Washington Signature
[ Search and Navigation ]   [ View Full Site ]
Department of

Philosophy and Religion

Asking Life’s Great Questions and Opening Doors of the Mind

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 the greatest possible 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.

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 skilful 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.) In 2012-2013 alone, our top academically successful graduates received offers of admission from competitive programs at Tufts, Chicago U., Yale, Oxford, St. Andrews (Scotland). and Penn State.

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.   

 

Bringing Philosophy and the Liberal Arts to People in Prison

The Partners in Philosophy Prison Program continued this past Summer in Jessup Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison near Baltimore. The program was begun in 2011 by James Schelberg ‘12 and Jared Rankin (formerly a student of WC) on their own initiative and using no funds outside of their own money. 

This last Summer 2013 and the Fall and Spring 2013 course programs are administered by Rankin. Participants from the WC Philosophy and Religion Dept. include Profs. Brien, McCabe, and Weigel.

The program features an inter-disciplinary Humanities course taught to inmates by a variety of Washington College instructors in Art, Philosophy, History, English, and Classical thought. More than half the Philosophy and Religion Department participates annually. Schelberg and Rankin’s program was prominently featured in an article in the Washington Post. 

Video Spotlight

Recent Stories

  • Image preview
    Students will share their research, and visiting experts will comment, during an April 30, 6:30 pm Hynson Lounge panel on “Catholic Social Thought and the Law.”

    Distinguished guest commentators include: Ernesto Velazquez (Supreme Court of Ecuador, Catholic U of Ecuador, WC Philosophy and Religion Dept); William Gorman (Archdiocese of Wash. DC); Fred Israel (Attorney); Anthony Annett (International Monetary Fund)
  • Image preview

    The Theta of Maryland chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society presented a talk by philosophy professor Daniel DeNicola, author of Learning to Flourish: A Philosophical Exploration of Liberal Education, on March 27, 2014.  The lecture, “Flourishing as an Educational Project,” took place in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, at Washington College, and was well attended by students and faculty from across various disciplines.

  • Image preview

    St. John’s tutors discuss influential essay with students and faculty