Philosophy studies issues of basic human importance, such as: what sorts of things exist in the universe, the nature of the mind and thinking, what we can know, what is valuable, how we should treat others, what constitutes the best form of government, and what makes for a good and flourishing life. Philosophers consider theoretical, conceptual, and foundational questions of this sort both on their own and in relation to other disciplinary areas. They study, for instance, mind and consciousness, moral conduct and agency, the organization of social structures, decision making, ethical questions concerning the environment, biotechnology, and business, and questions in the foundations of mathematics, physics, biology, and the cognitive sciences.
The philosophy major and minor aim to help students understand some of the foundational and applied lines of inquiry associated with philosophy, and to develop the thinking skills needed for this. Throughout the curriculum, there is a focus on clear evaluation of arguments and assessment of evidence, and on critical reading, writing, and analysis. In addition, the major and minor place a special emphasis on the incorporation of scientific data and methods (e.g. computer modeling and experimental methods) into philosophical arguments, and on application of philosophical methods across disciplinary boundaries. The reasoning and information assessment skills students gain can be fruitfully applied to many areas of inquiry outside of philosophy.
The study of philosophy is both personally and professionally enriching. Philosophy training is associated with high test-scores on major standardized tests (GRE, LSAT, GMAT), and with competitive salary outcomes. A philosophy major is also a standard precursor to law school and other professional degree programs.
Philosophy Program Learning Outcomes
Upon graduation, we expect students majoring in Philosophy to demonstrate all four of the following program learning outcomes at the Developmental Level. In addition, we expect students majoring in philosophy to demonstrate at least two of the following program learning outcomes at the Mastery Level (for details on these levels of mastery see http://philo.ucmerced.edu/PLO.html).
- Logic: Identify and assess the logic of arguments.
- Topics: Identify and explain the central questions within major areas of philosophical research.
- Ideas: Describe the contributions of major thinkers in the history of philosophy.
- Application: Apply philosophical knowledge (from logic, topics, or ideas) to a subject in another discipline, and/or apply knowledge from another discipline to a subject in philosophy.