Contemporary philosophy deals with an enormous range of questions and issues. This includes questions that are traditionally associated with philosophy: “What is the nature of the world I live in?” “What kind of life ought I to lead?” “What can I know?” But philosophy also addresses issues such as the nature of nation states, how we can best understand what a mind is, our ethical relation to the environment, what it is that makes artistic expression significant and how advances in natural science change our conception of the world and our place in it.

The faculty in the Philosophy Department represent a wide variety of specializations within the discipline, and we supplement this diversity with a distinguished visiting professor each year. In addition, we have a very strong interdisciplinary orientation in our curriculum, which includes both interdisciplinary courses and several courses taught jointly with faculty from other departments and programs.

Why Philosophy?

Do you remember questions you asked yourself when you were five? What is the difference between reality and make-believe? How are you different from the baby you once were? If God created the universe, then what created God? Do you have to be scared to be brave? If your sister is color blind, and you are not, then is the world really colored or is it black and white? Will time end? If it did, how could we be able to know that this is so?

Philosophers are still interested in the answers to these questions. Among the topics they study are these issues: What is knowledge? What is the best life to live? What is justice? How are the mind and body related? Can art be defined? Philosophy students learn to look at issues from differing perspectives, support their ideas with arguments, and present their thoughts convincingly in writing and in speaking. They also have fun thinking deep thoughts!

Philosophy gives you a very useful background for a variety of educational pursuits, not only graduate studies in philosophy. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that philosophy majors are one of only four majors (the others being biology, chemistry and math) who on average score higher than do other majors on a variety of graduate entrance exams. Philosophy majors score 8.7% better on the LSAT, 11% better on the GMAT, 17% better on the verbal section of the GRE, and 4.6% better on the quantitative section on the GRE. 

The Carleton College Philosophy Department has a long history of sending graduates on to top Ph.D. programs in philosophy graduate school. Many Carleton philosophy grads are now making active contributions to the discipline of philosophy through their teaching and scholarship.

But many Carleton College philosophy graduates have used their philosophy training to pursue interesting and rewarding careers in fields other than academic philosophy. Carleton philosophy majors have gone on to careers in practicing the law, architecture, the performing and creative arts, environmental activism, biomedical ethics, business, and work with non-profit organizations, among other professions.

Please see our alumni page for information on what Carleton College philosophy grads have done with their degrees and why they think studying philosophy was valuable for them. Also see our guides for new students and potential majors.