Politics is often defined as the “authoritative allocation of values for a society.” Political scientists try to understand how systems of value allocation work. Do these systems distribute the values of the majority, of the party, of an elite? Do these systems distribute values fairly? Are they distributed according to the rules of the political system? What political scientists do not do well is decide who has the best values, which is left to philosophy. Philosophy is a quest: it the search for wisdom through analytical thinking about right and wrong, beauty, knowledge and existence.
At one time, politics and philosophy were the same discipline because we believed that the quest for wisdom should be integral to the quest for good governance. These fields split when early social scientists decided that a science of politics should be objective, which defies taking a stance on normative questions.
In the Department of Politics and Philosophy we give students the opportunity to study these disciplines in their contemporary forms — as degree programs in political science and philosophy. But we bring these fields together by giving students the opportunity to study in a community of students who are eager to understand themselves, our nation and the world, to serve the public interest and to articulate values for a better society.