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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Our Department 
Philosophy Department Goals:
  • Students will be able to express in oral and written form their understanding of major concepts and intellectual traditions within the field of philosophy.

  • Students demonstrate their ability to utilize the principles of critical thinking and formal logic in order to produce a sound and valid argument, and to evaluate the soundness and validity of the arguments of others.

  • Students demonstrate their ability to complete research on a philosophy-related topic, analyze objectively the results of their research, and present arguments to support their point of view in a variety of venues.

What is Philosophy?

There is a widespread view of philosophy in which philosophical study is viewed as purely theoretical, as purely speculative, and as having no practical relevance. “The Thinker,” a figure deep in thought and apparently doing nothing, best represents this image. We contend that this view is a serious mischaracterization of philosophical study. Philosophical study is not a form of purely detached speculation and contemplation. Rather, philosophical study is a kind of activity, a kind of doing. And it is practical in what we believe to be the most important senses, the senses that lie at the heart of Millikin’s mission. Serious philosophical study is a rigorous activity that facilitates the development and growth of skill sets that are essential to any occupation or vocation, to any effort to engage in democratic citizenship, and to any attempt to develop a life of meaning and value. These skills sets include:

  • The ability to think critically, analytically, and synthetically.
  • The ability to comprehend dense and difficult readings.
  • The ability to convey ideas clearly and creatively in both written and oral form.

 

These skill sets are always already practical. For example, in any field of inquiry or vocation, individuals will have to problem solve, think critically, assess arguments or strategies, communicate clearly, spot unspoken assumptions that may be driving a certain position, etc. Since we encourage the development and growth of the skill sets that are essential to doing any of these things well, philosophical study is inherently practical.

In philosophy, our emphasis on the development and growth of skill sets is an emphasis on how to think well, not an emphasis on what to think. Again, this focus is perfectly consistent with Millikin’s goal of preparing our students for professional success. In terms of post-graduate employment, the vast bulk of knowing what to do is learned on site, in the actual doing of the job. You learn “on the job.” The skill sets we aim to develop, however, are skill sets that will allow students to do what they do in their jobs well. And this applies to any and all jobs.

The inherent practical value of philosophical activity makes philosophy not only an excellent choice as a major, but also an excellent complimentary (second) major. In fact, many of our students are double-majors with English, history, psychology, computer science, theater, political science, etc. Our double majors have discovered that doing philosophy is not only intrinsically rewarding; it also helps them do their work in their other majors better. The complimentary nature of philosophical study quite naturally extends to the post-graduate endeavors of our students.

Every department at Millikin claims to develop critical thinking skills, but traditionally philosophy pushes these skills to their highest level.  The reading, writing, and speaking that students do about Aristotle, theoretical and applied ethics, or political philosophy are more complicated, more nuanced, and require more articulation than any other discipline.  If students can read Plato, write about the ontological proof for the existence of God, and speak coherently about what constitutes a just state, then they will be able to tackle reading a computer manual, writing a grant request, or defending a business proposal. 

The fact that philosophy students do so well on standardized tests, (link to section in why philosophy about testing) from the LSAT to the MCAT is proof that philosophy skills are universal. Given our emphasis on skill set development, it is no accident that philosophical study is excellent preparation for law school. Accordingly, our Department has developed and implemented a “pre-law track” for those students who are interested in law school. It is extremely important to emphasize that gaining admission to law school is not a function of gaining substantive content knowledge. Law schools require no specific curriculum, no specific major, and no specific plan of study for admission. Law schools do not select students based on their knowledge of the law. Law schools select students on the basis of evidence that the student can “think like a lawyer.” This can be vividly shown by pointing out that the major with the highest acceptance rate to ABA approved law schools is physics. Like physics, philosophy prepares students to think in this way. In fact, a recent study by the American Bar Association shows that, after physics, the major with the highest acceptance rate to law school is philosophy.

Millikin began with an allegiance to philosophy as a discipline and that allegiance continues.  When the MPSL plan was developed, the philosophy department faculty suggested that the central questions we ask each day in class, “Who am I?” “How can I know?” and “What should I do?” are primary questions each student needs to contemplate.  The faculty embraced this idea, and these three questions continue to form the heart of our general education program.

The curriculum of the philosophy department reinforces and promotes the stated MU learning goals. Philosophy’s curriculum asks the questions that are at the core of Millikin’s MPSL program, so it is not coincidental that the university’s curriculum goals reflect our own.

  • University Goal 1:  Millikin students will prepare for professional success.
  • University Goal 2:  Millikin students will be prepared for demoncratic citizenship in a global environment.
  • University Goal 3:  Millikin students will discover and develop a personal life of meaning and value.

 

The accompanying table shows how Philosophy Department goals relate to University-wide goals:

Philosophy Department Learning Goal

Corresponding Millikin University Learning Goal Number(s)

1. Students will be able to express in oral and written form their understanding of major concepts and intellectual traditions within the field of philosophy.

1, 2, 3

Students will demonstrate their ability to utilize the principles of critical thinking and formal logic in order to produce a sound and valid argument, or to evaluate the soundness and validity of the arguments of others.

1, 2, 3

Students will demonstrate their ability to complete research on a philosophy-related topic, analyze objectively the results of their research, and present arguments to support their point of view in a variety of venues, including an individually directed senior capstone thesis in philosophy.

1, 2, 3

 
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
 
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
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