Available on the Vincennes and Jasper campuses
What is philosophy?
When Socrates was accused of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens, he replied, “I know you won't believe me, but I truly believe the highest human excellence is to question oneself and others.” His words express the spirit of all serious philosophical effort. In the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, who was also thought of as a trouble-maker, echoed the Socratic spirit of inquiry:
"Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good."
Philosophy has undergone profound changes since ancient times, but it still addresses problems provoked by every phase of life. Philosophers raise questions and produce arguments that bear on every subject worthy of disciplined reflection.
Why take a course in philosophy or religion?
In today's multicultural, globalized economic environment, businesses are interested in graduates who have a working familiarity with other cultures, religions, customs and languages, and who are skilled in analytic thinking, problem-solving, and communications. But that’s not the only reason.
In addition to several practical intellectual skills cultivated through the study of philosophy and religious studies courses, our program is mind-expanding and fun. Our classes are small and friendly, not stuffy or pedantic, and they are oriented to having intelligent dialogue rather than listening to an instructor's monologue. We give students time and space to ask the big questions in life, such as:
- How did we get here? Where are we going?
- What is the good life? What ought I do to attain it?
- Are moral rules and values relative to personal desires and feelings?
- What is justice? How should democracy work? What is the overarching purpose of making laws?
- What are the limits of human knowledge? By what means or methods is reliable knowledge obtained?
- Is scientific reason compatible with religious faith?
- Does God exist? Is there a supernatural world that we can experience or understand?
- How do people in other religious cultures think about ultimate reality?
- How can we tell when a statement or belief is true or false, right or wrong?
- Is tradition always right? When should we relinquish certain beliefs or ideas?
These questions cannot be answered in a science lab or in a shopping mall, yet they are examples of necessary questions that have been asked by people since the beginning of human civilization. These questions have to do with meaning and value and the way we justify our lives and choices to ourselves and to others. How we answer such questions shapes the way we live together in society. Philosophy addresses these questions-and-answers through sustained critical thinking, using the tools of reason, logic and continuous dialogue.
The Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Vincennes University prepares students for transferring into Baccalaureate programs in the liberal arts as well as into law, journalism, or theology programs. Philosophy provides an excellent background in the humanities as well as training in critical thinking, intellectual creativity, and self-examination.
Take a philosophy course. Ask questions. Think for yourself. Examine your answers—including those that you’ve inherited. As Immanuel Kant said, “Have the courage to use your own understanding.”
- PHIL 111: Introduction to Philosophy
- PHIL 212: Introduction to Ethics
- PHIL 313: Contemporary Ethical Issues
- PHIL 213: Elementary Logic
- PHIL 220: Philosophy of Religion
- PHIL 235: Development of Western Thought
- RLST 201: Religions of the West
- RLST 202: Religions of the East
- RLST 130: Jesus and Early Christianity
- RLST 205: American Religious Culture
For additional information, contact:
David M. Cockerham, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Philosophy