2023-2024 College Catalog

Philosophy, Bachelor of Arts


Stefanie Rocknak (Chair)









“Philosophy” literally means “love of wisdom;” it is an activity rather than a subject matter. As contemporary philosophers use the term, philosophy is a kind of reflection on and analysis of various other human activities. For example, philosophical analysis distinguishes between moral, religious and scientific discourse and reflects on how religion is related to morality on the one hand, and to science on the other.

Philosophy in the western tradition dates back to the ancient Greeks, when Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other thinkers explored the nature of reality and the means by which people come to know. Later philosophers such as Descartes, Hume and Kant refined and challenged earlier understandings of human existence. The study of philosophy compels students to examine fundamental questions and, in so doing, it better prepares them for life. As they become familiar with the teachings of the world’s great philosophers, students also develop their ability to examine, clarify, analyze—and care for— the natural and human world.

Hartwick’s philosophy program acquaints students with issues of contemporary philosophical inquiry, as well as the thinking of important philosophers of the past. Major areas of study include epistemology, the study of how we come to know as well as the limits of what we can know; metaphysics, the study of reality; and ethics, the study of moral systems and the foundations of value. Departmental offerings include courses in the history of philosophy as well as systematic courses, which introduce students to the chief areas and topics of philosophical investigation. These courses, together with opportunities for directed individual study, permit students to do advanced and specialized work in philosophy and to develop competence in handling philosophical problems.

Students who major in philosophy complete core courses in logic, the history of philosophy, and ethics. Additional courses in philosophy selected to complete the major requirements depend on a student’s interests and future career goals. The major program culminates in a senior capstone research paper in an area of philosophical inquiry.

Graduates with a major in philosophy have many options. Students who have majored in philosophy as undergraduates pursue graduate study in many other fields: law, medicine, social work, business, public administration, and, of course, philosophy. As a discipline that develops critical and creative thinking and writing, philosophy provides a good foundation for graduate study of nearly any sort.