A statement 250 words or less which I wrote for a new “landing site” for the Philosophy program on the AMU website:
Philosophy, or “the love of wisdom,” is the systematic study of the most fundamental reasons for things by the light of human reason. Because it studies the most fundamental reasons, philosophy is set apart from the particular natural sciences, each of which can only probe as deep as the basic reasons within that particular discipline. Because philosophy studies these things by the light of human reason, it is set apart from theology, which relies essentially on truths revealed by God. Finally, because philosophy investigates things in a systematic way, it differs from “bull sessions” or “shooting the breeze.” True philosophy is rigorous and precise.
Philosophical questions include: Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the meaning of life? What are the basic laws of thought? Why should we do what is right? What can we know with certainty to be true? Does God exist, and what is His nature? Do human beings have genuine freedom? Is the human soul immortal?
By “the light of human reason” we understand not the human reason of an individual but rather human reason as exemplified in an intellectual tradition. No one thinks solely on his own; everyone is part of a school or movement, whether he knows it or not. At Ave Maria University, we freely situate ourselves within the Catholic philosophical tradition, because of its harmony with the Catholic faith; because of its proven soundness and fruitfulness; and because of its aspirations to synthesis and its openness to truth in general.