West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Email: Rose Sykes, Department Secretary
As a child, I roamed the not so wild forests overturning stones or sitting quietly by old oak trees patiently waiting for deer, foxes, and other wildlife to appear. I wanted to see what was hidden from me so that I could understand life's mysteries a little better each day. I had so many questions that no one seemed to answer adequately and I realized that it was up to me to find out for myself. So, I went exploring.
Now, you're probably wondering why I am telling you this. Well, my time at West Chester University was akin to these early childhood wanderings. It took me a long time to find my way to the philosophy department at WCU. As a wide eyed first year student, I could not decide upon a path of study so I set out upon an exploratory expedition of sorts—taking classes from many different disciplines. Gradually, I found myself drawn to the philosophy department and it was there that I finally found what I was looking for: a discipline that actually encourages you to question and explore. While many other programs at WCU were interesting, I found that the philosophy department is unique in that it gives you the tools to find out things for yourself. The philosophy program at WCU teaches you how to apply logical reasoning to a problem and how to critique even the questions that you ask. Each course provides new ways of seeing things and gives you new questions to consider. Here you are not trained to be a technician, but you are given the tools to actively inquire so that you can go exploring on your own.
Now that I am graduating from the philosophy department at WCU, I would just like to give my heartfelt thanks to all the professors who gave me the tools that I will need to climb my mountains. Specifically, I would like to thank Dr. Joan Woolfrey, Dr. Helen Schroepfer, Dr. Ruth Porritt, Dr. Frank Hoffman, and Dr. Dan Forbes. It has been a pleasure taking your classes. In addition, I would like to remind my fellow philosophy students that it's a big world out there. We've been given the tools to thrive, now let's go climb some mountains. Let's touch the sky.
My fascination with the deeper questions of life continued and increased through the years. A main attraction to philosophy is that it encompasses everything in our existence (and beyond?), from the philosophy of physics to aesthetics. Philosophical fields of study also interfere; a morally good action can be called beautiful – does that mean that ethics can be judged aesthetically? That is definitely worth a discussion. I love that we philosophers learn to discuss everything, being both enough skeptic and open at the same time. Discussing the "old masters of philosophy" makes me feel following a kind of heritage, as their thoughts meet mine.
When reading the works of René Descartes, I often imagine him sitting writing in front of his fireplace, wearing a blanket in order to keep warm. Philosophy students have the unique benefit, or burden perhaps some non-philosophers claim, to read great thinkers' original manuscripts, and not interpretations. The reverence one feels when reading wise thoughts almost exactly as they were written down generations ago can be powerful. One gets a kind of personal connection with the philosopher of the work one is reading – it is almost like sitting around a table listening to the philosophers speak their mind. Imagine sharing table and thoughts with Plato, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and Martin Heidegger (that would sure be a lively discussion)!
I started studying philosophy in my home country, Norway, which provided me a base in the field. Soon, however, I felt restless and the urge to make my study an adventure in order to discover new perspectives and thoughts, so I fortunately ended up at the welcoming and inspiring philosophy department at West Chester University of PA. I think it is essential to philosophers to have this unrest, not to settle down easily, and always be in the process of searching; the German romantic Novalis gave a description worth reflection: "Philosophy is really homesickness, it is the urge to be at home everywhere."
Philosophy is a calling that all human beings either choose to answer or perpetually ignore. Beyond the distractions of everyday life, such questions poke at all of us: What is my purpose? What is the best form of government? Does God exist? Many people, however, are fearful of where these questions may carry them; many are intimidated by the work and careful scrutiny that all serious inquiry necessitates.
Choosing to major in philosophy is a life-changing decision. You will not walk away from college with the attitude that you merely fell into a major, got your degree and got out. You will be full of ideas and well-crafted opinions, all backed by a drive to enact positive change in whatever life or career path you choose to pursue.
In my own experience, studying philosophy at West Chester University afforded me the opportunity to work closely with fellow undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty, all of whom were passionately dedicated to their work. I was also continually satisfied by the diversity of course offerings and, mostly importantly, their relevancy to today's world.
Although I decided to pursue English in graduate school, philosophy is still a major part of my studies. Through the theories of philosophers that I covered at WCU, I now have a deeper understanding of literature (as most great literature is philosophy at heart), and the close-reading skills that I honed while grappling with philosophical texts have proved indispensible. My writing has also greatly benefited, both fiction and critical.
I have no doubt that my decision to study philosophy at WCU will be one that I will always reflect on and think: that's when things really started to make sense.
I've always been an insatiably inquisitive being concerned with the circumstances of existence and fascinated by human consciousness. I began my education at West Chester as an undeclared major, and throughout my struggle to choose a field of study, Philosophy was a discipline that I continuously held in the back of my mind. After much exploration and consideration, I decided to go ahead and commit to it. I must admit that I had my apprehensions. Older people (particularly my family) would constantly doubt my judgment when I posited the idea of becoming a Philosophy major. They would bombard me with questions like 'how are you going to find a job?', 'what can you do with that major?', or 'do you really think that is practical?' I have since realized how fortunate it is that I refused to be discouraged by these questions. Majoring in Philosophy has proven to be a powerful catalyst for self discovery. My intellect has been cultivated beyond what I ever could have expected, and what I have learned here has opened up a world of opportunities for me, career-related and (more importantly) otherwise. Every day in the Philosophy Department is an exciting exploration into the nature of reality. I have no regrets, and I am proud to say that I revel in my philosophic nerd-hood.
When thinking about switching my major from Psychology to Philosophy I went through a back and fourth struggle of which one would be more useful when I step out into "the real world". What I came to discover and now appreciate every day is that Philosophy is an amazing foundation for literally any passion one desires to pursue. I have so many interests and know that graduate school is in my future. Studying Philosophy teaches one to think critically and make connections that a lot of people would not think to make. I feel that my choice of majoring in Philosophy was one of the greatest decisions of my life. I now have the opportunity to flow in any direction my journey leads me, and be fully prepared to create new connections out in our world that so desperately needs more deep thinkers.
My first encounter with philosophy was at West Chester. I sure never saw myself studying philosophy. I graduated today and studying philosophy was one of the best decisions I ever made. The professors in the philosophy department are all people to look up to. I have never had a bad experience with anyone in the philosophy department. Learning about philosophy helped me concentrate on the big picture and I'm proud that I'm not graduating with a cliché pencil-thin career goal.