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What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the rational inquiry into our most basic beliefs and values. Philosophers ask questions such as the following.

  • "How do I make ethical judgments when there seems to be no clear right or wrong answer?" (a central question in ethics)
  • "How can I know what's real—through reason or through senses like seeing and touching? (a central question in theory of knowledge)
  • "What are the most basic features of reality?" (a central question in metaphysics)
  • "How is my mind related to my body?" (a central question in the philosophy of mind)
  • "What is the value of art?" (a central question in the philosophy of art)
  • "What is the nature of justice?" (a central question in social and political philosophy)

Philosophers seek to answer such questions based on evidence, reasoning, and argument. Consequently, the study of logic, which analyzes systematic, rational thought, is fundamental to philosophy. 

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All of us, from time to time, think deeply about how we should live, what we should believe, and what we should value. The answers we find to these questions are important because they make us who we are and they determine how we behave. But there are also many practical benefits to studying philosophy. Philosophy Majors and Minors acquire the generally applicable skills of thinking and reasoning clearly. They acquire the skills to conceive of problems and issues from multiple perspectives—and importantly, they acquire the skills to analyze, compare, and judge the merits of different perspectives. This work cultivates a mental dexterity of thinking, problem-solving, and thinking creatively. These intellectual skills can be effectively applied in any area of life, and to any profession.

Statistics indicate that Philosophy Majors perform very well on standardized tests for post-graduate and professional study.

  • On the GRE (the "SAT for graduate school") Philosophy Majors place first (ahead of all Majors) in both the Verbal and Analytical Writing sections of the test. (Source
  • On the GMAT (the entrance exam for business schools) Philosophy Majors place 3rd, ahead of all Business and professional Majors, behind only Physics and Mathematics Majors. (Source)
  • On the LSAT (the entrance exam for law school admissions) Philosophy Majors tie for first place with Economics Majors. (Source)

Philosophy majors are suited for any career where clear communication, rigorous thinking, and dealing with multiple viewpoints is in demand. Some careers our majors have chosen after graduation are in the fields of:

  • Teaching
  • Law
  • Technology
  • Business
  • Advertising
  • Non-Profit Administration
  • Community Affairs
  • Public Policy

Our Faculty and Courses

The philosophy faculty at MSU represent a wide range of interests and points of view. In terms of scholarly interests, the philosophy faculty is particularly strong in the areas of contemporary social and political thought, American philosophy, cognitive science, research ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of art, theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, feminist philosophy, and phenomenology. Teaching interests of the philosophy faculty range even more widely and support a curriculum with unusual depth both in the history of philosophy and in more recent developments in the discipline.

Philosophy students are passionate and diverse, from many backgrounds and involved in many different organizations at Montclair State and beyond. Philosophy classes always have a core group of majors, but are also open to all students, and often include  Honors students as well as students from diverse other majors. This creates many opportunities for philosophical topics to be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective.