“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.

School of Humanities and Sciences  ·  201 Muller Center  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3102  ·  Full Directory Listing