What is Philosophy?

The subject matter of philosophy is famously hard to characterize. Perhaps the work of philosophy is best understood as the art of stating the obvious. The discipline of philosophy lies in being able to notice and articulate some of the most fundamental of the beliefs we hold, beliefs that serve to bind our lives together.

Philosophers go on to evaluate whether these basic assumptions are good ones -- ones that are true -- or whether we should revise our beliefs. For instance, philosophers focusing on ethics want to better understand the nature of right and wrong action, of good and evil. Those focusing on metaphysics want to clarify the nature of what exists or what constitutes the causal relations that figure so importantly in the natural and social sciences. Epistemologists are interested in what it takes to count as knowing something. There are of course many more fine-grained questions that philosophers ask as well. Philosophy is also an historical discipline. The perspective of the history of philosophy through different periods (ancient, medieval, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries) can help to further contemporary discussion in all areas of philosophy.

If you are the kind of person who asks 'Why do you think that?', the kind of person who wants to know the reasons we believe what we do, Philosophy will help you to pose those questions and seek answers in a systematic and organized way.

Curious to learn more? Try a philosophy course

Introductory courses without prerequisites include:

Intro to Ethics (Phil 120W or 121)
Intro to Philosophy (Phil 100W or 300)
Logic and Reasoning (Phil 110)
Critical Thinking (Phil 105)

History of Phil (Phil 150)

Philosophy of Science (Phil 144)

More philosophy courses