Philosophy
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Why Philosophy?

​​​​The term "Philosophy" derives from the Greek words philein to love, and sophia wisdom.  To practise Philosophy is therefore to pursue the love of wisdom.  This pursuit takes the form of a conversation among thinkers spanning across two-and-a-half millennia.  Philosophy is the oldest discipline at the university and is often considered to be the "mother science" of numerous other disciplines practised at the modern university.

Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Socrates remarked that "the unexamined life is not worth living".  This phrase has remained the maxim of philosophers through the ages.  Philosophical questions – the topic of Philosophy – are questions about the concepts and ideas that structure our everyday life.  We call these kinds of questions conceptual questions and questions of meaning

Conceptual questions refer to the meaning, implications and interconnections of concepts such as, for example, "human being", "justice", "truth", "morality", "culture", "responsibility", "God".  The meaning of these concepts is not always obvious, while, at the same time, the way we think about them determines the kind of world in which we live. Philosophers critically examine the assumptions, prejudices and beliefs involved in our use of these concepts, as well as their practical application in our lives.  ​

Questions of meaning, on the other hand, are questions about the value and importance of what we know, do and hope.  They deal with the beliefs that give direction to our lives and help us to interpret the world and our lives within it.  In this regard, philosophers are interested in making sense of our thoughts and practices by inquiring into their underlying significance.

By offering instruction in analytical and critical thinking, philosophical study is an excellent preparation for a variety of professions.  After all, almost everyone will at some point in their jobs encounter problems related to concepts and ideas.  Philosophical study also offers valuable expertise to people involved in interdisciplinary and methodological research as well as in applied ethics.  Ex-students of our department currently fill posts in the fields of journalism, corporate management, diplomatic services, law, the SABC, state information services, and at social and scientific research institutions.​

Choosing to study Philosophy at university is to embark on an unforgettable adventure.  If you are willing to work hard and do not flinch from free, open-minded discussion, Philosophy will challenge you to reflect much more independently and critically on important questions and problems, to sharpen your moral consciousness and to develop a mature and reflective attitude.  We invite you to take up this challenge by joining us at the Department of Philosophy!