Phillip Washburn


Clinical Professor of Liberal Studies

Ph.D., Columbia University

M.A., Columbia University

B.A., Wake Forest University

Course(s) Taught: Social Foundations I, II, & III

Teaching Statement:

My goal in each class is to create a place where students can discover what they think about important questions. The questions are supplied by great works of philosophy, history, religion, and politics.

For example, Job in the Hebrew Bible asks why God lets innocent people suffer. The Buddha asks how people can escape from suffering.

    Plato asks if it pays to be moral.
    Aquinas asks if doing the right thing is always doing what is natural.
    Machiavelli asks how political leaders really get ahead.
    Descartes asks if we could be mistaken about everything, including our own thoughts.
    Rousseau asks if we can be free while obeying all the rules of a modern society.
Marx asks why the people who work hardest have the least money.

We examine the writers’ answers and talk about whether we can agree with them or not. Some students do agree and others do not, and the best discussions occur when students with different perspectives explain their points of view. My job is to explain difficult ideas, ask further questions, and make connections among students’ comments.


  • The Vocabulary of Critical Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2009
  • Philosophical Dilemmas: A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions, Oxford University Press, 2007
  • The Many Faces of Wisdom (Editor), Prentice Hall, 2002

Updated on 11/08/2016