The long-term objective of the undergraduate Philosophy program is to produce liberally educated women and men who possess basic cultural literacy, who are capable of articulate and logical reflection on the fundamental problems of human existence and who can take their place as citizens capable of critically evaluating arguments which bear on public affairs. Also, because Georgetown is a Catholic university, Georgetown students should learn to think in depth about the problems posed by a life of faith. This objective is furthered by the study of Philosophy, because it is a systematic study of ideas and issues, a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for a comprehensive understanding of the world, a study of principles of conduct, and much more. Every domain of human experience raises questions to which its techniques and theories apply, and its methods may be used in the study of any subject or the pursuit of any vocation. Our goal is to equip majors and minors not just with skills for a trade or profession, but with important skills for living with themselves from day to day.
Toward this end, the shorter-term objectives of our program are threefold: to endow the student with philosophical skills, philosophical literacy, and the opportunity to do original philosophical research. The first of these objectives is based on the fact that Philosophy is a discipline requiring skills in reasoning and writing. Our goal is to help students to develop the abilities to:
- Read texts closely
- Analyze positions critically
- Uncover tacit presuppositions
- Construct cogent arguments
- Explain and argue in clear persuasive writing
Although every course in our program is designed to further these goals, two requirements for majors are specifically geared toward the above: a logic course and a text seminar wherein students spend a semester reading an important text in philosophy (e.g. Hobbes’s Leviathan).
The second shorter-term objective is to endow the student with philosophical literacy, that is, an acquaintance with the thought of major philosophers both then and now, and with many of philosophy’s perennial problems. Towards that end, majors are required to take two courses, the history of ancient and medieval philosophy, and the history of modern philosophy. Minors are required to take one course that is suitably historical. Besides logic and history of philosophy, the other major fields of philosophy are ethics, metaphysics and epistemology. Our goal is to offer courses in at least one of these three every semester. We also try to offer at least one course each semester in important subfields of philosophy such as social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of law, aesthetics, existentialism, phenomenology, and post-Kantian European philosophy.
The third objective is to offer students the opportunity to do original philosophical research. Toward this end, we have an honors program in which students may undertake the writing of an honors thesis.