Department of Philosophy

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The Department of Philosophy provides the opportunity for a degree at the BA level. Students gain abstract reasoning skills that are valuable in today's high-tech, information-based economy. The program also prepares students for graduate studies and beyond.

Learn more about each of our programs:

  • BA in Philosophy
  • BA in Ethics
  • Minor in Philosophy
  • Minor in Ethics
  • Minor in Religious Studies

All University philosophy graduates seeking entrance to graduate school have been accepted; more William Paterson philosophy majors have received full scholarships in PhD programs (with full graduate research and teaching assistantships) at major research universities than have students from any other institution in the New Jersey system. Philosophy majors have the highest overall mean score of all majors, nationwide, on the Graduate Record Exam, LawSchool Adm. Test and Graduate Management Adm. Test., which is one reason why many employers, including corporations, have of late been seeking out philosophy majors for successful careers in business, government, journalism, law, medicine, and the arts.

 Philosophy - BA Mission Statement  

The Department of Philosophy provides the opportunity for a degree at the BA level. Philosophy investigates many aspects of our thinking and experience. Students gain abstract reasoning skills that are valuable in today's high-tech, information-based economy. The program also prepares students for graduate studies and beyond.  

Philosophy - BA Goals  

  • Help students develop a sophisticated understanding of philosophical thought in its historical context, exploring important philosophical systems charitably and accurately.  
  • Foster habits of logical thinking and critical analysis to analyze arguments, evaluate positions, and use reason in everyday life;  
  • Help students understand basic and advanced ethical theories and apply their principles to concrete problems in individual and social life;
  • Help students synthesize related philosophical ideas from different sources, and engage them with students’ own experience. 
  • Students will skillfully articulate conceptual elements of philosophical thought in written and oral form, and develop high-level skills of independent scholarship.

Student Learning Outcomes

1: To understand what Philosophy is. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • explain to a non-philosopher what philosophy is, how it is practiced, and what philosophers do; 
  • explore a problem arising in some social, political, cultural, technological, scientific, or other context, and discover and articulate its philosophical aspects, in contrast and comparison to other aspects. 

 

2: To understand, appreciate and recognize the significance of some major philosophical classics. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Understand and explain the views of some major philosophical figures; 
  • Understand and explain the contributions made by various philosophers to philosophy and related disciplines; 
  • Evaluate various philosophers and philosophies on particular issues (e.g., the nature of knowledge, the meaning of life, the existence of God) as a step to formulating a personal philosophical position in a variety of areas (e.g., metaphysics, epistemology, religion, ethics, politics, art, values, etc.). 

 

3: To demonstrate competence in some particular area of contemporary philosophy. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Understand and explain the views of some leading contemporary philosophers; 
  • Understand and explain some current issues of philosophical debate; 
  • Evaluate some contemporary philosophers and philosophies on leading issues (e.g., the interpretation of some major historical figure (Plato, Descartes, Kant), the nature of knowledge, the meaning of life, the existence of God); 
  • Demonstrate significant competence in some particular area of philosophy, such as: metaphysics, logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, cognitive science, philosophy of religion, ethics, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, etc., which requires analysis, synthesis and evaluation of main theories in the area and proposing a theory of one’s own. 

 

4: To be aware of the existence of multiple philosophical methods as conceived from a global perspective. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Identify the philosophical orientation of a variety of philosophical works of note (e.g., specify whether some book or article is in the analytic, continental, western, eastern, feminist, etc., tradition, or some combination thereof); 
  • Differentiate, categorize, and judge some of the differences among: Western philosophical l methods (e.g., analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, queer and intersectional philosophy); Eastern philosophical methods (e.g., Hinduism, Theravada, Mahayana and Zen Buddhism, Chinese Philosophy); Feminist philosophy and its antitheses; and diverse and emergent philosophical traditions (Africana Philosophy, Latin American Philosophy, epistemologies of ignorance, decolonial philosophical tradition, Philosophy of Race ). 

