Academic Department Introduction

Philosophers study some of the most fundamental questions that can be asked about the world and our place in it. Do we have free will? Are there objective moral truths? Does God exist? What is the best way to live? What does social justice require? Can we ever really know anything?

Studying philosophy helps us understand the development of human thought on such issues over the centuries and offers insight into how to approach them today. Philosophy teaches the general skills of reasoning and argumentation, including how to interpret and evaluate arguments, develop and justify views on complex questions, and express oneself clearly and persuasively. Taking even one philosophy course can change a person’s perspective on life in significant ways.

Learning goals

  • Understand central questions in metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory, and develop and defend positions concerning them.

  • Evaluate important and influential positions within the history of philosophy and articulate the ways they have informed contemporary discussions.

  • Provide an effective defense of a philosophical position, orally and in writing.

  • Clarify your sense of who you are and what matters to you, while exploring various forms of value, what can be known, and the ways in which philosophical reflection can enhance other forms of inquiry.

Programs of Study

Philosophy major and minor

Students will think profoundly and creatively about consequential human questions and construct clear and persuasive arguments concerning them.

Course Highlights

  • In this course we will explore the philosophical underpinnings and ramifications of the social structures which shape our lives. Among the topics we will consider are racism, gender, disability, and incarceration and prisons. For each topic, we will investigate different accounts of what the phenomenon at issue is. Among the thinkers we will engage are Sally Haslanger, Charles Mills, and Robin Dembroff. Questions for discussion include: What are the implications of endorsing one account of an oppressive structure over another? How are oppressive social structures, e.g. ableism, transphobia, etc., mutually reinforcing? Does oppression manifest differently in different contexts? If so, how? When are the oppressed unduly burdened with explaining or combatting their oppression?
  • This course will explore free speech issues using the tools of analytic philosophy. Questions to be considered include: what makes speech so valuable that we protect it against regulation? Is any regulation of speech compatible with a commitment to free speech? Can expressing a sincere political opinion ever be a crime? How and why does hate speech regulation vary across countries, even ones committed to free speech? Does respect for the value of free speech require a speaker's community to provide a platform? a civil audience? comprehension?

Research highlights


  • Philosophy Club

    The Philosophy Club hosts evening student-led discussions of philosophical topics, informal teas with professors, viewings of movies that explore philosophical topics, and conversations with philosophy alums.

  • Home Base

    In the department’s in-house tutoring program, advanced philosophy majors advise beginning and intermediate students on the skills needed to succeed in philosophy. Three tutors are employed each year to give individual advice and run collective workshops on how to read and write philosophy and participate effectively in class.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

A background in philosophy is valued within many graduate programs, including law school and medical school, and in many diverse careers. Many of our graduates work in the legal profession. Others earn graduate degrees, teach, or work in government or nonprofit sectors. Recent employers include the U.S. Department of Justice, the New York County District Attorney’s office, and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Department of Philosophy

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Helena de Bres
Department Chair