What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the investigation of enduring and foundational questions about ourselves, the world, and society, such as: What is real? Does God exist? Is the mind separate from the body? Do we have free will? What can we know, and how can we know it? What is the difference between right and wrong? Is morality objective? Why should we act morally? What is justice, and why does it matter?

If you have ever contemplated these questions, you have dabbled in philosophy. The great American philosopher and psychologist William James said that your answers to these questions comprise your personal philosophy, your "individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos." Studying philosophy, however, is not simply expressing your personal philosophy, but subjecting it to critical scrutiny, rigorously and relentlessly examining the reasons for and against each way of answering the deep questions above. The objective, as James says, is "to attain a conception of the frame of things which shall on the whole be more rational than that somewhat chaotic view which every one by nature carries about with him under his hat." Philosophy requires thinking very hard about very difficult questions. Thinking hard is not easy, but it is deeply rewarding.

"But what can I do with a degree in philosophy?"

Contact Us

Department of Philosophy
Northern Illinois University
Zulauf Hall 915
DeKalb, IL 60115

Jessica Williams, Office Staff
Email: jwilliams4@niu.edu

Melinda Davis, Office Administrator
Email: ldavis@niu.edu

Undergraduate Advisor

Prof. Steve Daskal
Office: Zulauf 1026
Email: sdaskal@niu.edu

Graduate Advisor

Prof. Lenny Clapp
Office: Zulauf 903
Email: lclapp@niu.edu

Department Chair

Jason Hanna
Email: jhanna@niu.edu