While literally meaning "the love of wisdom," philosophy is the most ancient of academic disciplines. Fundamentally, philosophy is about understanding and analyzing arguments, determining whether a particular claim has relevant evidence provided for it, whether the evidence is logically related to the claim, and thus whether the claim is true, false, indeterminate, or as yet unsubstantiated. Philosophy also continuously exposes and evaluates the often hidden assumptions on which claims are based. While many disciplines claim to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills, philosophy is the one area that literally specializes in such skills.

A major in philosophy/religious studies combines two disciplines that focus on questions of human existence and examine ways in which the traditions of philosophy and religion have answered those questions. You are encouraged to think creatively and critically, to evaluate major texts and issues in the history of philosophy, and to consider challenges and contemporary perspectives. The religious studies program at Millsaps College incorporates study of the Judaic-Christian sources of Western religions as well as religious traditions from across the globe.

  • Theodore Gerald Ammon—Millsaps College

    Theodore G. Ammon

    Associate Professor of Philosophy

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    B.A., Mississippi State University; M.A., Ph.D., Washington University

    "I love teaching Philosophy, and I have been doing so for decades. But Philosophy is not really practical, is it? I mean to say: it isn’t exactly USEFUL, is it, in the big scheme of things? Well, there’s the rub, because it is precisely the big scheme of things with which I concern myself. What does it mean to exist? What is the purpose of living and how does one live a good life? How do we know what we know? These questions and others are chased around the block everyday of our lives in one way or other. How do we “chase” them in the Philosophy Department at Millsaps College? In our courses, obviously, but more specifically through the dialectical method of question & answer—a method some call the Socratic Method. And indeed many of us look back to Socrates for clues to conducting ourselves as Philosophers. So, come to Millsaps and take a Philosophy course—you have my assurance that you won’t regret doing so.

    "Oh yeah, and there is this stuff: Theodore (Ted) G. Ammon was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and attended Mississippi State University intending to be a civil engineer but graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy and English. My graduate work at Washington University in St. Louis resulted in an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy. I have taught at Millsaps College since 1985. Awarded the Distinguished Professor Award in 1992, I continue to teach with great enthusiasm and to publish occasionally in a variety of areas. My publications include the book Conversations With William H. Gass and articles in the areas of moral theory, mathematics, philosophy & literature and the history of philosophy. I’ve been married 40 years, have two children and two grandchildren.

    "I wish all and sundry to note that my grandchildren are the brightest and most beautiful, that Jimi Hendrix rules electric guitar, and that my 1956 Dodge Coronet (with push-button transmission) is surely the classiest car on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi. And yes, I still collect and play vinyl."

  • Kristen Brown Golden—Millsaps College

    Kristen Brown Golden

    Associate Professor of Philosophy

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    B.A., Stanford University; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

    "My current interest in philosophy and the academy is interdisciplinary, and interdisciplinary work is at the core of my Philosophy of Happiness course. Many think they know what happiness is, but classic philosophers and contemporary scientists continue to disagree about it. Some questions my happiness course raises and explores include: Is happiness an emotion or feeling (the viewpoint of many current investigators)? If so, does it mean the joyous insane person is happy? Is the pleased serial killer happy? Or, is happiness the activity of a flourishing life of moderation, as some Greek philosophers believe? Or something else? Why?

    "In Philosophy of Violence we look at war theory and at pain theory and we apply them to current world problems. Students single out plausible theories and discern how they fare in explaining pertinent issues. Dilemmas we study include the ethics of drone technology and the psychological effects of combat violence and domestic violence.

    "In all classes I welcome current research and empirical data. We read texts by psychiatrists, anthropologists, and journalists, in addition to philosophers. We ask broad questions. Students are asked to apply largely framed ideas to narrowed fields of reasoning and data. For example: Is post-traumatic stress syndrome a cross-cultural fact? The results might surprise you."

  • Patrick Hopkins

    Patrick Hopkins

    Professor of Philosophy

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    B.A., University of Mississippi; M.A., Ph.D., Washington University

    "I'm a philosopher and what's called a moral psychologist (that's not a good psychologist, haha, but someone who studies moral cognition). I teach courses in medical ethics, business ethics, philosophy of mind, psychopathology, and the psychology and neuroscience of morality. I'm also a professor at the medical school nearby where I work with their Bioethics Center and the Psychiatry Department, and I take students over there for projects all the time. You want to work on a research project about medicine, neurotechnologies, psychopaths? Hit me up. I also love science fiction, gaming, and crossfit/weightlifting, so if I'm not killing darkspawn in Thedas, I'm doing drop-set bicep curls in the campus gym."

  • Steven Smith

    Steven G. Smith

    Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies; Jennie Carlisle Golding Chair in Philosophy

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    B.A., Florida State University; M.A., Vanderbilt University; Ph.D., Duke University

    "I have the good fortune to belong to two great departments, philosophy and religious studies. There's an endlessly interesting interaction between the things I learn in these two fields, but my purposes are quite distinct: in philosophy I want to see what can be figured out just by the free exercise of reason, while in religious studies I deal with the experiences, practices, and spiritually potent thoughts of actual individuals and historical communities.

    "My specialty is philosophy of religion, but in the liberal arts college context I've had the opportunity to explore and teach in many related subjects, including the history of Western philosophy; philosophy of human nature; ethics; aesthetics and philosophy of film; religion and science; religious ethics; and the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thought. My historical and cultural awareness has grown immensely as a result of teaching in the Millsaps humanities core, both in the Heritage program and in the Topics course sequence.

    "I teach because I want to learn and be in conversation, especially about viable ideal standards of realness and goodness. (Platonic Forms? Perhaps!) Outside of active inquiry, knowledge isn't alive. Outside of conversation, ideas are dull and untrustworthy. One has to test one's understanding of anything by trying to share it with others. Together we have to test the way we live by trying to apply our best ideas. For me, every class is a fellowship dedicated to these principles."