College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Philosophy Program - College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Philosophy Program


What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental problems that confront human existence. These are problems that have occupied the great thinkers of all cultures at least since the beginning of civilization.

Among the central philosophical problems are questions concerning the nature of human knowledge. Are there any claims to knowledge that are completely certain or can a skeptic always raise doubts concerning what we claim to know? 


Attempting to answer such questions has given rise to rationalism, empiricism, common sense, and other theories about the nature of knowledge.

Another major area of philosophical enquiry concerns the nature of reality.Here philosophers have tried to account for reality in terms of the relation between consciousness and the material world.Enquiries in to this area have given rise to the views of dualism, materialism, idealism, and other theories. A related area is the nature of the self and personal identity. Do we have a self? What is it composed of? Does it change over time, or does it stay the same? And if it changes, does that mean that we are no longer the same person we were before the change? Does it make sense to say the self could survive death?

These considerations provide a bridge to the philosophy of religion. Philosophers working in this area are concerned with the claims of religion and especially with those concerning the existence of God. Many people claim to know that God exists. But what is the basis of their claims? Has anyone ever seen God? And if some one claims to have seen or experienced God, how can he or she argue convincingly that the experience is not merely an instance of wish fulfillment or a hallucination?

Also of concern is the nature of social relations. Work in this area often focuses on the nature of political structures. What is a good social order? What are the foundations of political power, rights, and duties? Or a philosopher may be concerned with issues about personal relations, such the distinction between friendship and love, or the nature of love or sexual desire.

 Related to these questions are those concerning ethical and aesthetic values. For although most people seem to believe in the existence of good and evil or beauty, it is not at all clear what such concepts refer to. Do such values have an objective existence or are they merely expressions of personal preference? Further, ethics only seems to make sense if our choices are free. But how could we possibly have free choice when each event, including each choice, seems determined by a previous event?

From this it should be clear that although these questions are ones that have occupied the great thinkers, they are also ones that most people have struggled with in someway at sometime in their lives. In this sense, philosophy and philosophical problems are part of everyone's existence. The difference, however, between the philosopher and the non-philosopher is that the philosopher approaches these questions in a careful, systematic, and un-dogmatic way. This also shows the basic role that critical thinking and logic play in philosophy. 


Philosophy at the University of Guam

Though part of the United States, Guam has a geography, history, and culture that are radically distinct from the mainland. Guam lies at the heart of Micronesia, a scattering of tropical islands stretching across the Western Pacific. An island of jungles and white-sand beaches, Guam was originally settled by the ancient Chamorros and later colonized by the Spanish. Guam was then taken over by the Americans in the Spanish-American War, occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, and returned to American control in 1944.

These events, along with a large immigration from East Asia, South-East Asia, and other Pacific islands, has given Guam a rich blending of cultural traditions. For the student who wants to study Western philosophy, but also wants to get a good grounding in non-Western thought, the University of Guam is situated in the ideal cultural setting.  Here Western, Eastern, and Pacific thought traditions are part of the living cultural milieu, a milieu that gives its distinct flavor to what is the foremost metropolitan of the Western Pacific. Also, Guam lies within a few hours flight time of the major East and South-East Asian cultural centers. This makes both the Philosophy Program's guided Travel Studies in Asia and independent visits to Asia an exciting option for many students.

Further, the philosophy faculty members have a wide range of research and teaching expertise including English-speaking analytic philosophy, ancient Greek, European, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Micronesian philosophy. In addition to the regular course offerings the philosophy program also offers courses on selected topics in both Western and Asian philosophy. Some of the courses given under these headings have included, Existentialism, Taoism, Buddhist Philosophy, Jain Philosophy, The Philosophy of Zen Buddhism, Environmental Ethics, and The Philosophy of Sexuality. For students with a keen interest there is also the option of doing a senior year thesis in these or other areas. Students can choose to do a major in philosophy or can combine philosophy with other studies, such as anthropology, history, or psychology.

The University of Guam also has an active student exchange program and is used to accommodating both foreign students and students from the US mainland. For the adventurous student from abroad who wants to spend a year, or even a full degree, studying philosophy in one of the most exotic locations in the US, the philosophy program at the University of Guam provides the ideal opportunity.


Philosophy Faculty

Dr. James Sellmann
Professor of Philosophy, Dean
PhD, Philosophy, University of Hawaii

Dr. Michael Hemmingsen
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
PhD, Philosophy, McMaster University


Other faculty with interests in philosophy

Dr Christopher Schreiner
Associate Professor of English
PhD, Literature and Philosophical Criticism
Pennsylvania State University 


For further information on the Philosophy Program contact

Dr. Michael Hemmingsen
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
PhD, Philosophy, McMaster University
T: (671) 735-2818


Or contact the Humanistic Studies

Division Secretary, Julie Cruz
Telephone: (671) 735-2800




The philosophy program has three goals. First, the philosophy program has an obligation to inform students of the fundamental problems and central individuals that have dominated the field of philosophy for the last three millennia. Second, it attempts to develop reflective and critical thinking skills that can be applied to the aforementioned problems as well as problems generated in other areas of study. Presumably, these skills are to be carried with the student long after they leave the university, to be used as valuable reasoning skills that will assist them in future endeavors. Third, the program tries to expose students to the cultures and ways of thinking found in all parts of the world. Philosophy attempts to unearth the basic presuppositions that underlie a particular culture and then contrast them with other presuppositions inherent in different cultures. It is on this fundamental level that one can truly come to understand the unique way that individuals in each culture approach life and attempt to address the perennial problems that life presents them.



Required Courses (15 credit hours): PI101, 210, 301, 302 and either PI102 or PI103

Electives (21 credit hours); any philosophy course, of which 15 credits must be upper division.



Required Courses (12 credit hours): PI101, 210, 301, 302.

Electives (6 credit hours): Upper division Philosophy (PI) courses.


Degree Program Requirements