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Available as a major or minor

The study of philosophy examines the essential questions of human existence: "What is the best kind of life to live?" "What is the difference between right and wrong?" "Is life meaningful or meaningless?" "What is truth?"

A philosophy major prepares you to make a strong case for yourself, wherever you wish to go. Recent graduates are now in exciting careers in law, higher education and government.

Students listen intently in a classroom

Curriculum & Courses

PHIL 212 Environmental Philosophy 
PHIL 223: Ethics and Medicine
PHIL 251 Early Western Philosophy
PHIL 266: Power, Language, Politics 
PHIL 290: Special Topics: Beatles vs. Stones

Dr. Brent Adkins teaching

Student Experiences

Andrew Miles '15 majored in philosophy with a minor in creative writing. On campus, he was captain of the Ethics Bowl team and participated in the Fight Club Poetry readings. He worked as a tutor for the Writing Center and as a research assistant. As a Summer Scholar, he worked with Dr. Ned Wisnefske on "Can the Prisoner's Dilemma Solve the Problem of Enforcement in Social Contract Theory?"

Andrew plans to attend graduate school and hopes to become a philosophy professor after earning his doctorate. His main interests are in ethics and political philosophy.

Andrew Miles sits with back to Professor Ned Wisnefske

Ben Cowgill stands with the Roanoke campus in the background.During his time at Roanoke College, Benjamin Cowgill '17 completed research on youth persistence in the Anglican Church.

"In my coursework, I found many authors focusing on the negative (why young people are leaving the church) versus the positive (why they stay involved), and I wanted to look at why some people chose the latter," Cowgill says.

"Roanoke gave me an excellent opportunity to take a question from a regular class and pursue it in a way I would not have been able to without the generous support and encouragement of my mentors at the College."

Learn By Doing

In an intensive learning class, students explored the relationship between the perennial philosophical question — "How should one live?" — and the more mundane question — "What should one eat?" — through reading, discussion and hands-on experimentation in the kitchen.

Students work over simmering pots
Students talk with their professor over freshly baked bread loaves
Students stir a pan issuing billows of steam
Students gather around a cooktop as their professor demonstrates a cooking technique
A student uses a knife to slice a fresh baked loave of bread

Philosophy Professor Brent Adkins authored an enlightening student guide tracing the history of ethics and morality through an examinination of six major thinkers: Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche and Levinas. 

The book, "A Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy" (Edinburgh University Press), helps readers learn how the important questions of moral philosophy have been answered through the years and leaves them better-equipped to pursue their own answers to those puzzles. 

Adkins, whose particular interest is contemporary European philosophy, also helped create an interdisciplinary artistic response to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's philosophical piece, "1837: Of the Refrain," which was displayed on campus in Olin Hall Galleries.

book cover

Careers & Outcomes

Logos from Loyola Chicago, Duke, Indiana University, Brandeis University, and University of Virginia

Philosophy majors do exceedingly well in graduate school testing, ranking at the top of LSAT and GRE scores. Furthermore, they are the most likely to be accepted into medical school, even more likely than biochemistry majors.

Logos of Allstate, Safari Club International and University of Connecticut




Being a good philosopher does not mean having ready-made answers to these questions but having the ability to ask and answer them self-consciously, self-critically and with clarity and consistency. The philosophy program at Roanoke not only develops critical thinking, writing and communication skills, it also prepares you for challenging independent research. Combined, this skillset opens many promising tracks for graduate and professional schools.

We offer both a major and a minor in philosophy.