Undergraduate Program in Philosophy

What is philosophy?
Perhaps the best way to understand philosophy is to practice it. You'll find that philosophers characteristically focus on certain questions. Traditionally, philosophical questions fall into some broad areas. They are, with some illustrative questions:

  • metaphysics What kinds of things exist? For example, do properties exist? Minds? Is everything material?
  • epistemology What is knowledge? Must we have a good reason for believing something to know it? What counts as a good reason?
  • ethics What should we do? What makes an action right? Should some things not be done even if the result would be good?
  • aesthetics What is art? What makes something beautiful?
  • logic What distinguishes good reasoning from bad?
  • history of philosophy How have people answered philosophical questions in the past? What reasons have they given for their answers?

Other questions don't fall neatly into these groups, but belong to more specialized areas.

  • philosophy of mind Are minds distinct from brains? What are minds?
  • philosophy of religion Can religious beliefs be true or false? If they can, which are they?
  • philosophy of science What distinguishes good scientific reasoning from bad scientific reasoning
  • social-political philosophy What is justice? Is democracy the best system for government?
  • philosophy of law Is punishment justified? How should particular offences be punished?
  • applied ethics In what circumstances is abortion morally permissible? Is war ever justified?

Why study philosophy?

  • You find yourself interested in one or all of the above questions.
  • You're interested in exploring the way other people have answered questions like these over the course of history.
  • You want to improve your ability to analyze problems and think your way through to solutions.
  • You want to learn to write more clearly and cogently.
  • You want to be more skilled at reading difficult texts.
  • You're interested in going to law school or another professional school.

Philosophy and Jobs

Won't a philosophy major make it hard for me to find a job?
No. The career prospects for philosophy and other humanities majors are good. Philosophy prepares you especially well for careers requiring analysis, decision making, and communication. People graduating with philosophy degrees work in many different occupations, including computer programming, business consulting, management, government, policy analysis, editing, law, and medicine. And undergraduate philosophy majors characteristically do very well on entrance exams for graduate and professional schools (e.g., the GRE, LSAT, and GMAT).

Your Advisor

Every semester, the Department puts out a booklet that describes the next semester's courses in more detail than the Undergraduate Bulletin 
(pages 179-181). If you would like one of these copies, come into the Philosophy office at 1010 Oldfather Hall. You may also be able to find a description of next semester's philosophy classes at the Philosophy Course page.

Undergraduate Advisors

Harry Ide
1004 Oldfather Hall
PO. Box 880321
Lincoln, NE 68588-0321
(402) 472-4389
Reina Hayaki
1039 Oldfather Hall
PO. Box 880321
Lincoln, NE 68588-0321
(402) 472-2031