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Department of

Philosophy and Religion

Asking Life’s Great Questions

Philosophy — traditionally at the center of the liberal arts — asks some of the most difficult and searching questions about human existence, the nature of the universe, right and wrong in human conduct, and the basis of our social and political arrangements.

In so doing, it gives the mind leeway to doubt, probe, and criticize. Philosophy by nature tends not to generate textbook answers. It can aid in putting questions on the nature of oneself, life, and reality into coherent and nuanced perspectives.

Philosophy and religion classes beyond the introductory level are typically small discussion seminars of usually 5-15 students. Our seminars are known throughout the school for offering rigorous training in reading, writing, speaking, and reflective assessment.

We do not just prepare you for a ‘job’ . Our majors are intellectually well-rounded. Philosophy and Religion scholars learn to exercise good judgement and live life well in whatever they do. As a result, our grads go into dozens of professions, equipped to discover a life of purpose and interest. In a 2012 survey of philosophy alumni from the previous 15 years, 80%+ responding agreed or strongly agreed the major trained them in skills directly applying in their current professions. Virtually all responding thought studying philosophy had overall enhanced their lives and outlook on the world. 

The great philosopher John Stuart Mill, whose ideas in his ‘On Liberty’ and ‘Utilitarianism’ still drive much of our advanced political and social discourse, observed the following in his Inaugural Address at the University of St. Andrews in 1867: “The proper function of an University in national education is tolerably well understood… . Their object is not to make skillful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings.” Still, our graduates are the kinds of persons potentially adept in a variety of professions. Graduates of the philosophy major and religion minor are currently pursing careers in accounting, banking, computers (programming, web design), corporate management and consulting, education, ethical consulting, finance, government service, intelligence, journalism, law, law enforcement, library science, the military, music, non-profit organizations, public relations, public television, psychology (school and clinical), and sales.

Philosophy majors on average score highly on graduate school and law school admissions exams. (See ‘Why Philosophy?’ for details.) Spanning 2012-2016, our graduates gained admission to competitive graduate programs in law, philosophy, theology, and the humanities, at institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Yale, Oxford, St. Andrews, Penn State, Duke, and NYU, including a full scholarship to Georgetown Law. The program continues to draw some of the most talented students at the College, as it historically has. If you are looking for an engaging intellectual community at WC, we have it here for you.   

Philosophy enhances and prepares you for excellence in any other major offered at WC. Our majors typically combine philosophy with another program such as English, psychology, business, economics, political science, drama, math, and humanities.   


  • WC students at Oxford, June 2018
    Oxford Seminar

    The annual study-abroad seminar, revolves around a theme in religion, philosophy, and politics and is taught by Oxford faculty over ten days at Oxford University in England, at the end of June and early July. Philosophy majors and religion minors attend almost every year and receive major / minor credit. 

    The program includes the opportunity to work one-on-one with Oxford faculty. Students have obtained ample funding from a variety of sources, ask the program director, , for details, applications are taken in the fall term (Aug-Nov) of each year. 

    Several philosophy students completing the seminar have later been accepted to graduate programs at Oxford and other top-tier British universities. Our participating philosophy majors consistently find it one of the highlights of their undergraduate career.
  • World-renowned philosopher and social commentator Sir Roger Scruton, author of over 40 books, spoke on Oct 9th, 2018 on ‘Philosophy of Aesthetics and the Power of Music’ at 6:00 pm in the Great Hall of St. John’s College in Annapolis at 60 College Ave – sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture, and ISI of WC, with help from WC Dept of Philosophy and Religion. A sizable contingent of WC students traveled to Annapolis for the evening. Scruton spoke on liberal arts education at WC in Nov of 2017.
  • photo credit Yousuf Karsh 1962
    St. John’s College (Annapolis) Tutors Tom May and Matthew Holtzman led a discussion on the essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King. The public event was Wednesday, November 7th, 4:30-6:00 p.m. in Sophie Kerr Room of the library. This is an annual event of many years standing between the two schools.