The Philosophy Program
Philosophy is an activity, a practice, and a way of life that is intimately associated with the ideal of liberal education. Philosophy is also a discipline and a subject matter, one that arises from the history of its primary activity of asking and answering questions about reality, meaning, and value. Through both the activity and the discipline aspects, the study of philosophy contributes to the development of the whole person. Philosophy cuts across other disciplines by uncovering the basic assumptions of our various ways of understanding reality, making it possible for us to be alert and responsive at this level. This same inherently interdisciplinary quality also makes it possible for us to achieve a conception of the world as a whole, which supports an informed scale of value. Thus the ongoing study of philosophy is not only in-formative, but trans-formative, enabling us to live an examined life and to grow toward the way of being that the liberally educated person and the philosopher exemplify.
Requirements for Major and Minor Programs
In an era when many majors are inflated because of the influence of careerism, specialization, and external accrediting agencies, the credit hour requirements for the philosophy major are a modest 30. This is because we take seriously the value of electives in the student's college program, the value of exploring and discovering one's real interests. The number of required hours in philosophy is also modest because we wish to encourage students to discover the importance of relating philosophy to other fields through double majors, minors, and clusters of elective courses indicating developed proficiencies.
All of the above emphasizes the importance of the advising relationship. In order to facilitate this relationship, the philosophy major requires a study plan through which the student's work can be consciously developed and articulated. A first draft of the study plan must be completed with the advisor by the beginning of the junior year, revised each successive semester, and completed in the capstone course.
Students majoring in philosophy must complete a minimum of 30 hours in the department, including PHI 103, 495 and 4 of the 5 history of philosophy courses (311, 312, 313, 314, 315) and one course in non-Western philosophy. Students majoring in philosophy are required to complete the B.A. degree program unless they have also completed a second major and the B.S. degree cognate for that major.
Students seeking a minor concentration in philosophy are invited to work out an appropriate program with any member of the department. The program must include a minimum of 18 hours of philosophy, at least 6 hours of which must be upper division.
Courses numbered 311, 312, 313, 314, 315 and 380 may be repeated for credit when, as is usual, their content varies. Each philosophy course is designed to benefit students who, whatever their fields of concentration, are reasonably prepared and interested in its topic.
The vocational value of philosophy (except for teachers of philosophy) depends on its connection with other fields. For example, formal logic is close to mathematics; ethics is important for medicine, business, teaching, and counseling; legal and political philosophy are essential to law and public service; philosophy of science has a bearing on the social and natural sciences; and aesthetics and the history of philosophy are useful to students in literature and the arts. Schools of law, theology, and religious studies are enthusiastic about philosophy as an undergraduate major. Almost any graduate, professional, or career program depending on a liberal arts curriculum welcomes work done in philosophy.
Philosophy Majors' Narrative Statement and Study Plan
The study plan is intended to aid your reflections on the nature of philosophical inquiry and how it has developed and is developing in your own life. It should be an ongoing activity, and in this regard, the keeping of a philosophical journal is an excellent supplement to the study plan. Such a journal may remain private and would contain your philosophical thoughts about any topics. These entries may vary in length from single sentence thoughts to reflections of several pages and could be entered on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. At longer intervals it would be appropriate to enter your reflections on the previous reflections you have entered. These thoughts about your thoughts would address such issues as: what sorts of topics concern me, how has my thinking about them changed, in what direction is this type of thought leading?
The time period addressed in the study plan need not be limited to philosophical work at GVSU. In fact, reflection upon one's very first thoughts of a philosophical nature is quite appropriate to the study plan. There are several questions that may be asked in this regard: what were my first thoughts of a philosophical nature, and, in what ways am I still concerned with the issues I first thought of philosophically, when did these early ruminations occur, what prompted them? Often people have engaged in philosophy at the high school level in a more systematic manner. Your study plan should contain a description of any such work and any philosophical thinking you did "on your own" during this time period.
Courses with philosophical content taken at GVSU (in the philosophy department or in other departments) should obviously be described in the study plan. However, the description of/reflection upon these courses itself should be philosophical: what was "going on" in the course, why was I intrigued, how did it affect my philosophical abilities?
You might want to put together a "portfolio" which contains all of the papers and exams for courses in philosophy. Retaining these works (even work of poor quality) provides you with documentation of your "philosophical progress."
Throughout the course of your reflections indicate the texts and authors that have had the greatest influence on you and what that influence has been. You might want to keep a changeable and changing list of the "five most important books/authors I have read." This need not be limited to strictly "philosophical" works by "philosophers," but can include any works (films? television programs?) that have had an influence on your philosophy.
Finally, the study plan can include an articulation of this philosophy of life, a "credo."