Philosophy

"All men," says Aristotle, "by nature desire to know," and Philosophy provides the broadest method for getting at what can be known. Students in Philosophy engage fundamental questions about reality, God, the limits of knowledge, and the meaning of human life. Thereby, they learn to question critically, to argue rigorously, and to think synthetically. These skills are beneficial for anyone, regardless of one’s field of endeavor, and doing Philosophy necessarily will make you a smarter person.

Degrees Offered See the program-specific requirements. (PDF)

Bachelor of Arts in PhilosophyMinor in Philosophy
Philosophy student admiring an art sculpture.
"Being a biological sciences major, I was accustomed to thinking in a very step-wise, evidence-based fashion. Philosophy challenged me to broaden my mental scope and think about things that may not have any empirical evidence. Having improved my problem solving skills, I can now apply the lessons I learned in a very real way to improve the health of thousands of people throughout my career."

~Jake Baalman, NU '09, Medical Student

Prominent Careers

While the general skills developed in Philosophy are of use in most fields of human endeavor, certain career paths are well-established for those with philosophical training.

Law, pre-eminently, has been a field that capitalizes on the analytic and verbal skills developed in Philosophy. So too, careers in communication or research-based fields focus on the verbal skills that an undergraduate philosophy major will develop.

Philosophy's engagement with concepts and the ability to think systemically provide a major advantage to those students entering emerging fields in information and technology. For those entering professional or technical fields that require more specialized knowledge, philosophical training may provide an edge by enhancing the student's ability to think critically and synthetically.

The program also allows the philosophy graduate to relate his/her specialized field of endeavor to more generalized concerns. And, post-graduate teaching and research positions in the public and private sectors seek persons with high-level philosophical skills.

More Information

  • Philosophical seminars typically involve discussion, back and forth exchanges, and a real expenditure of effort to arrive at a conclusion.
  • Philosophy straddles the line between being a "content" discipline and a "skills" discipline. While philosophy has its own history and is to that extent a discipline whose "content" must be imparted from teacher to student, it is primarily a "skills" discipline in which learning happens through doing.
  • Philosophical discovery happens inside and outside of class, through an ongoing discussion that can bear fruit at unexpected times.

Research opportunities

Students may apply for research grants awarded by the Gerber Institute for Catholic Studies. The Institute will consider funding "any project that supports or furthers the mission, vision, or current theme of the Gerber Institute." This 2010-2011 theme is "reconciling differences," and proposals may take the form of essays, presentations, performances, and service projects.