Alejandro Santana, Ph.D., chair

Faculty: Askay, Baillie, Eshleman, Evangelist, Gauthier, Logue, Martin, McShane, Rothenfluch, Trout

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Portland offers a comprehensive program of study leading to a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, while also offering a range of courses that meet University and College of Arts and Sciences curricular requirements. Important departmental characteristics and aims are as follows:

  1. The department endeavors to build a community of students and faculty who are dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship. In keeping with the integrating nature of its discipline, the philosophy department aims to provide students with the tools for achieving a sophisticated and reflective understanding of the assumptions and implications of their other studies at the University, as well as of their pursuits more generally, which we do in particular in our courses in the area of metaphysics. The department is committed in particular to the development of students’ capacity for critical thinking in the area of ethics and values, as this ability is indispensable in fostering a concern with issues of social justice and ethical behavior. The department also encourages students, especially its majors, to critically explore some of the most important questions of human existence and human nature. It aims to provide students with the philosophical background and scholarly skills that are necessary for such an exploration.
  2. The department embraces a pluralistic approach to the field. It embraces a stance of openness to diverse philosophical approaches, methods, sub-fields, and perspectives. It does this by aiming to cover all significant historical periods of philosophy, most major philosophical approaches and methods, and most major sub-fields in philosophy.
  3. The department holds that development of the habits of scholarship necessary for such endeavors begins with faculty members who are active and committed in their own academic work. Accordingly, the department seeks to nurture and support the scholarly inquiry that befits an accomplished faculty.
  4. The department plays an essential role in promoting the University’s aim to provide service and leadership to the community. Philosophy provides tools to develop a critically reflective vision of the world, the human person, and ethical behavior. These are all necessary for leadership. The department is committed to furthering this aim by making its pedagogies and scholarship a resource to the University, the community, and the region. The University has the potential to be a premier Catholic institution for undergraduate philosophical instruction as well as a recognized center for inquiry and dialogue. It is the aim of the department to realize that potential and thereby to enhance the visibility and reputation of the University of Portland.

The major in philosophy is intended to meet the needs of various types of students, including those who plan to do graduate work in philosophy; those who plan to do graduate work in other fields such as law, medicine, business, journalism, ministry, or any of the liberal arts; those who wish to pursue a double major in philosophy and some other discipline of the humanities, sciences, or professional areas; and those who wish to get a solid liberal education. Philosophy may also be taken as a minor, as part of an interdisciplinary major, or within other programs such as the social justice program.

Learning Outcomes for Philosophy Majors

Philosophy graduates of the University of Portland should be able to:

  1. Engage with significant philosophical problems.
    1. Explain why a philosophical problem is significant.
    2. Critically evaluate attempts to solve a problem.
    3. Engage and use primary philosophical texts in the context of addressing a philosophical problem.
  2. Engage in the art of dialogue.
    1. Know how to identify and critically evaluate the presuppositions underlying their own questions and those of others.
    2. Demonstrate an ability to recognize views that oppose the ones for which they are arguing and to evaluate them in light of the positions they are holding.
  3. Write technically competent philosophical essays.
    1. Give sustained and well-focused arguments for their positions.
    2. Write papers demonstrating conceptual coherence.
  4. Integrate diverse views in developing their positions on an issue.
    1. Demonstrate an understanding of a diversity of philosophical positions/issues.
    2. Take a position with respect to some philosophical positions/issues.
    3. Place their positions in the context of various philosophical positions/issues in the history of philosophy.
  5. Demonstrate proficiency in the basic concepts of logic.
    1. Distinguish between arguments and non-arguments.
    2. Distinguish between deductive and inductive arguments.
    3. Evaluate arguments in terms of their soundness or cogency.
    4. Identify common formal and informal fallacies.
    5. Translate ordinary language statements into various systems of logic (e.g. propositional logic and/or categorical logic).
    6. Use various systems of logic to check arguments for validity (e.g. the square of opposition, rules for categorical syllogisms, truth tables, natural deductions).

Capstone Experience

The capstone experience is intended to be the final stage in a developmental process that students undertake as they move through the philosophy curriculum. It serves as the final demonstration of a student’s preparation in the study of philosophy, and it provides students with an opportunity for extended exploration of a topic of interest under the guidance of a faculty member. For most students, the capstone experience will take the form of a one-credit hour student thesis completed in the senior year that grows out of a course taken in the junior or senior year. For students planning on graduate study in philosophy and for honors students, the capstone is a three-credit hour senior thesis written under the direction of a faculty mentor separate from any particular class.

Philosophy, B.A.