 

5: To be able to think logically. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Understand what a proposition is; 
  • Identify an argument; 
  • Differentiate between deductive and inductive arguments; 
  • Translate ordinary language statements into their logical form; 
  • Formulate and evaluate an argument; 
  • Understand and apply derivation techniques in propositional and predicate logic (truth tables, trees, natural deduction); 
  • Analyze arguments for validity and soundness; 
  • Judge the significance and limitations of arguments; 
  • Have some understanding and appreciation of how quantifiers work, how modal expressions can be analyzed logically, and how semantic models can be used to clarify abstract problems of language and reasoning (e.g., possible world semantics). 

 

6: To be able to think critically. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Identify the key presuppositions of a particular point of view; 
  • Formulate a point of view; 
  • Analyze a point of view; 
  • Judge the weakest and strongest presuppositions of a particular point of view; 
  • Distinguish opinion supported by evidence from dogmatic opinion; 
  • Compare and evaluate points of view; 
  • Attain critical distance so as to be able to evaluate their own points of view and those of others critically and with an open mind, that is, with room both for flexibility and change on the one hand and, on the other, the gradual development of personal convictions; 
  • Criticize themselves and their world from a philosophical point of view; 
  • Have a stimulating and fruitful dialogue with oneself and others about important issues, which requires comparing, criticizing, and evaluating those issues; 
  • Formulate a personal philosophy. 

7: To be able to think creatively. 

Components: Upon graduation as a philosophy major, students will be able to: 

  • Think outside of their comfort zones; 
  • Think outside their own points of view for the purposes of philosophical reflection (for example, play “devil’s advocate”); 
  • Formulate subversive questions that get right to the heart of an issue; 
  • Work through a philosophical problem in novel and productive ways, even when those strategies flout conventional approaches; 
  • Let go of their intellectual, emotional and psychological inhibitions when this is desirable from a philosophical point of view, that is, when there is some good reason to think that this may lead to good or fruitful results or sometimes even just for fun; 
  • Laugh at (i.e., “get”) certain sorts of philosophical jokes. 

Careers In Ethics

The ethics program prepares students for a variety of careers. It also serves as a value-added second major to provide students with a competitive advantage in the job market. Career opportunities for ethics majors include:

  • Education
  • Advocacy, Activism, and Mobilization
  • Technology Development and Compliance
  • Ethics Compliance
  • Healthcare Analysis
  • Government
  • Community Relations
  • Personnel/Training
  • Clinical Ethics Consultation (via graduate study or certification)
  • Technology Ethics and Policy (via graduate study or certification)

Ethics Learning Outcomes

The Ethics BA provides students with training in ethical frameworks and methods to ensure successful execution of both future professional duties and personal decision-making. The major brings together a community of students interested in practical, contemporary problems such as the recent collapse of the stock market and global financial systems, the nature of professionalism, stem cell research, whether people have a right to healthcare, and what we owe to future generations.

Students will be equipped with cutting-edge research and problem-solving skills; knowledge of current ethical theories and methodologies; and opportunities to apply knowledge, skills, and theoretical methodologies so that they are well prepared to excel in the fields of business, natural sciences, communication, public health, accounting, law, business, psychology, social work, and other healthcare areas. The students graduating from this program will be able to:

  • Understand ethical concepts as they relate to the elements of a fair, just, and healthy society, as well as the nature of injustice.
  • Understand ethical principles as they have been explained throughout the history of ethics and by different ethical systems and the interconnections between them.
  • Understand and apply diverse ethical frameworks, approaches, methodologies, and skills to investigate and analyze ethical in public policy, organizations, and a diverse global community.
  • Develop problem-solving strategies for contemporary moral issues as specified in contemporary ethical texts and case studies.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relevance of interpreting different viewpoints on a given moral issue in a diverse community.
  • Develop and apply critical reasoning skills through analysis and evaluate how different standpoints or disciplinary approaches contribute to a deeper knowledge of the issue under study.