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Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Madame Cadillac Building, Room 346
Direct: (313) 927-1539
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Bachelor of Arts, Major in Philosophy (B.A.)
Minor in Philosophy

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.M.A., Oxford University, M.A., Université Catholique de Louvain. (Emeritus)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph.D., Yale University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph.D., Wayne State University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph.D., Wayne State University

Philosophy Overview

Though the study of philosophy is of general benefit no matter what one’s calling, it is particularly beneficial to those considering careers in law, public policy, journalism, business, religion, the health professions, education, and the human services. This is because the study of philosophy enhances one’s analytical abilities, one’s intellectual independence, one’s ability to openly and honestly engage the ideas of others, one’s abilities to write and to think critically and carefully about complex problems that defy easy solution, and one’s abilities to express oneself with clarity and precision. All of these are among those abilities most generally desired by employers of all types. Those who study philosophy therefore find themselves very well prepared to excel and to become leaders in whatever profession they might choose.

Philosophers ask deep and important questions about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the nature of justice to question of free will, to the question of whether it is possible for human beings to have knowledge of God. Not only do philosophers ask questions like these, they seek out and debate answers to them, together in dialogue with colleagues from across the disciplines. This means that philosophical investigation necessarily involves not only the history of philosophical ideas, but the careful and critical examination of relevant facts and their interconnections, highly developed argumentation skills, and the ability to engage in cooperative dialogue for the common purpose of inquiry.

The academic benefits of philosophy are sharpened critical and analytical thinking skills, enhanced imaginative capacity, greater clarity and precision in communication, and heightened intellectual discipline. Philosophical training also greatly enhances one’s ability to enter into cooperative and informed argumentation and debate with others. These make the study of philosophy a perfect complement to almost any major, and a worthwhile and rewarding field of academic study in its own right.

In addition to the academic benefits, philosophy is invaluable in providing those who study it with the cognitive tools necessary for making competent, reflective and balanced judgments. Those with philosophical training are uniquely empowered to develop a consistent and coherent view of the world and of their place in it. In addition to these the personal benefits of philosophical study also include a more open mind, an enhanced sense of the moral worth of oneself and others, greater intellectual curiosity and enjoyment, and greater facility in careful thinking about problems whose difficulty mirrors that of real life problems.

Students wishing to enroll in the Philosophy B.A. or Minor programs must be students in good academic standing at the College.

The Philosophy program at Marygrove College offers students an intellectually and methodologically diverse approach to the discipline. The department has special strengths in the history of philosophy, Continental philosophy of religion, philosophy of language, value theory, and argumentation and critical thinking.

The instructional hallmark of all philosophy courses at Marygrove College is an emphasis on all of the following: critical thinking skills, close reading, clear writing, and interactive debate about philosophical topics.

In addition to the B.A. and Minor programs, the Philosophy program supports the General Education program of the College with a number of courses (see below) that provide students with a foundation in philosophical methods that can serve them throughout their academic career. Many of the department’s courses also support the College’s Urban Leadership Mission and Vision by incorporating course materials and assignments that apply philosophical methods of analysis and inquiry in urban contexts. See the course listings for more detail.

Philosophy courses are offered throughout the week in both day and evening sections. There are no special admissions procedures for the major or the minor. Any student wishing to join the program must simply be a student in good academic standing at Marygrove College. Those interested in joining the B.A. or Minor programs in Philosophy are encouraged to contact the Program Coordinator.


  1. The Marygrove Philosophy Program is unique. Our program has strengths in: Moral Philosophy, Continental Philosophy of Religion, and Critical Thinking/Argumentation Studies. There are no philosophy programs in Michigan that can claim major strengths in these last two areas. 

  2. We have a great faculty. In addition to being active researchers with international reputations, we are dedicated teachers and helpful advisors. At Marygrove, in the philosophy program, you can get the classroom interaction that a small school provides with scholars as active and as current in their disciplines as any you might meet at a large research University. [NB: We can add "See the faculty page for more information." once a faculty page exists] 

  3. The ability to think critically is highly desirable to prospective employers across a wide range of industries and professions, and it is a particular focus of our program. When we teach critical thinking, and when we incorporate it into our courses, we aren't simply using a buzzword. Nor are we basing our work on out-of-date research or textbooks. We are teaching critical thinking according to the most recent research and best practices available from international scholarship from across the disciplines of philosophy, cognitive science, linguistics, education, and computational modeling. We take it seriously not just as part of the study or philosophy, but as part of your future. 

  4. Problem solving in the professional world means being able to articulate and defend one’s ideas in conversation with others. In keeping with our emphasis on critical thinking and argumentation, EVERY philosophy course students take at Marygrove College involves at least one in-class debate. The debate is a proven tool for teaching not just good habits of argumentation and critical thinking, but clear and persuasive communication, teamwork, and peer interaction too. We have made it the hallmark of our program. We are the only program in Michigan that offers such focus on this critically important skill. 

  5. Graduates of Marygrove's major and minor programs in philosophy succeed. In recent years our graduates have become practicing lawyers, independent entrepreneurs, and workers at community-focused non-profits. They go on to advanced degrees too, most recently in mathematics, business, and computer science. The possibilities open to a philosophy major or minor are literally among the most promising of any discipline. And there is plenty of evidence to back this up. 

  6. We celebrate being an intellectually diverse faculty representing a number of different philosophical approaches and traditions. We believe that intellectual curiosity and a wide range of interests is inherently better for philosophical skill development—and preparation for an ever-changing work environment—than is any narrow, constrained, over-specialized regimen of disciplinary training. That’s why we have developed a program that will both give students a foundation in the disciplinary skills and content mentioned above, but that also affords students considerable flexibility in choosing courses. Our partnership with University of Detroit-Mercy ensures that those who major in philosophy with us are exposed to a wide diversity of philosophical styles, opinions, and approaches even outside of our own. It’s not about us making you into the kind of philosophical thinker we think you should be, it’s about us helping you find the philosophical style and approach that best suits you. 

  7. Maybe most importantly--we are excited about our future. We are an up-and-coming department with unique programatic emphases and a style of doing philosophy that no one else around us has. We are in the very beginning phases of a growth initiative and are looking for talented, independently-minded students with a keen sense of intellectual curiosity to join us. If this describes you, then you may find philosophy to be as challenging, rewarding, and as fun as we do. Our door is open. We want you here.


Marygrove College offers the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy via consortium arrangement with the Philosophy Department of the University of Detroit Mercy. Students who choose to major in philosophy at Marygrove College are required to take at least some classes from the University of Detroit-Mercy as described below.

The Bachelor of Arts with a major in Philosophy requires a minimum of 30 credit hours in philosophy and completion of the following components:

A. General Education Requirements
See GENERAL EDUCATION section of this catalog.

B. Required Philosophy Courses

Introductory Course
PHL 126

Logic and Argumentation (both are required)
PHL 276
PHL 250 (at U of D Mercy)

History of Philosophy (choose one)
PHL 201
PHL 202

Value Theory (choose one)
PHL 225
PHL 228
PHL 370

Metaphysics and Epistemology (choose one)
PHL 406 (at U of D Mercy)
PHL 407 (at U of D Mercy)

Senior Seminar
PHL 496
In addition to the above, students must take at least 9 credit hours in philosophy at the 300 level or above in order to complete the Major. To fulfill this requirement, students may take any philosophy course at the 300 level or higher either at Marygrove or at the University of Detroit Mercy. A student’s total number of credits from the University of Detroit Mercy, including those courses designated as required above, may not exceed 12.

C. Minor Requirements

D. Electives
There are no restrictions on the Minor or elective courses that Philosophy majors may take. Philosophy Majors are encouraged to choose a Minor and electives that suit their academic strengths and that complement those areas of philosophical study they find most interesting. The Program Coordinator and the students’ advisers are available to assist students in selecting a Minor and elective courses.

Philosophy Minor

Students who enjoy philosophy, wish to develop their philosophical skills or who are considering careers in law, business, or medicine can all benefit from a Minor in Philosophy. The Minor in philosophy requires 20 credit hours in philosophy courses, including these required courses: PHL 126: Persons and Values, and PHL 276: Critical Thinking. The remaining 14 credits are chosen in accord with an individualized plan created by the student, the student’s academic adviser, and the Philosophy Program Coordinator. For more information contact the Coordinator of the Philosophy program.

Philosophy Course Descriptions

PHL 126 Persons and Values 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisite: None; Offered every term.
This course is an introduction to philosophy by way of a critical examination of some classic problems that shape human experience, which may include issues concerning the nature of reality, human knowledge, the nature of the self, the nature of justice, and the nature of the good.

PHL 156: World Philosophical Traditions 3 hours
General Education option, Prerequisites: None
This course is an introduction to philosophical problems, methods, and strategies via major philosophical traditions from across the world’s cultures from antiquity to the present. Areas of focus may include India, East Asia (e.g. China, Japan, Korea, etc.), the Middle East, and Africa, as well as the Near East.

