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 who we are, how the world is, and how we conceive the world. Philosophy then seeks to challenge those conceptions and examine the reasons for holding them. While the discipline of Western philosophy has a historical lineage traced back through Europe and Ancient Greece, increasingly the practice of philosophy includes previously marginalized voices and approaches in order to understand the human being in all its embodied identities. The Bates philosophy curriculum emphasizes both the history of philosophical thought and the striking innovations, insights, and relevance of contemporary philosophy. The study of philosophy, with its creative interplay of insight and reason, has ancient roots, yet remains in continual ferment.
The philosophy department encourages all Bates students to take a philosophy course and to consider a philosophy major, minor, or GEC. Students new to philosophy are encouraged to start off with 200-level courses that focus on particular problems of philosophical interest. Some topics in these courses may include: the nature of morality, the justification of law, 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 race and gender, the understanding of the self, the understanding of space and time, the possible existence of god, the nature and possibility of truth, the purpose and proper understanding of language, the nature of emotions, as well as the point and value of philosophical inquiry itself. Although critical reading, thinking, and writing skills are developed in all philosophy classes, PHIL 195 (Introduction to Logic) provides a more focused study of proper reason that is beneficial to majors and non-majors alike.
The faculty cultivate a department atmosphere that is inclusive and makes room for historically underrepresented perspectives. A number of courses include a focus on non-Western approaches to philosophy. Many courses consider how oppressions have influenced or determined the nature of philosophical questions. Other courses focus on or include discussions of the consequences of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and ableism. Finally, all courses welcome a diversity of views in class. Students are encouraged to examine reasons for and against views they encounter, and are taught to think critically about all views, holding views only when and if the reasons for them stand up to careful, reflective, sympathetic scrutiny.
More information on the benefits and opportunities open to philosophy majors is outlined at “Why study philosophy?” on the department website.