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Philosophy Department

Professor Frierson in class
Professor Frierson speaks with students about how the scope of moral considerability relates to their final papers on nuclear power and indigenous populations as climate refugees.

“Stubbornly pursuing insight, learning to be wrong in order to learn how to be right—these are some of the core abilities that it takes to then go figure out how to change the world in new ways — and I think no degree could prepare me for it like my B.A. in philosophy.” – Curt Bowen '08, social entrepreneur and founder of Semilla Nueva

While studying philosophy at Whitman College, you will tackle big philosophical questions:

  • Does it make sense to discuss religion and morality in scientific terms?
  • When is it unjust not to believe what someone tells you?
  • Why do people adopt the lifestyles they do?
  • Are human beings truly free or merely products of their genes and environment?
  • When if ever is anger an appropriate response to systematic injustice?

As you analyze, interpret, communicate and engage with our shared intellectual heritage through your coursework, you'll also learn to detect assumptions behind people's beliefs, arrange thoughts in logical order, and write and speak clearly and concisely.

What Will You Study?

99% of alumni were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the content of their philosophy courses.*

Course offerings include a wide range of contemporary topics, such as  the philosophy of feminism, environmental ethics, and punishment and responsibility, with the core of the curriculum concentrating on great philosophers such as Confucius, Mencius, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Kant.

Course Catalog »

Faculty-student collaboration

Philosophy majors often work closely with faculty members, collaborating on research projects and even co-authoring published papers. In some recent collaborations:

  • Lauren Wilson '19 and Professor Patrick Frierson worked together on Frierson's book Intellectual Agency and Virtue Epistemology
  • Ryan Garrett '18 and Professor Frierson worked on a paper on Descartes that was recently published in the journal Environmental Ethics
  • Mary LeBlanc '15 worked with Professor Tom Davis to publish "Hushed Resolved, Reticence, and Rape in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace" in the professional journal Philosophy and Literature.
  • Tim Reed '15 and Professor Frierson worked on a project in Kant's moral philosophy that led to Tim presenting a paper at the American Philosophical Association.
  • Sarah Shaffer '13 and Professor Michelle Jenkins worked on a project examining education in the Republic.
  • David Stearns '07 co-wrote an article with Professor Rebecca Hanrahan which was published in a compilation titled The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers.

* As reported in a 2015 survey of alumni who graduated with a philosophy degree from 2006-2015.

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