Having offered philosophy classes since 1986, the philosophy department at Castleton State College, recently had its status elevated. Now offering a bachelor of arts degree, the department has broadened its focus of study beyond just the love of wisdom.”It builds bridges between disciplines in the liberal arts,” said philosophy professor Brendan Lalor. “Philosophy issues often come back. Questions and answers that come around again and again: What is it to live a good life?”
Professor Robert Johnson heralded the proposal for the major in ’09, 20 years after beginning his teaching career at Castleton.
“I was a literature major, then I took philosophy,” said Johnson. “The difference being I thought about what I’d learned.”
With only two full-time and four part-time professors, the department is capable of supporting 14 classes each semester. Castleton, says Lalor, is also the only school of the Vermont Students Assistance Corporation that offers a degree in philosophy.
“I immediately found it was something I could relate my life to,” said Adam Chicoine, a Castleton junior and football captain.
Chicoine, who is a philosophy major, also found that he had “no idea” he wanted to study philosophy.
“It’s about how you live your life, at the end of the day it’s how happy you are,” he said.
Megan Harris, Castleton sophomore, had enrolled in communications and criminal justice, but changed her degrees to philosophy and political science after deciding the pursuit of news was not tangible.
“I think philosophy needs to have more of a place in law because there are such basic structures in place in criminal justice systems, so much black and white, but not enough grey. It allows so many solutions,” she said.
Harris says working in a field that she really enjoys “is one of my greatest accomplishments.”
Some philosophy classes, other than the introduction and critical thinking courses, include philosophy of Indian sacred art, social and political philosophy, logic, medical ethics, comparative religion and the philosophy of love.
Reading the material, Harris said, she found answers every day that affirmed and denied her thoughts.
“For as long as I study, that will continue to happen,” Harris said. “It makes that much sense and I wonder if others know about it.”
Even the atmosphere allows itself to be foreign from other studies.
“You go into professor Lalor’s class,” said Chicoine. “He’ll pull out his guitar at the beginning of class.It’s sittin’ Indian style.”
Though there are only nine students with official majors in philosophy, there is only room for the department to go up.
“Stop the business classes,” said Chicoine. “Let your mind go.