The literal meaning of philosophy is "love of wisdom." Its practice includes investigating a wide range of fundamental questions about human identity, purpose and values, the nature of knowledge and reality, individuality and political power, and more. Thomas Nagel describes it well when he says: "We couldn't get along in life without taking the ideas of time, number knowledge, language, right and wrong for granted most of the time; but in philosophy we investigate those things themselves." Some of the questions we ask in our classes include: How can human beings have knowledge of reality? What is the purpose or meaning of human life? Is it actually possible to "know yourself"? What are the limits of human freedom? Does happiness really matter?
The study of philosophy helps us to identify the ruling ideas of our age, calling them into question and freeing the individual mind from narrow preconceptions. It teaches students to engage in dialogue across centuries and cultures, to think creatively and critically, and to argue convincingly. Philosophy studies develop one's analytical intelligence, as well as oral and written communication skills. Research has demonstrated that the study of philosophy is valuable to personal development, preparation for graduate school, and a successful career in a broad range of fields including: law, medicine, journalism, education, business, government, and social work.