What's Philosophy?


Because of the faculty, the philosophy department at the UA is consistently ranked in or near the TOP 10 year after year, alongside Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Yale, and NYU. (www.philosophicalgourmet.com)

Entry into the Ph.D. program in philosophy is highly competitive, and only the best students are selected. For this reason, you can be sure that courses taught by grad students are top quality, too.


As further evidence that philosophy translates to many diverse fields, consider this list of famous philosophers (in random order):

  • David Souter, Supreme Court Justice
  • Rudi Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City
  • Albert Schweitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Gerald Levin, CEO, Time-Warner
  • Ethan Coen, Film Maker
  • Rahm Emanuel, Clinton White House Political Advisor
  • Robert MacNamara, Secretary of Defense
  • Mary Higgins Clark, Mystery Writer
  • James Michener, Writer
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Minister and Civil Rights Leader
  • Angela Davis, Social Activist
  • Phil Jackson, Basketball Coach
  • Harrison Ford, Actor
  • Bruce Lee, Martial arts expert and Actor
  • Steve Martin, Comedian
  • Mark Hulbert, Financial Columnist FORBES Magazine
  • Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States


Philosophy majors learn how to critically examine potential answers to questions such as, “How can I know for sure if what I believe is true?” “What sort of society is best?” “Is morality just whatever each society says it is?” “Do our perceptions represent the way things really are?” “What can science tell us about the true nature of the world?” “Does my own identity persist through time?” “How should I live my life to be a good person?”

Although everyone might, at one time, discuss these things, philosophical exploration is done with the rigor of analytic thinking that rises above casual discussions based on mere opinion.
In scrutinizing the potential answers to these questions, students of philosophy learn the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, conceptual analysis and argumentation. Philosophy students know how to look at the big picture, stay open-minded, and always look for the truth.

Do the practices of philosophy change, and do they improve?"

One of the most potent causes of mistrust of philosophy is that it provides no answers, only questions, so that to many it does not seem to have progressed since its very beginnings in Plato, or even in pre-Socratic Greece (or China or India). Of course, one might similarly ask whether other human pursuits, such as music, literature, drama, architecture, painting or politics, have “improved” (and by what measure this judgement is supposed to be made), and if the answer is at best indeterminate we might query whether this reflects badly on those practices, or whether perhaps it indicates a problem with the question. It may be enough that their practitioners improve as they get their musical, literary and other educations, and that, having improved, they can help to keep some of humanity’s most important flames alive.” -- Simon Blackburn, Mariana Alessandri and John Kaag
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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