The roots of the modern university can be traced back two millenia to ancient Athens and the Academy: a school that Plato established for the study of philosophy. Plato's conviction that the acquisition of knowledge is a good in itself continues to animate the modern university. While the pursuit of knowledge is now compartmentalized according to specialized disciplines, philosophy continues to address larger questions about the nature of truth, goodness, beauty and reality.
Philosophy is concerned with the most fundamental questions: "What is truth? What is knowledge? What is the good? What is justice? How should we live?" While the sciences have provided us with the dominant picture of reality in modern times, philosophy remains concerned with the concepts and assumptions which define the theoretical framework for science. The examination and criticism of fundamental ideas is the endlessly fascinating work of philosophy.
Why study philosophy?
No one has provided a better answer to the question as to why one should study philosophy than Aristotle, a student of Plato's, who observed that it is simply human for us to do so. Questions concerning the nature of truth, reality, value and justice are inevitable given the human capacity for reason and reflection. However, philosophy is not just a subject of study but a discipline involving the practical skills of thinking. To address philosophical questions well, one needs the right tools, and developing the ability to think clearly and critically is what an education in philosophy is about.
While generations of philosophy students have found that the study of philosophy is its own reward and the source of an intellectual pleasure that will last a lifetime, an education in philosophy will serve you well no matter where your professional life may lead.
With its emphasis on the development of reasoning skills, a background in philosophy is useful preparation for a professional life in law, journalism, health care, business or education. Many philosophy students combine their studies in philosophy with that of other disciplines, and the Philosophy Department offers double major programmes with History, English, Political Studies, Psychology, and Indigenous Learning.
The value of philosophy as a foundation for professional life is evident in the results of standardized graduate admission tests like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Time and again philosophy students have outperformed their peers from other disciplines in verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing (logic). In recent test results, philosophy students attained the highest score amongst all disciplines in the verbal reasoning and analytical writing categories and the highest scores in quantitative reasoning of any students in a non-mathematical discipline. Click here to read more about the GRE test scores; for further analysis and discussion of these results, click here.