The great philosophers seek to answer the most basic questions about the world and our place in it. Can we distinguish between what is real and what is unreal? What is freedom? What is knowledge? What is understanding? What is wisdom? What are the roles of reason, perception, intuition and emotion in shaping our relations with the world and with each other? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be non-human? What is life? What is the value of art? What are we to think about religion?
Many philosophical questions are inescapable. How is one to live one's life? What are good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and vice? How do we acquire obligations? How are we to make moral decisions? In every life, such questions arise, and everyone assumes one answer or another. To attempt to articulate your answer and to search for better answers is to become a philosopher.
Original works of the great classical and contemporary philosophers from different traditions are used in all courses. Texts are analyzed critically in order to understand what is being said and judge their merit. In class discussion and in written work, we raise questions, develop additional ideas, and construct new arguments. Classes in philosophy are generally small and usually emphasize discussion and dialogue. Students are encouraged to engage in critical thought and to come to their own conclusions.
Nearly all courses are designed to be of interest and accessible to both majors and non-majors. Regardless of background, students should normally take the introductory course, PHIL 100, before they take any other philosophy course at Kenyon. Each member of the philosophy faculty offers a section of the introductory course. This course serves as an introduction to the subject through the reading of original works by major philosophers. We emphasize classroom discussion, focusing on interpretation of the texts and consideration of the philosophical issues raised by them. We assign several short papers and we give a final examination. Other courses especially recommended for first-year students are PHIL 105 and 115.
Courses that may be taken without prerequisites are:
Intermediate-level courses include:
More advanced courses include:
Although the following seminars are primarily for majors, they may be of interest to other advanced students as well:
Four and one half (4.5) units of philosophy, including the following courses:
One and a half (1.5) units of core-area courses, one course from each of the three core areas (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics) one of which must be chosen from the following advanced seminars:
One and a half (1.5) units of electives of the student's choice.
PHIL 100 is normally the first course majors take, but it is not mandatory.
The following courses should normally be taken as early as possible:
The following advanced seminars should normally begin no earlier than the second semester of the junior year:
Students who expect to do graduate work in philosophy are strongly encouraged to take PHIL 201.
There are three core areas: ethics, epistemology and metaphysics.
The courses that may be selected to satisfy the core-area requirements are listed below. Additional courses may be announced.
The Senior Capstone consists of a comprehensive essay examination with questions drawn from ancient philosophy, modern philosophy and one of the core-area advanced seminars of the student's choice.
Central to the Honors Program is a series of two related courses culminating in a thesis at the end of the senior year. The first, PHIL 497, enables the student to pursue the search for and development of a suitable topic. By the second semester of the senior year, the student should have the background necessary for writing an honors thesis in PHIL 498. Students interested in the Honors Program should submit a written request to the chair of the department before the second semester of their junior year.
In the second semester of their junior year, honors candidates submit a thesis proposal for approval. Upon departmental approval, honors candidates will register for two 0.25 unit courses to be taken senior year, PHIL 497 (fall) and PHIL 498 (spring). Honors candidates write complete drafts of their theses in PHIL 497 and refine and defend their theses in PHIL 498.
Five (5) units of philosophy, including the following courses:
All three core-area course seminars, one and a half (1.5) units:
Two units (2) of electives of the student's choice, of which two must be 200-level course or higher.
PHIL 497 and 498 Senior Honors
*For normal sequence of courses, see Course Planning Tips above.
Upon completion of the thesis, the honors candidate will stand for an oral examination on the thesis, conducted by an outside examiner and the candidate's thesis advisor, in the presence of the entire department.
The candidate must meet the requirements of the College and of the Humanities Division for admission to and retention in the Honors Program.
The minor in philosophy consists of two and one half (2.5) units of work in the department, including the following courses:
Philosophy majors interested in attending graduate school are strongly encouraged to select PHIL 201 to satisfy the logic requirement, and to select PHIL 400, 405 and 410 to satisfy the core-area course requirements. Such students also should consult with a faculty member as early as possible.
Philosophy majors who wish to do so are generally able to participate in off-campus study programs, particularly if they begin their major programs as sophomores.
Students who want to transfer credit to count towards the major or minor in the philosophy department must petition the department with a copy of the syllabus of the course. The department will decide on a case-by-case basis whether transfer credit will be counted towards the major or minor.