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The Pursuit of Wisdom

At the heart of liberal arts education lies an understanding of philosophy — that’s why the most advanced degree in the liberal arts is known as the Doctor of Philosophy. But philosophy is a rewarding and valuable field of study in its own right. The word itself means “love of wisdom,” and as a philosophy major at Elon, you will gain the understanding, insight, perspective and skills — the wisdom — to succeed in whatever postgraduate path you pursue. 

Elon’s philosophy program is built on twin foundations: a wisdom orientation that encourages the exploration of enduring human concerns; and a practical intent, emphasizing skills and techniques for putting understanding into practice and enriching human life and the unfolding world around us.

When you graduate, you will have gained a vital set of tools: critical-thinking skills and the capacity to clearly articulate a point of view; ability to grasp a variety of viewpoints and a deeper understanding of the nature and limits of understanding itself; a keen sense for moral and ethical perspectives and the ability to bridge social and cultural differences; and more imaginative and open-ended kinds of thinking and creative problem solving. These are skills you can bring to bear in any endeavor. And they are abilities key to finding and inhabiting the places where, as the poet Frederick Buechner put it, “our own deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”

“A philosophy professor once told me, ‘You don’t major in philosophy. You are a philosophy major.’ For me, studying philosophy has led to personal enrichment that can only come from a major that is more a way of life and of thinking about life than an isolated aspect of my education.”

Kelly Flannery ’09

Individual attention

At Elon, the low student-faculty ratio means that students enjoy significant individual attention and build close working relationships with their professors. Faculty members take a personal interest in each student’s progress. And that relationship doesn’t end at the classroom door; professors are happy to meet with students outside class to answer questions, explore new ideas, offer advice or suggest new ways of thinking and unsuspected possibilities.

Expert faculty

The philosophy faculty are recognized experts in the field, and their range of specialty areas is as vast as philosophy itself.

Dr. Nim Batchelor’s scholarly work focuses on the philosophy of law and philosophical counseling.

Dr. Ann J. Cahill studies the intersection of feminist theory and philosophy of the body; her latest book, Overcoming Objectification, will be published in December 2010.

Dr. Martin Fowler’s academic work and community practice include restorative justice and ethical skills for critical thinking, with emphasis upon service learning and servant leadership. He is the author of The Ethical Practice of Critical Thinking.

Dr. Yoram Lubling teaches American pragmatism and Jewish philosophy. He is the author of Twice-Dead: Moshe Y. Lubling, the Ethics of Memory, and the Treblinka Revolt.

Dr. Stephen Bloch-Schulman is a scholar of teaching and learning, as well as genocide studies and contemporary political philosophy.

Dr. Anthony Weston recently published The Incompleat Eco-Philosopher: Essays from the Edges of Environmental Ethics and is author of Creativity for Critical Thinkers: A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox, among numerous other books. 

Dr. John Sullivan, professor emeritus, is a beloved teacher and author of To Come to Life More Fully and Living Large.

Innovative curriculum

The Department of Philosophy prides itself on a distinctly practical orientation. In a co-authored piece that was published in the journal Bridges, the department’s faculty described a vision of philosophy — described as “transformative practice” — that “calls us to live with larger mind, to marshal our ethical intelligence, to uncover hidden dynamics and beliefs that inhibit our understanding and compassion, and to belong in our ever-widening concentric circles of relationships with kindly acumen and reconstructive flair. In short, the task of philosophy as transformative practice is to intentionally and unapologetically deepen experience and foster human flourishing.” To study philosophy, then, is not only to seek knowledge of texts and ideas, or to become proficient in a certain set of skills. It is to seek ways of living that are richer, more meaningful and more ethically sound. 

The philosophy curriculum at Elon is designed to train students in three broad sets of skills:

  • Critical and constructive thinking: learning how to identify, analyze and find solutions to problems
  • Ethical practice: exploring ways to act wisely and effectively
  • Interpretive understanding: bridging the meaning and value systems of diverse individuals, cultures and epochs.

Building upon the principles of critical thinking and ethical practice, philosophy students survey both ancient and modern philosophy. Each student then pursues a curriculum tailored to his or her interests, such as feminist philosophy, environmental ethics, or philosophy of education. The philosophy major is designed to allow students to double major. Many choose to pair it with a professional program, such as education or communications, or with a major in the arts and sciences.

Experiential education

Elon students are encouraged to build on their classroom knowledge by pursuing internships, service learning programs, study abroad opportunities and other experiential avenues. You might put your learning to work in the real world by volunteering with community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or at a soup kitchen. Senior majors in the department’s integrative seminars partner with community organizations to explore philosophical perspectives on pressing social issues and actions.

You also will have the chance to conduct original research, working with faculty or on your own with their guidance. Philosophy students regularly present research findings at the Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF).

Philosophy students established a chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the national philosophy honor society. Members are responsible for inducting new members and holding public events and discussions.

Beyond Elon

Many Elon philosophy majors go on to graduate school, especially law school. Many law schools seek students with a degree in philosophy, as do divinity schools and many corporations and nonprofit organizations that value the critical-thinking and imaginative skills that philosophy offers. Other philosophy graduates enter careers in fields ranging from community service to education to business to government. Regardless of which path you choose, your studies at Elon will give you the tools, the wisdom and the perspective to make a real contribution to society.


Visit the Department of Philosophy Website.

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