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Among the many questions philosophers ask — What can I know? Who am I? Does God exist? What is the nature of time? — one of the most pervasive may be What is philosophy?

It’s been defined as the love of wisdom; the search for truth through reasoning; and a discipline that comprises metaphysics, logic, ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics. The Philosophy Department at Lewis & Clark believes such definitions have their purpose—but the only way to truly understand philosophy is to engage in the study and practice of philosophical inquiry.

In philosophy courses, you’ll investigate the questions above, and many others as well. Professors cover the ideas of ancient philosophers (such as Plato and Aristotle), modern philosophers (Descartes and Kant), twentieth-century thinkers (Heidegger and Quine), and such recent theorists (Foucault and Lewis). Topics include ancient philosophy, 19th century philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophies of religion, science, and law.

Outside the classroom, students are active in the Philosophy Club and regularly attend where visiting philosophers, philosophy faculty, and fellow students present papers and posit questions about the fundamental natures of society, life, and knowledge. These talks are always followed by active, lively discussion, giving students a great chance to engage the ideas they’re exploring in classes.

The Department of Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College is firmly committed to a diverse and inclusive community in which productive critical inquiry can occur. We believe thateveryone  ought to be able to examine our lives including race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity or class. We are also actively striving to improve the legacy of our discipline in a variety of ways. The Philosophy department joined with other Philosophy departments in the Northwest and received a Mellon grant to investigate the ways in which Philosophy is integral to work on diversity and inclusion. This grant also enabled the Philosophy Department to contribute to making the department and the campus at Lewis & Clark more diverse and inclusive. The Philosophy department has also received a second Mellon grant to develop a course “Philosophy of x” that will allow us to engage issues concerning race, gender, and class for majors and non-majors. 

Philosophy provides tools for thinking about the serious challenges facing us in the 21st century.  We invite our community to consider just some of the questions being discussed in our courses.                                                                                                 

  • What does the philosophy of religion look like from different cultures?
  • How and to what extent are race and gender socially constructed?
  • How does race, gender, and class affect who is a scientist and scientific claims?
  • How does one’s standpoint affect knowledge?
  • Who are the marginalized figures in the history of philosophy and why were they so treated?

Philosophers at Lewis & Clark are working to improve the department and the campus.  We welcome all to join us in thinking about how to make it better. Borrowing from Immanuel Kant, thought without action is empty, and action without thought is blind. 

We have a vibrant philosophy colloquium featuring renowned philosophers both here in the Northwest and across the country. All are welcome and the colloquia series can be accessed below.

Philosophy Colloquium Series 2017-2018




February 23rd, 2018

  • Image preview 3:30pm: “Abstract on the Possibility of a Neuroaesthetics of Natural Environments” by James Dow (Hendrix College)
    Experiences of nature sometimes involve multisensory engagement, immersion of ourselves in nature, and transformative experiences. Could such aesthetic experiences be described, explained, and predicted by neuroscience? Neuroaesthetics has emerged as a discipline that explains and predicts aesthetic experiences of visual art, music, and literature. Enactivists about perception have argued against the possibility of neuroaesthetics based on the claim that perceptual experience involves sensitivity to sensorimotor contingencies. Engagement theorists about nature aesthetics have argued that engaged aesthetic experiences are non-conceptual, participatory, and action-oriented. Do the enactivist arguments against the possibility of a neuroaesthetics of art provide similar challenges to the possibility of explaining and predicting aesthetic experiences of natural environments? I argue for the counterintuitive thesis that while neuroaesthetics of art can overcome hurdles posed by the enactivists, by appealing to pragmatic representations, the neuroaesthetics of natural environments cannot overcome challenges presented by the action-oriented nature of aesthetic experience of nature.

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