1. Learning Goal no. 1
We expect our students to acquire not only a range of epistemological, moral, aesthetic, and socio-political issues from past and contemporary philosophical works, but also the conceptual means for identifying what makes a question a philosophical – as opposed to psychological, scientific, historical or sociological – question by means of close readings of philosophical works, as well as by means of class presentations and continuous writing exercises at different levels of difficulty and complexity. Concomitantly, we also expect our students to develop an understanding as to what would be an appropriately philosophical response to these questions – what sorts of considerations are appropriately brought to bear on the issue. However, since understanding what would count as an acceptable response to a given problem defines only the first stage in a long process of philosophical maturation, continued development has as its goal the pluralist approach to a wide range of disparate thinkers and philosophical methodologies seminal to the history of philosophy.
2. Learning Goal no. 2
We expect our students to develop the skills essential to critical readings of philosophical texts. Since philosophical texts are often highly abstract and imposing works, the student’s first task – already a considerable one – is to learn to extract and reconstruct a thesis or supporting argument from a given text. Additionally, students must learn the skill of constructively engaging with an author; that is, the student must develop the ability to conceptually access the point of view of the author, to identify and appreciate the philosophical pressures that led to the author’s adopting a certain position even when, as is commonly the case, the final position might raise more questions than it answers. We expect our students to strive for the goal of an appreciation of the complexity and contradictions of philosophical texts, and of the socio-cultural world sedimented in philosophical concepts and arguments. In light of this goal, we also expect all of our students to enter into cultural worlds other than their own by strongly recommending study abroad programs offered by Trinity College.
3. Writing Intensive II
Our students must take 12 courses to graduate. Each student has to fulfill the logic requirement and must take 3 writing-intensive courses: PHIL 281, PHIL 283, and PHIL 288. In these courses, students have to write both short and long papers (up to 25-30 pages). However, since a good philosopher must be able to express even the most abstract ideas with care and precision, all of our courses could be fairly described as writing-intensive, and we ensure that students receive ample feedback on their written work (already at the level of Guided Studies, the philosophy course contributing to that program is designed as the course fulfilling the writing-intensive requirement). Moreover, in many courses students are not only required to write weekly protocols (in addition to the short and long papers), but they also have to make oral presentations, in which they might summarize and critically discuss a set of readings or present original work. In this way, the philosophy department ensures that all of our students learn to communicate clearly and effectively in both written and oral expression.
4. Senior Exercise
Although usually a high number of our majors decide to write an honor’s thesis over the course of two semesters (these theses have ranged from 70 – 200 pages), the philosophy department also organizes each year a senior philosophy conference as its capstone exercise. During the conference each senior major presents an original philosophical paper and responds to questions from faculty and fellow students. In this way, students demonstrate their achievement in the two principal activities of professional philosophers: writing conference papers and defending one’s thesis in open discussion. The conference is held in the Spring term of the senior year. This enables our students to share their work with a public audience. Without doubt, writing a thesis and writing/presenting a philosophical paper in the context of the senior philosophy conference both have contributed to the fact that, in recent years, a high number of our majors have successfully applied to many of the leading graduate programs in the humanities. As a matter of fact, the success rate of majors having applied to those graduate programs is virtually 100 percent.