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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Learning Outcomes

philosophy department

Students completing the Philosophy core will be able to

  • Understand the historical origins of values and principles that ground and are questioned in contemporary culture
  • Reflect on their individual, social, and religious identities and relationships
  • Examine their values in light of their reflection on philosophical views
  • Develop the ability to analyze arguments in order to create a moral framework for considering questions of ultimate value
  • Consider the nature of notions like reason, evidence, belief, and certainty such that they are able to think critically about the kinds of claims made in different disciplines from the natural sciences to theology
  • Critically engage with contemporary problems and questions using the tools of philosophical reflection and argument

All students majoring in Philosophy will be able to demonstrate

  • knowledge of major texts and thinkers in at least 2 of the major periods in the history of Western philosophy
  • an ability to read and interpret philosophical texts
  • an ability to evaluate philosophical arguments
  • understanding of such philosophical issues as the nature and scope of human knowledge, the meaning of human personhood, the good life and moral obligation, the social and political dimensions of human existence, the relationship of faith and reason, and the existence and nature of God, especially those connected to their track
  • understanding of the difference between philosophical and other types of claims, e.g., historical, scientific (both natural and social sciences), theological, political, etc., especially those most connected to their track
  • an ability to use philosophical resources to engage with contemporary issues and problems, especially those most connected to their track

Students in the course of the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in philosophy will

  1. demonstrate a wide-ranging and sophisticated grasp of the history of Western philosophy (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary), i.e., be able to convey information about individual authors and texts, to state connections between the principal authors and texts, but also to explain how individual texts and authors fit into the overall movement of Western philosophy; ability to articulate a narrative of that tradition; in the case of M.A. students and of Ph.D. students completing their first year in the program, ability to converse knowledgeably about the history of Western philosophy as well as about two of the major systematic areas in philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, natural theology / philosophy of religion, social / political philosophy).

  2. demonstrate a sophisticated reading and interpretation of philosophical texts, i.e., to identify the main thesis of a text, to explain the thesis, to outline in detail the principal arguments in support of the thesis, and to identify the main presuppositions underlying the text; to contextualize philosophical texts and issues in a fairly sophisticated way, i.e., to locate them in their appropriate historical contexts, to show awareness of the historical background of philosophical issues, and to show alertness to the differences between philosophical genres.

  3. demonstrate a sophisticated understanding and evaluation of philosophical arguments, i.e., to distinguish premises and conclusions, to distinguish issues of logical validity from issues concerning the truth or falsity of premises, to pick out and explain ambiguous terms, to identify presuppositions, and to highlight the most salient strengths or weaknesses of an argument.

  4. demonstrate a sophisticated ability to write about philosophical texts and issues, i.e., to state a philosophical thesis, to explain the thesis, to construct an argument or arguments in support of the thesis, to respond to possible misunderstandings of or objections to the thesis as well as to alternative interpretations of the texts and alternative positions on the issues.

  5. demonstrate the ability to survey and to select secondary literature that is appropriate to their work, and to make fair and effective use of this secondary literature.

  6. demonstrate a sophisticated ability to distinguish philosophical claims from other types of claims, i.e., to recognize and articulate the differences between philosophical claims and, for example, historical and natural-scientific claims when presented with these different types of claims; to be able to explain texts in which claims of different sorts are not only found side by side but are even confused.

  7. demonstrate a fairly sophisticated understanding of such philosophical issues as the nature and scope of human knowledge, the meaning of human personhood, the good life and moral obligation, the social and political dimensions of human existence, the relationship of faith and reason, and the existence and nature of God. This fairly sophisticated understanding would involve being able to state what the main questions are in most if not all of these areas, what the main answers to these questions are, what the principal sources of evidence are to which those answers appeal; to stake out a reasoned position on at least some of these questions; and to show an appreciation of what they do and do not know about these various issues.

  8. in the case of Ph.D. students, demonstrate the ability to communicate clearly and effectively about the philosophical texts and issues mentioned above.

Students in the Joint MA in Philosophy and Theology are expected to:

  • Demonstrate a working understanding of the fundamental texts, voices, conversations, and debates that have shaped the history of philosophy and theology in the Western tradition (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary);
  • Appreciate and systematically engage the historical and ongoing interaction between philosophy and theology in the Western tradition, particularly as it concerns questions of God, reason, revelation, faith, language, doctrine, culture, and human experience;
  • Appreciate and constructively engage the various genres, methods, styles, aims, and historical contexts of philosophical and theological inquiry;
  • Develop a program of study in consultation with an advisor that includes a concentration in one of the following areas: Faith, Science, and Philosophy; Foundations in Philosophy and Theology; Medieval Philosophy and Theology; and Philosophy and Religions.
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated ability to write and speak about philosophical and theological texts and issues through graduate seminars, language study, a comprehensive exam, and an optional thesis.