Mission Statement and Learning Goals

Philosophy steps back from everyday experience to reflect on fundamental questions of truth, meaning and value. Socrates’ conviction that “the unexamined life is not worth living” offers the rationale for the distinctive role that this philosophical thinking plays in the life of an educated person. Students of philosophy read, reflect upon and critically evaluate texts that raise these questions of truth, meaning and value. The study of philosophy at CSB/SJU emphasizes the critical reading and understanding of texts from the historical tradition of philosophy. It also engages modern and contemporary texts that reflect critically on that tradition and propose new problems and new approaches to philosophical inquiry. In philosophy classes, students learn how to articulate ideas clearly in both speech and in writing, to approach new and difficult ideas with a spirit of openness, and to resist the urge to settle for easy answers. The department fosters the formation of classroom communities built on attentive listening and respect for oneself and others. At the same time, it seeks to rouse students from intellectual complacency and to encourage deeper understanding of themselves, of the conditions that make knowledge possible, and of the values and presuppositions of the communities to which they belong. Furthermore, the department cultivates in its students good habits of scholarship and intellectual ambition, promoting undergraduate research and aspirations for further study. In this way, the study of philosophy at CSB/SJU exemplifies a liberal arts curriculum which raises questions important to the human condition, demands clear thinking and communicating, and calls forth new knowledge for the good of humankind.

II. Department Learning Goals
The Philosophy Department will cultivate the following abilities and dispositions in students enrolled in its classes. (Definitions of these skills and dispositions are found below.)

  •  Deliberate and analytical reading skills.
  • The disposition and the capacity to engage in charitable reading.
  • The ability to articulate philosophical ideas clearly in both speech and writing.
  • The ability to construct logically sound and coherent arguments in support of a thesis.
  • The disposition to resist the urge for quick and easy answers.
  • The disposition of taking pleasure in the struggle with difficult ideas.
  • The ability to be comfortable with ambiguity without taking refuge in relativism.