Philosophy at Ripon

Academics | Philosophy

The Philosophy Department

The philosophy department at Ripon College is centrally concerned with the human activity of philosophical thinking. Philosophy can usefully be characterized as the attempt to make rational sense of things. Ultimately, then, it is the attempt to discover and articulate what is truly meaningful, including what it is, if anything, that makes life itself meaningful.

A course in philosophy is designed to enhance one’s grasp of fundamental issues and to enhance one’s skill in reasoning.

Hence the emphasis in Ripon’s philosophy program is the development of both critical and creative reasoning skills, as displayed in both oral and written form.

The outcome of the activity of philosophizing is a philosophy. But while other “philosophies” of others, especially the great thinkers of world civilizations, can be explored for possibilities and insights, it is this activity of attempting to make rational sense by and for oneself that is the focus of the philosophy program at Ripon.




Joshua Filler

Paul Jeffries

David Seligman


Courses & Requirements

Course Guide – Philosophy



Ripon College encourages all students to embrace a Four-Year Career Development Plan. This plan is based on the premise that career planning is a development process that involves learning and decision-making over an extended period of time.

First Year

  • Incoming students are assigned a Faculty Mentor based on their interest area(s). Please see the FACULTY tab under your major area;
  • All Freshman are required to enroll in a First-Year Seminar, which is designed as a transition from high school to college learning, providing an interdisciplinary introduction to the liberal arts and the pursuit of in-depth study;
  • Freshman are encouraged to meet the career development staff early on and complete interest and skills inventories, and self-assessment tools; and,
  • Attend the pre-Fall Break “Major Fest” to explore the various major options and career tracks.

Third Year

  • Assume leadership positions in on-campus clubs and organizations;
  • Participate in mock interviews with the Career Development Office;
  • Attend the Wisconsin Foundation of Independent Colleges Job Fair in February and other relevant career fairs;
  • If relevant, begin to research potential graduate school programs and take the appropriate entrance exam(s);
  • Continue to meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor;
  • Continue to build a solid network and a list of work references, and build your resume;
  • Consider off-campus study: Semester and/or alternative Spring Breaks;
  • Continue to job shadow; and,
  • Gain further career experience associated with your education during the academic year and as part of a summer job or internship.

Second Year

  • Get involved with on-campus clubs and organizations, athletic teams and/or intramural sports;
  • Attend the pre-Fall Break “Major Fest” to explore the various major options and career tracks;
  • Declare a major;
  • Meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor or match your interests with a faculty member in your major department. Determine which professors have areas of expertise most similar to your interests. Talk to people in the academic department to find out about faculty research, scholarly, and creative interests;
  • Attend on-campus career workshops;
  • Work with the Career Development Office to create an approved resume;
  • Job shadow people involved in various careers and professions of interest; and,
  • Gain further career experience associated with your education during the academic year and as part of a summer job or internship.

Fourth Year

  • Complete a Senior Capstone/Thesis in your major area(s);
  • Continue to meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor;
  • Perfect your interviewing skills;
  • Expand your existing network of contacts;
  • Finalize your resume and prepare cover letter;
  • Build a credential file in the Career Development Office;
  • Interview with on-campus recruiters;
  • Set-up informational interviews with target companies;
  • If relevant, apply to graduate school programs, and if necessary, re-take entrance exams; and,
  • Practice career goal-setting.


Unique Opportunities

Engaging with Faculty

One of the outstanding features of Ripon’s Department of Philosophy is the opportunity to hold personal dialogue with outstanding faculty. Whether your interests are classical or avant-garde, faculty have an interest in helping you develop a reasoned line of thought. It is also common for faculty to host informal gatherings either at eateries around town or in their homes. Students who have gone on to graduate school have reported that these formal and informal conversations with faculty were invaluable to their preparation for their work as graduate students. They are much more at ease in their work with their graduate advisers and in graduate seminar settings.

Research Opportunities

Two programs at Ripon enable student to pursue more in-depth research in topics related to philosophy:

First, the Ripon College Ethical Leadership Program offers Student Scholars Ethical Internships. The objective of the internship is to be engaged in an essentially independent activity, either scholarly or experiential, that raises questions of ethics, explores solutions to ethical issues and takes action on an ethical problem.

Second, the McNair Scholars Program prepares students for graduate school who meet federal income guidelines and whose parents have not earned an undergraduate degree; or for students from groups underrepresented in graduate education: African American, Native American, and Hispanic.

Academic Conferences

Over the last several years, students in the Philosophy Department have presented and/or attended several conferences, including: Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Wisconsin Philosophical Society, Peace and Justice Studies Association National Conference, and the Wisconsin Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies Faculty and Student conferences.

Ripon College Open Forum

Several philosophy majors, minors, and other interested students have formed a student organization designed to promote thoughtful and civil conversations around a wide variety of philosophical topics.  They meet weekly in the fireplace area of the lounge in Pickard Commons affectionately called the “Scholars Corner.”


What can I do with a Philosophy major?

An undergraduate degree in philosophy can lead to a career in teaching, law, business, ethics, mediation, government, grant writing and many other fields.

Alumni of our program are enrolled in a variety of graduate-level programs at some of the nation’s most prestigious research universities, including: Texas A&M, the University of Minnesota, Marquette University and the University of Oregon.

Job titles of recent graduates include lawyer, grant-writer, financial adviser, teacher, and professor.


Off-Campus Opportunities

Summer Philosophy Programs

Over the last few years, we have students who were accepted to the University of Colorado’s Summer Seminar in Philosophy and the University of Minnesota’s Philosophy Camp, as well as its Ethical Tolerance in Amsterdam.

Programs in the U.S. and Abroad

Ripon College, by virtue of its membership in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and its affiliation to several other study abroad programs, provides its students opportunities to study within (and outside of) their disciplines in programs and institutions around the world like studying philosophy at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, students are able to strengthen their academic backgrounds by studying at other institutions.