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What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is at once the most speculative and the most practical of all disciplines, the most abstract and the most concrete. Arguably forming the core of any liberal education, philosophy is the attempt to navigate the labyrinth of interrelated questions about the nature of existence, knowledge, and value through rational inquiry. It is speculative because it continually stretches the imagination beyond the frontiers of received knowledge; it is practical because it informs our most cherished beliefs about the meaning of life. Immanuel Kant captured these two directions of philosophical thought when he spoke of the wonder with which his heart was filled contemplating "the starry heavens above and the moral law within."
The contours of the philosopher's journey are symbolized in Raphael's School of Athens, pictured above. At the center of the painting, beneath the arch, stand perhaps the two most influential philosophers in history. On the left is Plato with his finger pointing to the heavens, holding his book Timaeus, a work of cosmology and metaphysics. Plato's figure symbolizes speculative reason. On the right is Aristotle holding his book on ethics. Aristotle's gesture suggests restraint on the flights of the speculative imagination and a return to this-worldly concerns. The balance between the speculative and the practical may be taken as an approximation of the meaning of the word philosophy, friendship or love (philia) of wisdom (sophia).
In no way competing with other academic areas such as history, literature, the sciences, and the arts, philosophy is nevertheless relevant to them. Each domain of inquiry or creativity raises its own set of philosophical questions. Thus, there are subdisciplines such as the philosophy of science, philosophy of art, and philosophy of religion. Philosophers also address questions of ethics at both the theoretical and applied levels. In addition to the study of various theories in moral philosophy, philosophers examine - to take three examples - biomedical ethics, business ethics, and questions of ethics in warfare. Beyond its value for liberal education, philosophy provides excellent preparation for certain postgraduate work, such as law school and seminary. Furthermore, philosophy teaches skills in logic and critical thinking that are transferable to non-philosophical domains of inquiry and activity; for this reason, it is a useful supplement, as a minor field of study, for any academic major.
History of Philosophy at PSU
Since 1912, when it was called the State Auxiliary Manual-Training School, Pittsburg State University has had philosophy as part of its curriculum. The core offerings in philosophy were first developed in 1927 by Charles B. Pyle, a student of William James at Harvard and Border Parker Bowne at Boston. Pyle's original list of four courses would later be expanded. Today, the Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences offers eleven courses in philosophy including Basic Philosophy, Introduction to Logic, Ethics, Applied Ethics, History of Philosophy (including Ancient Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, and Contemporary Philosophy), Political Philosophy, World Religions, and various courses focusing on special topics in philosophy.
Minoring in Philosophy
Students wishing to emphasize philosophy in their education may take a minor. The minor consists of 21 Semester hours in philosophy, including Introduction to Philosophy, Logic, three courses chosen from Ethics, Ethics: Applied Emphasis, Biomedical Ethics, Business Ethics, and Environmental Ethics, plus 12 hours of electives.
View the Philosophy minor Program Requirements and Program Guide.
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