Christopher A. Dustin, Ph.D., Professor and Chair
Philosophy is concerned with fundamental questions about the nature of reality; the foundations of science, ethics and art; and the nature and scope of human knowledge. Philosophy is actually the meeting place for all disciplines, for any discipline becomes philosophical once it begins seriously to examine its own methodology and fundamental presuppositions. Ultimately, philosophy is much more than the acquisition of a certain kind of knowledge. It is the ability to think reflectively and to raise questions about problems that lie at the root of what might appear self-evident. The study of philosophy is therefore recommended to all students, regardless of their major.
Philosophy involves both systematic forms of inquiry and a prolonged reflection upon its own history. For its majors, minors and all students interested in deepening their liberal arts education, the department offers courses in the history of philosophy that span the entire tradition from the pre-Socratics to the philosophers of our own century. These historical courses are best pursued in conjunction with courses that cover the principal areas of philosophical inquiry (Metaphysics, Ethics, Epistemology, and Aesthetics). Courses exclusively reserved for first-year students are all sections of Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 110). Students are permitted to take only one course at this level.
Courses exclusively reserved for first-year students are all sections of Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 110). Students are permitted to take only one course at this level.
The department offers both a major and a minor program that combines necessary structure with the freedom to follow an individually oriented course of study. The minimum requirement for a major is 10 semester courses in philosophy. Majors are required to choose courses from the following categories: A) Two Courses in the History of Philosophy: 1) either Ancient (225) or Medieval Philosophy (230); 2) either Early Modern (235) or Modern Philosophy (241) or equivalent courses. B) One Course in Theoretical Philosophy: either Metaphysics (201); Theory of Knowledge (209), Philosophy of Mind (261), Philosophy of Language (262), Philosophy of Science (271), Philosophy of Biology (272), Phenomenology (245) or equivalent courses. C) One Course in Practical Philosophy: either Ethics (204); Foundations of Ethics (207); Medical Ethics (250), Political Philosophy (265); Environmental Political Philosophy,Theory of Value (256) or equivalent courses. D) One Course in Logic: either Symbolic Logic (215), Logic and Language (242) or equivalent courses. E) In addition to these courses, students must take at least two advanced (300-level) seminars. Students should work closely with their advisor and consult with the department Chair to determine how these requirements are best fulfilled in conjunction with their individual interests. Students are strongly encouraged to satisfy requirements A)-D) as early as possible within their program of study.
The minimum requirement for the minor is six semester courses in philosophy. Minors are required to complete the following courses: 1) one course in the history of Philosophy, typically either Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern or Modern Philosophy (or other courses that cover these periods) ; 2) one course in either theoretical or practical philosophy as defined above and 3) at least one advanced 300-level seminar.
In addition to a wide range of regular courses and seminars, the department offers tutorials and other opportunities for independent study. The departmental Honors program is designed to provide outstanding majors with an enhanced opportunity for independent research and sustained philosophical reflection during their senior year. Under the supervision of an advisor, students admitted into the program will engage in a yearlong thesis project resulting in a polished piece of philosophical writing which is formally presented at the end of the year. Eligible students are invited to apply to the Honors program in the second semester of their junior year. Further information about the program (concerning eligibility requirements, details about the application process, and the structure of the program itself) is posted on the departmental website. Majors who think they might be interested in the departmental Honors program should consult with the department chair.
Faculty and students together benefit from regular departmental colloquia and the lively exchanges initiated by the Philosophy Club, which is open to all interested students. In addition, membership in the Holy Cross Chapter of the National Honor Society in Philosophy, Phi Sigma Tau, is available to those who have a strong academic record, participate in the life of the department, and demonstrate a desire and ability to philosophize. Students are encouraged to compete for two essay competitions, the Strain Gold Medal and the Markham Memorial Scholarship.