College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Philosophy

 

What does it mean to major in philosophy?

Philosophy investigates core principles of ethics, knowledge, and reality that inform decision-making in every career. Through courses in ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, value theory, and the history of philosophy, philosophy majors consider the questions at the core of human experience.  They use logical thinking and reasoned argument to consider the nature of reality, the extent of human knowledge, the basis of moral and ethical thought and behavior, the resolution of conflict, and the origin of belief.

Philosophy majors clarify their own beliefs, develop a basis for ethical decisions, and formulate a coherent approach to life. They learn how to think logically, analyze problems, assess proposed solutions, communicate clearly, conduct research, and think creatively and imaginatively.

 

Why is the University of Mississippi a good place to study philosophy?

There are seven philosophers in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, with many different areas of expertise, including philosophy of law, language, mind, religion, politics, science, film; epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, applied, moral psychology, Asian philosophy; ancient philosophy, and early modern philosophy.

Philosophy offers students the opportunity to perfect their analytical skills in unique areas of study such as the foundation of ethics, the ultimate nature of the mind, God, and reality, as well as the nature of knowledge.  Students have an opportunity to join the Ethics Bowl debate team that travels to regional and national competitions.  Our department administers the Frate Fellowship in Bioethics, which allows select students to confront ethical challenges in a real world hospital setting while working with nurses, doctors, and medical administrators at the UM Medical Center in Jackson, MS.

 

 Faculty Profile:

Dr. Donovan Wishon, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Affiliated Faculty in Neuroscience, earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University. His primary areas of research include Bertrand Russell’s writings on knowledge, mind, and language as well as issues about the nature of consciousness, our introspective knowledge of it, and its relation to the brain.

Dr. Wishon’s current research focuses on Bertrand Russell’s changing theories about the relation between mind and matter. His recent publications reconsider Russell’s ideas about sensation and perception, the scope and limits of introspection, the role of conscious awareness in our thought and talk, and the relationship between the mind and the brain, among other topics. He is a leading expert on Russell’s later writings on “neutral monism”—the view that the universe consists entirely of transitory space-time events which are, in themselves, neither mental nor material, but which compose “minds” and “matter” when organized into complex psychological and/or physical causal systems. His co-edited volume Acquaintance, Knowledge, and Logic was awarded the 2016 Bertrand Russell Society Book Prize.

Why study philosophy at UM? “You will experience the intellectual joy of thinking carefully about some of the most challenging questions about who we are, what our place in the world is, and how we are to live well.  At the same time, you will receive invaluable training in logical thinking, creative problem-solving, cogent communication, ethical decision-making, and the analysis of complex information. Philosophy is also valuable as a second major due to its focus on rigorous thinking and writing, drawing connections between diverse fields of knowledge, and reflecting on the aims, presuppositions, methodologies, and consequences of any discipline.

 

What can UM philosophy majors do after graduation?

A liberal arts education empowers and prepares students to deal with complexity and change through a broad knowledge of the world.  They gain key skills in communication, problem-solving, and working with a diverse group of people.  Philosophy exposes students to the core arguments and principles that ground decision-making in nearly every professional venue.  Related careers in philosophy include law, medicine, education, business, corporate training, public relations, journalism, counseling, and social services.

 

Alumna profile:

Hadley Jo Pearson (BA philosophy, minors in biology, chemistry ’14)  Home Town: Olive Branch, MS

“My interest in philosophy was sparked in a small honors Introduction to Philosophy.  We were really engaged in thinking about ethics, the nature of knowledge, logic, etc. I loved trying to probe deeper on different ideas. As a premedical student, I knew I would be studying science for the rest of my life, so I wanted to seize the opportunity to explore something different that seized my interest.”

Hadley spent two years in Dr. Tamar Goulet’s biology lab on research pertaining to soft coral’s response to global warming in preparation for her honors thesis.  She participated in competitive, three week shadowing program at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, was a tutor for student athletes, and inducted into Phi Kappa Phi.  After graduation, Hadley attended University of Mississippi Medical School, where she graduated as the top student in the class. She is completing her internship at UMMC, then moving to San Francisco for a residency in dermatology.

Why study philosophy at UM? “They will take the time to get to know you, your interests, and your career goals. They work with you to help you achieve them. It’s easy to find mentors you respect who you will stay in contact with even after graduation. Philosophy trains you to be both big-picture and detail oriented; you must be able to follow complex theories and piece them together to form the ultimate conclusion, while also ruthlessly looking out for that one error in the argument that makes it all come crashing down. In medical school classes, this combination of skills has allowed me to excel, since I am accustomed to paying attention to both the big picture and the details.”

 

Whom should I contact to learn more about majoring in philosophy?

Dr. Steven Skultety, Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy
100 Bryant Hall
The University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677
(662) 915-7020 | skultety@olemiss.edu