About the philosophy department
Seeking answers, enjoying the questions
The human experience throws some pretty tough questions our way. In the philosophy department at Calvin, we don't shy away from these questions, but draw on our historic Christian faith as we explore them and look for answers.
We are not alone in our seeking: throughout history, great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and Kierkegaard have wrestled with the most important questions that the human mind is capable of asking.
In philosophy classes, we study that tradition of strenuous, systematic thought, lay hold of its insights and grapple with its conclusions. In the process, we clarify for ourselves just what we believe and why.
Courses and programs
All Calvin students are required to take an introductory philosophy class, titled "Fundamental Questions in Philosophy," as part of the Core curriculum.
Interested in studying more philosophy? Check out:
Philosophy majors and minors can earn credit in a variety of formats:
- 34 semester-long courses, including:
- a variety of introductory and survey classes
- philosophy classes that meet Core requirements
- advanced seminar classes
- introductory and advanced honors classes
- interim courses
- independent study
- and internships oppportunities
Student involvement opportunities
Students may do honors work in any course, and advanced students, under the supervision of a faculty member, may engage in independent reading and research projects. Other, non-classroom opportunities include:
- Philosophy Symposium - a forum for students to engage in philosophical discourse that meets each Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. in Hiemenga Hall 336.
- Frequent lectures, seminars and conference—such as the annual Jellema Lectures and Stob Lectures—that give students, faculty members and guest speakers a forum for lively discussion and debate.
- Comenius Scholars - a paid internship program that gives traditional liberal arts students the opportunity to extend their learning into the workplace.
Studying philosophy builds skills invaluable in any career:
- thinking critically
- speaking clearly
- writing coherently
A small handfull of philosophy students go into teaching philosophy at the university level. More, however, study philosophy as preparation for fields such as ministry, law or politics. Some interested in the theoretical aspects of another discipline, such as economics, political theory, educational theory, intellectual history, literary criticism, mathematics or systematic theology, also benefit from training in philosophy.
Calvin College graduates in philosophy have traditionally found access to the finest graduate and professional schools in the United States and Canada. Recent Calvin philosophy graduates were accepted to PhD programs in philosophy at such renowned institutions as Princeton, New York University, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Michigan, Cornell, Arizona, Ohio State, Georgetown, and University of California—Irvine.
The Calvin College philosphy department has the reputation of being one of the finest undergraduate departments in the nation. The department's current faculty includes noted scholars in such fields as philosopy of religion, aesthetics, cultural criticism, ethics and moral philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, continental philosophy and the history of philosophy. Its faculty members contribute to the life of Christian philosophy—both nationally and internationally—by teaching and lecturing at universities and conferences throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Resources and technology
The large and fully automated Hekman Library is unmatched nationally among Christian colleges and is recognized as one of the best research libraries in west Michigan. Its collection includes over 500,000 volumes, 130,00 electronic books, 30,000 journals, a vast collection of microform documents and access to over 100 research databases. Additionally, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library offers an online collection of more than 30 books, essays and poems by Christian theologians and philosophers, and the department's Virtual Library of Christian Philosophy currently holds 177 articles.
History of the department
The philosophy department of Calvin College houses one of the finest undergraduate philosophy programs in the nation. Calvin's philosophy department was the undergraduate and/or teaching home of four American Philosophical Association Presidents—Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Frankena and O. K. Bouwsma.
- To learn more see Nicholas Wolterstorff's history of the department: "How Calvin Fathered a Renaissance in Christian Philosophy."