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Philosophy is the reflective study of values, the critical examination of the methods and results of the various disciplines, and a thoughtful encounter with questions of ultimate concern and foundational belief. Earlham's Philosophy Department serves these ends through a flexible array of courses that relate philosophy to basic human problems and a sequenced core devoted to the history of philosophy. The Department strives to maintain openness to diverse points of view, close personal contact with students, and high standards of rigorous and engaged thinking.
The Philosophy curriculum at Earlham is distinctive in its depth of coverage of the history of philosophy. The Department's emphasis on the living tradition and its continuity with contemporary movements shows that ancient philosophy is not obsolete and contemporary philosophy is not rootless. As students learn to be conversant with the ideas of the major figures of the Western tradition, they learn the vocabulary, methods, questions and standards of the discipline. At the conclusion of the four-course history sequence, majors in Philosophy spend most of their time in advanced courses and seminars examining a particular problem or the thought of a particular philosopher.
The Department's faculty members are not narrow specialists, but wide-ranging inquirers with interdisciplinary interests and skills. Their research interests include philosophies of race, postcolonial theory, feminist theories, Eastern philosophy and religion, the effectiveness of social programs, political philosophy and psychotherapy. The faculty teaches interdisciplinary courses drawing on anthropology, art, education, history, literature, politics, psychology and other natural and social sciences.
A major in Philosophy equips one to think well, both through abstract concepts and in the concrete details of everyday life. As such, it is useful for all careers, and Earlham Philosophy majors successfully pursue a wide variety of occupations and post-graduate studies. Every year, some go to graduate school in philosophy. According to HEDS data, Earlham is ranked 29th (in the 98th percentile) among 1,533 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. in the percentage of graduates who go on to receive Ph.D.s in the humanities. Many Earlham philosophy graduates go to law school or into seminary training, and many others go into secondary school teaching.
What do you get when you mix training in traditional American studio ceramics, knowledge of ancient African pottery techniques and a strong education in philosophy?
The new United States Ambassador to Vietnam, David Shear '75, says he entered the foreign service “completely by chance,” though he says that his study of Japan as an Earlham student clearly had something to do with it.