Department of Politics and Philosophy

Bert Baumgaertner, Chair (322A Administration Building; phone: 208-885-5997) 


Philosophy examines the grounds of knowledge, the nature of reality, and the nature of value, justice, and morality. It asks fundamental questions about how we reason and how we ought to reason. Its subject matter encompasses all other academic disciplines—including society, values, mind, language, art, and science—and all areas of human experience.

The main value of philosophy lies in its contribution to a liberal education. As a central discipline of the humanities, philosophy encourages those who study it to gain insight into themselves and others, which proves helpful in setting high standards and working in productive collaboration with one's associates. In addition, philosophy is an excellent means of learning to reason and write clearly, which are skills useful in every conceivable human enterprise. Some philosophy majors pursue careers in academia; others, however, make rewarding careers for themselves in business, government, journalism, law, and human services.

Political Science

Political science is the study of politics and power from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives. It includes scholarship in administration, behavior, diplomacy, ideology, institutions, interest groups, law, policy, strategy, theory, and war. The undergraduate program in political science is designed to provide students with a comprehensive introduction to the discipline, viewed as a specific set of strategies for understanding political life. Though conceptual, historical, structural, institutional, and behavioral knowledge are delivered throughout the curriculum, the emphasis of the program is on giving students the theoretical insights and methodological skills needed to ask and answer political questions. The emphasis is less on learning the facts of politics than on being able to recognize, evaluate, and use the intellectual tools of the discipline.

Students will leave the program with an understanding of the basic modes in inquiry in political science: normative, empirical, and comparative analysis. The core curriculum is designed to give students a broad theoretical framework in political science and an introduction to research methods. Upper division courses give students the opportunity to build specialized knowledge in political science through two of five concentration areas: American politics and political behavior, international relations and comparative politics, public administration and policy, public law, and political theory.

Political science provides a foundation for career development in law, politics, public service, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, business, academics, and other fields. Students in the program are also encouraged to take advantage of a variety of internship and service learning opportunities.