PHL 201 Western Philosophical Traditions I 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or their equivalents)
The history of western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to Copernicus is covered in this class. Special attention is paid to the ways in which ancient Greek philosophy sets the stage for Medieval and Renaissance philosophy.

PHL 202 Western Philosophical Traditions II 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or their equivalents)
The second half of the western philosophy sequence covers the period extending from the Renaissance to the present. Special attention is paid to the mutual influence of emerging scientific thought and the philosophy of the periods covered.

PHL 225 Ethics 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or their equivalents); Offered every term
Normative moral philosophy is studied in this class through a survey of the major positions and thinkers in the western philosophical tradition of ethics.

PHL 228 Ethics in the Health Professions 3 hours
Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or their equivalents)
This is a survey of basic ethical considerations in contemporary issues in the health care professions. Case studies highlight the legal and moral aspects of patients’ rights, care of the newborn, quality of life, geriatric care and transplant surgery.

PHL 235 Philosophy and the City 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or their equivalents)
Philosophy was born, nurtured, and came of age in urban environments. From ancient Athens to contemporary Detroit, the tale of philosophy would be incomplete without an account of how cities have shaped philosophical thought, and how philosophical thought has influenced cities. In moral and political terms, the problems of philosophy have ever been city problems. In no other setting have problems of equality, justice, ethics, and identity formation been thrown into such sharp relief as in the world’s urban environments. This course will introduce students to philosophy through the lens of reflection about the nature and specific philosophical challenges of urban environments. Reciprocally, it will also introduce students to the practice of reflection about urban environments through the use of philosophical tools, concepts and methods.

PHL 276 Critical Thinking 3 hours
General Education option; Prerequisites: LS 105‚ ENG 107 or equivalent.
Critical thinking is a foundational course in natural language reasoning skills. Topics range from understanding, clarifying and evaluating claims, to assessing sources of evidence, to being able to recognize common pitfalls in one’s own reasoning as well as in that of others. The representation, classification, analysis, and evaluation of arguments using a variety of techniques is also covered.

PHL 291 Independent Study 1-3 hours
Prerequisites: PHL 126 or 276, ENG 108 or equivalent, and LS 105, permission of instructor and by arrangement with the department.
This is a directed readings course, to consist of a focused study of a student-selected topic in consultation with instructor.

PHL 325 Special Topics in Moral Philosophy 3 hours
Prerequisites: LS 105, ENG 108, and any one of PHL 126, 210, or 276.
This course is a focused study of a single, significant moral issue in contemporary life. Topics will vary as they will be drawn from the contemporary context.

PHL 370 Social and Political Philosophy 3 hours
Prerequisites: LS 105, ENG 108, and any one of PHL 126, 210, or 276. Writing intensive course.
This course comprises an in-depth study of both classic and contemporary problems in social and political philosophy, with emphasis on developing a comprehensive understanding of the concept of justice and of its application to contemporary issues. This course is cross-listed as POL 370.

PHL 382 Business and Professional Ethics 3 hours
Prerequisites: PHL 126‚ BUS 266‚ LS 105‚ ENG 108.
A descriptive survey of ethical theories and perspectives common to all professions is the subject of this course. Students will engage in reflection on contemporary ethical approaches through case studies and selected readings, and conduct analysis of some major dilemmas in business and other professions.

PHL 395 Directed Study 1-3 hours
Prerequisites: ENG 108, LS 105, any one of PHL 126, 210, or 276, and permission of instructor by arrangement with the department.
This is a directed research course, to consist of a focused study of a student-selected topic in consultation with instructor. PHL 396 Philosophy of Religion 3 hours Prerequisites: LS 105, ENG 108, and any one of PHL 126 or 276. Among the topics to be studied in this class are: the meaning of God and the logic of God-talk; arguments for and against the existence of God; the peculiarity of religious language; critical views of religion as myth and as worldview.

PHL 491 Independent Study 1-3 hours
Prerequisites: LS 105, and ENG 108, PHL 126, 210, or 276, normally at least 12 hours in philosophy, permission of the instructor by arrangement with the department.
This is an advanced research course focused on a student selected topic in consultation with instructor.

PHL 496 Senior Research Project 3-4 hours
Prerequisites: Philosophy major; by arrangement with the department; completion of 21 credit hours in philosophy, including all other major requirements.
This is the capstone course in the philosophy major. Students will study and generate independent and original work on a substantive philosophical issue, and formally present their findings to students and faculty in a departmental or interdepartmental setting.