant philosophical issue;
- Tap their own philosophical imaginations in fruitful and creative ways;
- Present their work to their peers in ways that engage and teach.
In their senior year, philosophy majors a) research and write original senior theses, b) give presentations of their thesis work–in–progress, c) meet and engage distinguished visiting philosophy scholars in public fora and small seminars.
Senior Thesis. The senior thesis is in many ways the culmination of students’ work as philosophy majors at Haverford. The thesis is a year-long research project written on a topic of the student’s choice, and can be in any area of philosophy. In the course of writing their senior theses, students learn to:
- Formulate a major research question and explain its interest and significance;
- Find relevant literature on their topic and critically assess its contribution;
- Develop a cogent and extended argument in defense of their own view;
- Recognize and evaluate plausible critical responses to their views;
- Write a clear, persuasive, interesting, and articulate article–length essay developing and defending their philosophical thesis.