Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom, both theoretical and practical. This involves examining our basic assumptions, which in turn requires a close analysis of concepts — so that we have a better sense of what were talking about — as well as an attempt to justify these assumptions. Through philosophy, we explore the nature of reality and appearance, the difference between knowledge and belief, the nature of truth, what we are, how we ought to behave, and what we hope to become. Much of our pursuit is expressed in the title of Paul Gauguin's painting of 1897-98: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?"
The goals of this program are to help students:
- understand and appreciate the major philosophical traditions;
- develop a philosophical understanding of their own;
- prepare for graduate work in philosophy and related fields; and
- wrestle with the ultimate questions of human existence.
Philosophy at Manchester is set within a broad liberal arts curriculum. To receive the baccalaureate degree, a student must complete 128 hours, of which thirty-six are required for the philosophy major. Requirements in the major include courses on logic, ethics, philosophy of religion, the history of Western philosophy, and non-Western thought. Additional courses available in the department include Philosophy of Civilization, Environmental Philosophy, and various advanced seminars offered on the basis of student demand. Many students also pursue particular interests in the context of an individualized "special problems" course.
The relatively small size of the philosophy major allows more freedom to choose electives in various fields, to pursue an additional major, or to consider participating in one of the university's special education opportunities. For example, through the Brethren Colleges Abroad (BCA) exchange one can study for a semester or year in a variety of locations around the globe, including England, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, and Ecuador. Students may also travel abroad with a January-term class to study the values, religions, and ideologies of other cultures.
High school students intending to major in philosophy should take a university preparatory program. English composition, literature, speech, mathematics, natural science, and foreign language will help develop the sensitivity to language and logical precision which philosophy emphasizes.
A philosophy major is excellent preparation for a number of graduate exams. A national study found that philosophy majors outranked every other major in the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) verbal scores and were eighth in GRE quantitative skills (well ahead of all other areas in the humanities); philosophy majors are second only to math majors in the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), and are third in the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Only philosophy majors rank among the top ten groups for all these exams.
In general, the religion and philosophy department at Manchester University provides excellent pre-professional training for careers requiring the ability to read critically, think clearly, and express oneself effectively.