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Mission, Goals, and Objectives


The Santa Clara University Department of Philosophy is committed to building a community of scholars (including students) dedicated to excellence in teaching, learning, and scholarship. 

We especially, but not exclusively, value two aspects of an integrated education: i) developing in our students an increasingly sophisticated and reflective understanding of ethical discourse and ethical decisions; ii) developing in our students an increasingly sophisticated and comprehensive understanding of the development, historical and systematic, of the philosophical contributions to western culture. We further seek to develop, especially in our majors, a commitment to pursue reflectively the most important questions of human existence, to reason soundly about them, and to make original contributions to the dialogue concerning them. We are also deeply committed to scholarly inquiry that is befitting a truly accomplished faculty. 

The study of philosophy is integral to the cultivation of traits necessary for moral and social leadership, since in its investigation of the important questions of human existence it explicitly probes the values, attitudes, and factual assumptions that ground prudent decision-making. In probing human values the Department's pedagogy and scholarship utilizes the rigorous inquiry, imagination, and reflective engagement with society for which the university stands. 

Because of the University's resources and location and because of the department's fine faculty, we have the potential to become one of the country's premier undergraduate philosophy departments. We aspire to fulfill that potential and to sustain a reputation that enhances the visibility of Santa Clara University. 

Program Goals and Outcomes 

A. Learning

1. Through our ethics courses, to educate students who can engage in sustained careful reflection on normative issues. 

2. Through our Western Culture courses, to educate students who comprehend and appreciate the philosophical contributions to western culture. 

3. Through our major courses, to educate students who can comprehend and analyze a wide range of philosophical problems and who can offer creative and constructive responses to ongoing philosophical debates. 

4. Through all of our courses, to educate students who can engage in sound critical analysis, be reflective about experience (their own as well as others), understand different points of view, and reflect upon personal and social matters of importance. 


  • Students can identify arguments and reason about their validity and soundness.
  • Students demonstrate an ability to engage in normative (not just descriptive) inquiry.
  • Students can bring philosophical frameworks to bear reasonably on a moral problem.
  • Students can explain some main problems of a given philosophical period in history and describe some major philosophers' responses to it.
  • Philosophy majors can analyze sophisticated arguments, formulate and justify their own positions, and acknowledge and respond to counterarguments.
B. Curriculum and Pedagogy 

1. To ensure that students who graduate with a major in philosophy will be sufficiently acquainted with the principal areas of the field and that those who go on to graduate study will be well-prepared in all major areas of philosophy. 

2. To continue to serve the core by offering rigorous courses in Ethics and Western Culture (the introductory level history of philosophy sequence). 

3. To achieve an alignment of the philosophy curriculum and core courses with student outcomes relevant to each part of the curriculum. 


  • A well-rounded curriculum with a sufficient rotation of offerings to sustain a strong undergraduate major program.
  • A department that represents expertise in the areas of philosophical inquiry important to a strong undergraduate major.
  • Faculty with expertise to support the various programs with which we want to connect.
  • Students demonstrate through their work a mastery of the student outcomes relevant to the particular courses in which they are enrolled.
  • A numbering system of department courses that conveys the level of our offerings (e.g., such that our Ethics offerings are not aligned with the lowest course numbers).
  • A large percentage of core courses taught by fulltime faculty.
C. Scholarship 

To promote and sustain excellence in scholarship. 


  • Faculty working on sustained scholarly projects that reach publication in major venues.
  • Faculty receiving internal and external fellowship support for their research.
  • Faculty taking regular sabbaticals.
  • The department enhancing the intellectual environment by (i) continuing to invite guest or affiliated faculty, (ii) continuing to use the Fagothey Fund to support the presence of distinguished scholars on campus, (iii) continuing to hold annual professional conferences.
D. Service 

1. To engage in service—whether it be campus, professional, and/or community—consistent with our teaching and scholarly commitments. 

2. To offer informative and supportive academic and career advising to undeclared students, philosophy majors, and pre-law students. 3. To support campus programs to which the philosophy department now actively contributes or would like to contribute: the Environmental Studies Program; the Women and Gender Studies Program; the Honors Program; the Science, Technology, and Society Program; Residential Learning Communities; the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; and the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education. 


  • Faculty engaged in the type and extent of service suited to their individual talents, interests, and schedules.
  • Students and graduates who express satisfaction at the advising they are/were given and who are successful in achieving realistic career and professional goals.
  • Contributions in terms of course offerings and other faculty participation to the programs noted above.