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Why Philosophy?

How do we know?  What is truth?  How are scientific claims justified?  Are we naturally good or evil?  Are we responsible for our actions?  How do human minds and bodies interact?  Do people have free will?  What is justice? 

Philosophy embraces difficult questions and investigates fundamental concepts. 

Some are abstract and deal with the nature of truth, justice, value, and knowledge; others are more concrete. Philosophy examines the efforts of past thinkers and cultivates the capacity to reason about our own thinking.  The discipline encourages clarity of thought  and careful analysis of arguments.  And, it engages complex problems that might get overlooked in other fields.  Developing a philosophical mindset and learning to engage with difficult questions helps students identify and apply critical pressure to assumptions behind conventional judgments, practices, and arguments.     

At Stanford, we believe that philosophy ought to be engaged and applied.

It should address philosophical questions as they arise in the real world and within the practices of other disciplines. This tradition is reflected in our department’s collaboration with a wide range of interdisciplinary programs and initiatives, including Ethics in Society, Symbolic Systems, History and Philosophy of Science, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Philosophy and Literature initiative.  

Critical reading. Analytical thinking. Sound argumentation.

Although philosophy may be considered the oldest academic discipline, studying it has powerful currency it today's world.  A philosophical framework equips students with the skills to succeed in a wide variety of fields including law, business, teaching, and medicine. Stanford philosophy alums run investment firms, lead nonprofit organizations, and work on biomedical ethics issues for government agencies.

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