Philosophy literally means “the love of wisdom.” And while throughout history this love has taken many forms, common to any type of philosophy is an attitude of questioning, based on reason, and rooted in wonder.
Western philosophy began with a desire to know the nature of things and the order of the cosmos. Under Socrates, it turned inward toward the soul, human excellence, and the human community. During the Middle Ages, philosophy developed a close relationship to the deep concerns of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian theologies. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment, it celebrated our humanity, especially our creative and scientific achievements. Since the Nineteenth century, philosophy has explored new modes of thought, yet has at the same time sought to rediscover, build upon, and transform its own traditions.
The philosophy discipline at Eckerd College sees itself as continuing this activity of rediscovery and transformation of Western thought, with an openness to the exploration of non-western philosophies as well. Students of philosophy at Eckerd have extensive opportunities to encounter the wealth of the great ages of philosophy, as well as to gain a working knowledge of the most recent philosophical approaches. But we see this as merely preparatory to the real task of addressing the urgent philosophical questions that face us. Is religious faith still possible today for an intelligent and critical person? How should each of us go about choosing an ethic to live by? What should count today as a just society, and what manner of political community will the next century call for? What kinds of thought and community will allow us to address the ecological crisis? What is the more reliable model for our most important decisions: science or poetry? Does truth itself perhaps come in various modes? And is it absolute, relative, or somehow both? In short, we believe that the only way to really learn philosophy is by doing it–not through artificial textbook examples, but by participating with classmates and professors in active philosophical discussion and argument on issues of genuine importance. If you are interested, we ask you to join us.
Perhaps someone might say: But Socrates, if you leave us will you not be able to live quietly, without talking? Now this is the most difficult point on which to convince some of you. If I say that it is impossible for me to keep quiet because that means disobeying the god, you will not believe me and will think I am being ironical. On the other hand, you will believe me even less if I say that it is the greatest good for a human being to discuss excellence every day, and those other things about which you hear me talking and testing myself and others: for the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.
–Socrates, in The Apology