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Department: Philosophy


About the Department

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This provides the fundamental motivation for philosophical study.


Great philosophers ask deep and perplexing questions about the nature of human existence. The department of philosophy encourages students to live more engaged and reflective lives by asking traditional philosophical questions and meaningful questions of their own.

Philosophical inquiry combines a passion for skeptical, critical self-examination and a willingness to question assumptions with an abiding faith in the worth of such studies.

Philosophy is among the oldest of the academic disciplines and as such holds a central place in the liberal arts curriculum.  All students, regardless of their major, must take two philosophy courses during their University career, one of which may fulfill the values requirement. 

In philosophy courses at Notre Dame, you might find yourself discussing issues including the nature of knowledge and reality, the relation between mind and body, the existence of a supreme being, the nature and justification of morality, or the fundamental purpose of human life. 

Our curriculum is historically grounded, but strongly influenced by contemporary thinkers and their works. Philosophy majors must take courses in each of the major areas of philosophy, but courses are sufficiently varied for students to choose courses that pique their own interests or complement other areas of study.

Study in philosophy enhances skills in reading, writing, and argumentation, fostering clarity of thought and critical reflection.  This makes philosophy excellent preparation for careers in a wide variety of fields, as well as for graduate school, divinity school or law school.

The Department of Philosophy in the News

"Are You My People?"

Dr. Desirée Melton, associate professor of philosophy, School of Arts & Sciences, had her essay "Are You My People?" included in the publisher Taylor & Francis' list of important articles on and by women in philosophy.

Dr. Desirée Melton's OpEd in the Washington Post

Dr. Desirée Melton, associate professor of philosophy, School of Arts & Sciences, published an 'OpEd' in The Washington Post Sunday newspaper on August 16, 2015. Her essay, "Monticello's Whitewashed Version of History," reflects on a recent visit to Monticello during which she discovered that neither the realities of slave life at Monticello nor Jefferson's reliance on and poor treatment of these human trafficking victims are adequately addressed by museum displays and tours.

Maeve O'Donovan in Dialogs on Disability

Shelley Tremain's Dialogues on Disability is a series of interviews with disabled philosophers that post on the third Wednesday of each month. The series is designed to provide a public venue for discussion with disabled philosophers about a range of topics, including their philosophical work on disability, the place of philosophy of disability vis-à-vis the discipline and profession, their experiences of institutional discrimination and personal prejudice in philosophy, in particular, and in academia, more generally, resistance to ableism, accessibility, and anti-oppressive pedagogy. Read the interview at Philosophy Commons.

Why Race and Gender Still Matter

Maeve O'Donovan, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, is the co-editor of Why Race and Gender Still Matter: An Intersectional Approach. Intersectionality, the attempt to bring theories on race, gender, disability and sexuality together, has existed for decades as a theoretical framework. Despite this it remains almost entirely absent from contemporary philosophical thinking. The essays in this volume explore how intersectionality can be applied to modern philosophy, as well as looking at other disciplines – political science, education, law, art and history – where work on philosophical intersectionalism is already developing.