Academic Catalog and Handbooks

2023-2024 Edition


Department Chair: Erica Stonestreet

Faculty: Dennis Beach OSB, Anthony Cunningham, Emily Esch, Jean Keller, Erica Stonestreet, Charles Wright

The Philosophy Department’s curriculum is built around the idea that philosophy is good for people outside of academic life. It offers personal enrichment as students reflect on their own beliefs and values. It offers analysis of concepts like power, truth, consciousness and even humor that have applications in politics, culture, science, and policy.

Philosophy draws on and cultivates wonder by stepping back from everyday experience to reflect on fundamental questions of truth, meaning and value. Socrates’ conviction that “the unexamined life is not worth living” invites students into the ongoing reflective and critical conversation about these fundamental questions, from their ancient roots to their contemporary manifestations.

In philosophy classes, students learn how to articulate ideas clearly in both speech and in writing, to approach new and difficult ideas with a spirit of openness, and to resist the urge to settle for easy answers. The department fosters the formation of classroom communities built on attentive listening and respect for oneself and others, so that students can construct responsible and meaningful visions of the common good. At the same time, it seeks to rouse students from intellectual complacency and to encourage deeper understanding of themselves, of the conditions that make knowledge possible, and of the values and presuppositions of the communities to which they belong.

In this way, the study of philosophy at CSB/SJU exemplifies a liberal arts curriculum which raises questions important to the human condition, demands clear thinking and communicating, and calls forth new knowledge for the good of humankind.

All courses except Capstone are open to majors and non-majors. In addition to preparing philosophy majors for graduate school, the study of philosophy serves as an excellent background for people entering other professions.


The Philosophy Department conducts regular assessment of student learning---of majors and minors as well as students taking philosophy to meet general education requirements. We evaluate how well the department's curriculum improves students' comprehension of fundamental philosophical concepts as well as their ability to participate in well-reasoned discussions of these ideas. We also evaluate the extent to which philosophy enables students to perceive greater complexity in the human and natural worlds; whether philosophy improves students' abilities and their willingness to engage in critical thinking; and whether it might affect students' engagement in and commitment to lifelong learning.

The Philosophy Department regards a major in philosophy as preparation for a thoughtful and deliberate life. We seek to maintain contact with majors after graduation to learn how they are doing and how well they think the department prepared them for their life path.