Among the benefits of studying philosophy are the well-crafted tools it offers for approaching questions that we as human beings inevitably face—perhaps especially when we are called upon to make decisions about the direction of our lives. The responses we make to such questions are likely to be of great interest not just to ourselves but to our family members, our friends, and those with whom we work:
- Who am I? What am I?
- What can I do with my life?
- What should I do with my life?
- What considerations should I include as I assess proposed answers to such questions?
Philosophy departments over time and across the globe frame vital inquiries like these in different ways. Here is a small but representative sample of the kinds of questions raised in courses currently offered by the Department of Philosophy at Smith:
- What does it mean to be a cosmopolitan person—a global citizen?
- In the United States and some other countries the gap between the super-rich and everyone else has been growing in recent decades. Does this matter? Why (not)?
- Do the 1 percent deserve the resources they own?
- Does science provide us with the best way to describe species, races, and sexes?
- Which (if any) of your behaviors can be explained by appeal to biology?
- What is the fundamental nature of reality? Is there one? Why should we care?
- Does privacy matter only if you "have something to hide"?
- A prison's warden has asked that you, a physician, participate in the execution of a death row prisoner by lethal injection. You are aware that the American Medical Association's ethical guidelines prohibit doctors' involvement in executions. You also know that if you decline to participate, the prisoner is at risk of greater suffering. What do you decide, and why?
Recognizing that no single academic discipline offers the only way of posing and responding to such questions, the philosophy department at Smith takes very seriously the possibility of students including courses offered outside the department towards completion of the major.