Philosophy is born of discomfort. Whether it is the need to account for the tragedies of circumstance, the incongruities between our assumptions about the world and what experience and science reveal, or the shock of being exposed to hitherto unimagined conceptual alternatives, philosophy arises in those contexts in which serious questions emerge about the adequacy of our most cherished beliefs.
Philosophy is driven by the unsettling awareness that we are not beings who act exclusively on instinct but are instead able to choose from among a variety of ways of thinking about ourselves, the world in which we find ourselves, and our relations with others. Moreover, the beliefs we hold are not merely incidental facts about us like height or eye color. What we believe is often central to our moral identity, the nature of our personal relationships, the manner in which we regard ourselves and treat others, and the happiness and unhappiness that form the emotional contours of our practical lives. Philosophy is born out of our awareness that despite the centrality of our beliefs to our identity as moral beings, the truth of our beliefs can be uncertain, for on virtually any topic there is a variety of possible viewpoints, not all of which can be equally adequate.
In its attempt to ground our beliefs and justify them, philosophy becomes a reflective and critical conceptual activity concerned with foundational questions regarding our deepest assumptions and intuitions about the nature and extent of human knowledge (epistemology), about the nature of reality and the distinction between appearance and reality (metaphysics), about the nature, scope, and grounds of moral value (ethics), and about the nature and theoretical foundations of reasoning and valid inference (logic).
The Lehigh University Philosophy Department is a group of people devoted to teaching and research in philosophy, convinced both of the social importance of philosophical problems, and of the potential of philosophy to immeasurably enrich our lives. We have different intellectual bents, but are all committed to appreciating, and leading others to appreciate, the historical depth of philosophical problems.