The practice of philosophy is a careful, in-depth study of humanity’s most basic ideas, presuppositions, and beliefs. Its goal is to understand as clearly as possible one’s conception of the world and humanity’s place in it, and to see to what extent one’s beliefs are justified.

Some topics in philosophy include the nature of morality, the justification of law, the possibility of free will, the nature of beauty, the place of mind in a physical world, the nature of perception, the justification of our beliefs, the possibility of knowledge, the social construction of gender, the understanding of the self, the understanding of time and space, the possible existence of god, the nature and possibility of truth, the purpose and proper understanding of language, and the nature of emotions, as well as the point and value of philosophical inquiry.

Beginning students can get a sense of the historical development of the current philosophical context by taking either Classical and Medieval Studies/Philosophy 271 (Greek Philosophy) or Philosophy 272 (Philosophy from Descartes to Kant). Students new to philosophy are also encouraged to start out with 200-level courses that focus on particular problems of philosophical interest. Although critical reading, thinking, and writing skills are developed in all philosophy classes, Philosophy 195 (Introduction to Logic) provides a more focused study of proper reasoning that is beneficial to majors and nonmajors alike. The study of philosophy, with its creative interplay of insight and reason, has ancient roots, yet the subject remains in continual ferment. The Bates philosophy curriculum emphasizes both the history of philosophical thought and the striking innovations, insights, and relevance of contemporary philosophy.

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