Philosophy tackles central questions in human life, such as: What counts as human knowledge? How should I live? What is truth? How is the mind related to the body? What is a just society? These difficult but fundamental questions are rigorously explored in philosophy and worked through by drawing on the historical tradition and utilizing careful reasoning. Because philosophers have shaped many of the central ideas on which Western civilization is based, the study of philosophy plays a vital role in a well-rounded liberal arts education.
Philosophy courses at Washington University provide opportunities to gain deeper knowledge of the history of philosophy, from the work of the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle through key thinkers such as Descartes and Kant to the present. Students can study the interface between philosophy and other disciplines (such as psychology, environmental studies, women's studies, law and political science); they also can examine the methods of inquiry and underlying conceptual frameworks of scientific work itself.