Philosophy is a discipline that defies any simple definition. The study of philosophy involves reflection upon the character and validity of the fundamental principles that guide our thought and action, our search for knowledge, and our desire to live well. Yet it also deals with other sorts of problems, such as the relation between mind and body, and the nature and existence of God. Perhaps one should just say with Wilfrid Sellars, an American philosopher of the mid-20th century, that “the aim of philosophy is to understand how things in the broadest sense of the term hang together in the broadest sense of the term.”
The truth is, philosophy is a complex and multifaceted subject, and the undergraduate curriculum offered by the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago seeks to initiate students into the wealth and depth of this area of inquiry. Whether UChicago students choose the occasional course from the department’s offerings or decide to pursue a major or minor in the discipline, they will learn how to read some of the classic texts of philosophy, come to appreciate the various problems with which philosophers have been concerned, and receive a training in rigorous methods of argument.
Students in the standard program take courses in practical philosophy and theoretical philosophy, along with required courses in the history of philosophy and elementary logic. Students in the intensive track of the major are also offered very small faculty-led tutorials. A third option is a major in philosophy and allied fields. In recent years, students electing this track have devised programs in Philosophy and Mathematics, Philosophy and Biological Sciences, and Philosophy and Economics.
While we have a “full service” philosophy department in the Western philosophical tradition, there are certain areas of distinctive strength or character that merit special mention. The history of German idealism, from Kant forward, has long been and remains an outstanding strength of the program in philosophy at UChicago. More recently, the depth and breadth of our offerings in classical Greek philosophy have become genuinely noteworthy, all the more so in conjunction with the very active Chicago-area Consortium in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. Yet again, there is a sizeable and vigorous group of faculty and students working together on contemporary issues in the philosophy of mind and language—often but not always with reference to Wittgenstein. And, finally, the UChicago department is an important center of 19th- and 20th-century “continental” philosophy.
Students in other fields of study may complete a minor in Philosophy.