Mission Statement | St. Lawrence University Philosophy

Mission Statement

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy deals with a range of fundamental questions:

  • What does it mean to live a good life?
  • How should a person live?
  • Are we free?
  • What is the self?
  • What is the nature of reality?
  • How are individual and community related?
  • What is justice, and can we create a truly just society?
  • How should humans interact with the natural world?
  • What is knowledge?
  • What can be known, vs. what is just a matter of opinion?

The methods philosophers employ in addressing such questions include careful analysis of existing opinions and their implications, free speculation about possibilities of all sorts and rigorous critical reasoning to choose between theories.

Philosophy at St. Lawrence: A Global Perspective

Every culture has philosophical legacies. These philosophical legacies are contested within each culture, change over time, and change in response to encounters with other cultures. The philosophy program at St. Lawrence is designed to give students a solid global overview of philosophy. Our courses introduce students to crucial periods of Western philosophy, illustrate the major subfields of philosophy, and move beyond Western philosophy to provide a global perspective.

How Does Philosophy Fit Into a Liberal Education?

The activity of philosophy is vital to liberal education. It is through philosophy that a student synthesizes the many facets of life and education into a personal whole. The methods of philosophy — questioning of common assumptions, analysis of ideas and theories, free speculation combined with reasoned criticism — develop abilities that are themselves among the chief aims of liberal education.

What is the Value of an Education in Philosophy?

The philosophy department program serves as an excellent focus for liberal education. Although some majors go on to distinguished graduate schools, most make use of their philosophical training in other pursuits. We believe that a student becomes liberally educated not primarily by the accretion of information, but by grappling with fundamental questions about life and learning. Philosophy has a rich history of alternative answers to these questions, and we believe that by understanding these varied answers students are better able to formulate their own philosophies. Our curriculum aims at progressive development of mind and character by increasing students’ awareness of questions fundamental to a thoughtful life, and by developing the capacity for free, creative, critical thought and action.