Two students in a classroom.
Program Overview

Philosophy

Think carefully, critically, and with clarity.

Photo credit: Matthew Lester

Ask Fundamental Questions about the World

Philosophy asks questions about fundamental features of the world, of human life, and of the ways we think about them. Such questions include the nature of truth and limits of human knowledge; what makes an action right or just; what is to be a person and have a mind; and what makes something a work of art. In studying philosophy, you will have the opportunity to grapple with these questions yourself, and in conversation with peers, faculty members, philosophical traditions, and contemporary philosophers. Our majors cultivate the skills of analytical problem-solving and rhetorical sophistication, valued in a range of careers.

A Field in Conversation with Other Fields

Philosophy helps us to pause and investigate the assumptions that underlie approaches to knowledge and value across fields. Whether pursuing a career in science, the arts, public service or business, the study of philosophy brings intellectual precision and a spirit of curiosity to more applied pursuits. In both the research interests of the faculty and the courses on offer, Oberlin’s philosophy department has a wide range of connections to other disciplines such as psychology and neuroscience; music, cinema, and the arts; politics and law and society; as well as pre-medical fields and global health.

The department hosts the Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy, an internationally renowned and diverse speaker series introducing Oberlin students to a wide array of philosophical approaches.

Philosophy in the Schools

As part of professor Katherine Thomson-Jones’s community-based course, students lead philosophical discussions with elementary school children. The program helps to build essential reasoning skills at an early age while allowing Oberlin students to bring philosophy out in the world.

Students in class.
Oberlin has a long and outstanding history of producing professional philosophers
Explore notable philosophy alumni

Mind and Meaning

How do we see and understand things in the world? What is the nature of memory and what does it mean to forget? Examine these questions and other  processes that underlie a creature’s ability to think and reason as part of Oberlin’s minor in cognitive science.

A student with an EEG cap on their head.

Featured Courses

PHIL 201

Reason and Argument

A study of methods for analyzing and evaluating arguments as they appear in various settings, including scientific, philosophical, and legal contexts. The course will include an introduction to the study of formal logic, and inductive and probabilistic reasoning.

Taught by
Dorit Ganson
PHIL 215

Ancient Philosophy

An introduction to the central problems of Ancient Greek philosophy, with special emphasis on how Plato and Aristotle respond to Socrates’ paradoxical claims about morality and human nature. Other topics include fate, death and feminism.

Taught by
Todd Ganson
PHIL 222

Philosophy of Science

Our best scientific theories seemingly posit an array of entities which we are unable to detect with the unaided senses, but which nonetheless underlie the world of everyday experience things such as genes, electrons, and magnetic fields. Do we have good reason to believe in such entities? And do we arrive at the theories in question by employing a “scientific method” which guarantees truth and objectivity?

Taught by
Martin Thomson-Jones
PHIL 238

Ethics and Technology

This course explores the moral questions at play in individuals’, governments’, and corporations’ use of current and future technology. Topics to be considered may  include, but are not limited to, the ethics of data privacy, algorithmic decision-making, artificial intelligence, social media, hacking and computer crime, intellectual property, biotechnology, environmental technology, autonomous and semi-autonomous machines, and the intersection of these topics with race, gender, and disability.

Taught by
Amy Berg

Student Profiles

Flexing the Reporting Muscles

At Oberlin, Jenna Gyimesi ’19 was the news editor for the Oberlin Review, a varsity field hockey player, and a triple major in politics, law and society, and philosophy. Now, she is working toward a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.

Jenna Gyimesi.

A Singer Gets Philosophical

Double-degree mezzo-soprano Perri di Christina ’16 looks back on her Oberlin years and, in particular, a philosophy of music class co-taught by professors Katherine Thomson-Jones and James O’Leary.

Perri di Christina.

Fulbright-Nehru Grant

Emma Leiken ’16, a religion major and philosophy minor, received a Fulbright-Nehru fellowship for a year of research in India to explore Ambedkarite Buddhism with a focus on caste, class, gender, and religion.

Emma Leiken.

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Ivana Di Siena teaching a class at the Memorial Arch on Tappan Square.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97