Does God exist? What is the best form of government? Do we have free will? What is love? Philosophers study the most fundamental and enduring questions of human existence, cultivating the essential skills of rational argument, critical thinking, and respect for other points of view.

Why study Philosophy at Sewanee?

At Sewanee, you’ll become acquainted with a wide range of philosophical theories and ideas, from the classic works of Plato and Aristotle to cutting-edge research in bioethics and the philosophy of law. You’ll be challenged to develop and defend your own philosophical beliefs using reason and argument, and learn to engage critically and respectfully with the opinions of others.

Sewanee’s broad offerings in the history of philosophy will allow you to enter into conversation with figures like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Confucius, whilst our extensive applied ethics program – environmental ethics, medical ethics, and business ethics – will help you to apply philosophical theory to the most pressing problems of the 21st century.

With their exceptionally rigorous training in critical thinking and problem solving, philosophy majors tend to score highly on the LSAT and other graduate entry exams, and are well-equipped to enter the job market in a variety of different fields.


Sewanee graduates secure positions in a variety of fields. Some you would expect, others are a bit of a surprise. Sewanee prepares you for your profession and your passion. Below is a sampling of recent graduates' first jobs.

  • Legislative intern, the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations, Washington, D.C.
  • Commercial real estate analyst, UCLA Asset Management, Los Angeles, California.
  • Documents, Outreach, and Communications Office intern, USAID, Tanzania.

Sewanee graduates enjoy extraordinary acceptance rates to top graduate and pre-professional programs–about 95 percent to law school and over 85 percent to medical school. Below is a sampling of where Sewanee grads continue their education.

  • M.S. in neuroscience, Binghamton University 
  • J.D., Texas Tech School of Law.
  • Ph.D. in biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, Yale University 

Whose Tradition? Which Dao?

In his book, Peterman offers Western thinkers a new, sophisticated understanding of Confucius as a philosopher.

This book seeks to defend an interpretation of Confucius’s project, depicted in the centrally important early Confucian text, Analects, as operating in what Wittgenstein scholar Cora Diamond, taking a phrase from Wittgenstein, refers to as the “realistic spirit.” The “realistic spirit,” as distinct from the philosophical realist, seeks, as she puts it, to clarify “our life” with concepts, including ethical life, in all its complexity, suspicious of the simplification and nonsense bound up with traditional metaphysics.

Although the Socratic requirement that versions of moral inquiry not be self-undermining is a basic principle for evaluation of competing versions of moral inquiry, MacIntyre’s use of it to challenge the Confucian moral tradition is unsuccessful. Although I explicitly take up MacIntyre’s challenge to Confucianism in Chapter 7, the whole project of the book can be seen as offering an account of three key aspects of the version of moral inquiry found in the centrally important Confucian text, the Analects, which offers a distinctive, credible version of moral inquiry. This approach to moral inquiry, like Wittgenstein’s quite similar approach to philosophical inquiry in the realistic spirit, gives central place to moral practices and to reflection on the meaning and significance of those practices by practitioners. Central to Confucian moral practices is the practice of ritual (禮 li). Confucian moral inquiry requires training in ritual, as well as reflection on the practice of ritual guided by a master of such ritual practice and reflection.

Confucius approaches moral inquiry in a way that avoids abstract, theoretical reflection on questions of moral epistemology and ontology. As a result, the presentation of the Analects’ approach to moral inquiry is not as fully developed as is required for systematic assessment. To solve this problem, I turn to the later writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who offers an approach to the relation between practice and reflection that is remarkably similar to Confucius’s. Drawing on Wittgenstein to develop an account of the early Confucian version of moral inquiry in Chapter 1, “Introduction: A Prologue to an Unlikely Project,” I use this version of moral inquiry later in the book to address a range of potential problems facing Confucian moral inquiry, which, if not adequately addressed, threaten to undermine it.

This piece was adapted with permission from "Whose Tradition? Which Dao?" published by SUNY Press, Copyright © 2015 by James F. Peterman.

A Sampling of Courses


Programs of Study & Related Programs

Requirements for the Major & Minor in Philosophy

Meet some professors


James R. Peters
Professor of Philosophy, Coordinator of Environmental Arts and Humanities

Carnegie Hall 201A, Ext. 1581

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