“Let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others. Life without this sort of examination is not worth living.” - Socrates.

According to a more modern-day editorial in one of the world’s leading newspapers, The Times of London, “Philosophy is, in commercial jargon, the ultimate ‘transferable work skill’ ”. The editor goes on to note that a very high percentage of philosophy majors find meaningful employment outside of philosophy—employment that calls on the skills and knowledge that philosophy teaches. That might seem surprising to people who think of philosophy as an “up in the clouds” discipline that only deals with “the big questions.”

Philosophy does deal with big questions, but it is also concerned with everyday life. To help illustrate this, let’s divide the questions of philosophy into three groups. First, there are those big questions: for example, What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? Are there absolute moral rights and wrongs? But, second, there are practical questions that bear on everyday life, such as what justice is, what makes a good society, how to live a good life, and how to protect ourselves from being victimized by the mistakes, lies, and deceptive practices of other people. Third are practical questions that arise from special circumstances, such as whether to terminate the life support of a family member, whether to assist a suicide, whether to have or perform an abortion, and to whom of several needy people to give the one kidney that is available.

The Times editorial goes on to say, “Philosophy is a quintessentially modern discipline.” The author’s point is that the modern world is more and more an open market of competing and sometimes conflicting ideas. Philosophy helps us live sanely and productively in that challenging environment. It does this by conveying the knowledge and instilling the skills and dispositions listed in the sidebar under AREAS OF STUDY and SKILLS & DISPOSITIONS. In brief, to study philosophy is to cultivate excellent workplace skills while studying some of the most important, compelling, and difficult questions that all of us face.

The philosophy major requires 36 credits. The philosophy minor requires 18 credits. See the current Ithaca College Undergraduate Catalog for details.


Religion is one of the most pervasive, persistent, and influential components of human life. It has been an enormous source of value for many people and an enormous source of puzzlement and even hostility for others. The joint major in philosophy and religion gives students an opportunity to study religions, old and new, large and small, in a sensitive yet scholarly way, and to learn to bring the tools of philosophical analysis, clarification, and evaluation to bear upon what is studied. This major is recommended for students who want to understand religion and spirituality more deeply and who want an opportunity to study diverse religions in a nonpartisan context. The major provides a solid background for students who want to do graduate studies in religion, prepare for the ministry, or prepare for counseling or service positions that need someone who is sensitive to and knowledgeable about the religious dimension of life.

Students who want to study religion more extensively than the joint major allows should consult the religion faculty about the possibility of an interdisciplinary planned studies major in religion. Such a major would focus on a topic of great interest to the student and would draw on relevant courses from several departments in addition to the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Examples of possible topics are religion and counseling, religion and society, and religion and the arts.

The joint major in philosophy and religion requires 36 total credits in philosophy and religion, including

  • At least 12 credits in philosophy (at least 6 of which are at the 300 and/or 400 level), and
  • At least 12 credits in religion (at least 6 of which are at the 300 and/or 400 level)

The minor in religious studies requires 18 credits in religion distributed over a minimum of 6 courses, at least two of which must be at the 300- and/or 400-level.

See the current Ithaca College Undergraduate Catalog for details.

Instructor teaching a class.

Faculty and Classes

The Ithaca College philosophy and religion faculty have published numerous books with major publishers and dozens of articles in competitive journals.

The philosophy and religion faculty consistently receive high marks as classroom teachers, and they spend a great deal of time with individual students. All of our classes are small enough to allow for significant discussion.

Areas of Study in Philosophy

Epistemology: the study of the nature of truth and knowledge.

Ethics: the study of moral right and wrong, both in theory and as applied to medicine, law, the environment, etc.

Logic: the study of reasoning and argumentation. (Note: the Law Scholastic Aptitude Test includes a section on logic.)

Metaphysics: rational inquiry into the nature of reality, with specific attention to questions regarding God, mind, matter, determinism, freedom of choice, and what a person is.

History of Philosophy: study of the writings of great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell.

Skills and Dispositions

Philosophy students learn to analyze language for meaning, ambiguity, vagueness, and implications; they learn how to construct a good argument and how to evaluate the arguments of others; they are encouraged to express their own points of view and to be open to the points of view of others; they learn to engage in disagreement respectfully, constructively, and vigorously; they learn how to live with and try to go beyond uncertainty, incompleteness, and disagreement; they are encouraged to question what seems obvious and to think creatively.

Career Possibilities

Philosophy has proven to be an excellent background for any of the following fields: education, law, computers, religion, psychology, social work, business, advertising, and public administration. Philosophy majors who plan to do graduate work in a field other than philosophy should, in consultation with their philosophy adviser, check with graduate schools to see what courses will be required of them at the undergraduate level.

Recent grad going to law school...

Jared Amory ’15 is entertaining several partially to fully funded offers of acceptance into law school. New England Law in Boston is acknowledging his “exceptional academic credentials and leadership potential with a Full-Tuition Justice Sandra Day O’Conner Merit Scholarship for the 2016-2017 academic year”. The admission director added a personal note at the bottom of the acceptance letter: “Your background in philosophy will be an asset to you in law school!” In the meantime, Jared has joined Wu Mountain Tea Company, a start-up in Boulder, where “as a recent graduate in philosophy, he has been essential in creating the vision behind their amazing product.”

A recent grad writes...

"Well, it's been four long years. I'm so grateful to all my professors who pushed me to challenge my thinking and expand the way I look at the world around me. A HUGE shout out to the Philosophy & Religion Department at Ithaca College for taking this PT under their wing and allowing me to disconnect from my science thought process. Thank you, Rachel Wagner, for doing research with me and allowing me to further share my love for religion with my peers..."

- Rachel G. '15

...and another grad says...

“...The philosophy department at Ithaca College is first rate. I was more than adequately prepared for new, more advanced material, and from what I can tell, much more prepared than most other first year philosophy graduate students. So...a thank you to everyone in the department... And congrats on such a great department.”

- Paul D. '06