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Among the oldest of the academic disciplines, philosophy explores fundamental questions about the world, including the nature of reality, knowledge, beauty, truth, justice, consciousness, the self and the good life. With its emphasis on cultivating the art of thinking, philosophy is also among the most useful of contemporary disciplines, teaching the essential skills of critical reflection, analytical reasoning, creative problem solving and articulate expression. By studying philosophy, students both sharpen their minds and deepen their understanding of the world and the wonder it inspires.

Philosophical study at Sweet Briar takes the form of careful, close reading and in-depth discussion of great works in the Western intellectual tradition, including the writings of philosophers widely acknowledged to be profound, provocative — or both. In addition to acquiring a strong background in the history of philosophy, students benefit from pursuing the far reach of philosophy into social and political thought, logic, ethics, religion, science, history, ecology and the arts.

What is distinctive about studying philosophy at Sweet Briar?

  • We provide majors with the tools to conduct independent research. Our students graduate from Sweet Briar College with a strong foundation and the ability to address particular topics precisely and accurately. Students will learn to read complex texts, evaluate evidence and deploy it effectively in written and oral argument. They will possess research and writing skills that can be applied to any job field.
  • We are interdisciplinary because philosophy has an important role to play in the dialogue with other academic programs. We believe this mode ofinstruction is central to a liberal arts curriculum and the development of active and critical thinking. In fact, because we believe so strongly in the interdisciplinary nature of philosophy, Professor Penfield is part of the team that is teaching Sweet Briar’s required core curriculum course in design thinking.
  • With our small class sizes, students engage more directly in their education. Special-topics courses ensure that students have a voice in what we cover in the classroom.

What can you do with a degree in philosophy?

We pride ourselves on offering intellectual disciplines relevant to all areas of the curriculum and to many different career pathways. Philosophy is among the very best disciplines at preparing students for graduate school: Based on national averages, philosophy students perform better than any other majors on LSAT and composite GRE scores while ranking in the top 4 on GMAT scores. Recent majors have attended law school, pursued medicine, studied at the graduate level or launched careers in business, education and nonprofit organizations.