Socrates ImageThe word “philosophy” derives from the Greek philo sophia, meaning “love of wisdom.” Students of philosophy are challenged to pursue wisdom by reflecting on some of life’s most central concerns: ethics, faith, free will, God, justice, law, reason, truth, virtue. It is human nature to wonder about these and many other fundamental issues, and as Aristotle famously asserts in his Metaphysics, “it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.” So although many students enter college with no prior experience in the academic discipline of philosophy, all students are already philosophers to some degree.

The study of philosophy at Southeastern Illinois College has long emphasized that the love of wisdom is best pursued through the reading of primary works from throughout the philosophical tradition. Instead of merely reading about philosophers, our students will be challenged directly by the works of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes. Such confrontation with the great books of the philosophical tradition is a key component of a general education, as it encourages students to reflect on the very nature of tradition. Readers of philosophy come to see themselves as participants in an ongoing conversation and debate between the philosophers themselves.

Because philosophy encourages a critical examination of what it means to be human, it is a crucial component of the humanities. Through formal study in the courses that comprise the academic discipline of philosophy at Southeastern—Introduction to Philosophy, Fundamentals of Logic, Fundamentals of Ethics, Comparative Religions—students acquaint themselves with the ideas that have shaped civilizations. Students of philosophy are equipped to continue reflecting on these ideas after courses are completed and degrees are earned. Consequently, the study of philosophy contributes significantly to Southeastern’s mission to enhance “lifelong learning.”

Students who pursue philosophy for its own sake also discern the tremendous practicality of such study to a variety of other fields. Indeed, students are encouraged to see the interdisciplinary nature of philosophic studies, for the methods of philosophic inquiry—including dialogue, Socratic Method, and argument—are applicable to a wide range of interests. Writing about the enduring benefits of his philosophic studies in logic, John Stuart Mill offered this compelling testimony: “I know of nothing in my education, to which I think myself more indebted for whatever capacity of thinking I have attained.”

The discipline of philosophy, consequently, is relevant to students from across the academic spectrum at Southeastern. Regardless of major or career interest, all students can reflect upon Socrates’ warning against living the “unexamined life,” and with Josef Pieper they may begin to understand that “to philosophize means living a truly human life.”