There couldn't be a better time to study philosophy than now! Faced with the many novel and potentially life-altering challenges of the new millennium, virtually all the traditional areas of philosophy are in the process of reinventing themselves. Even more, never have the traditional skills developed in the study of philosophy – formulating important questions clearly, evaluating responses to them critically, and proposing creative new solutions to them – been more important and valuable.
With the recent addition of four dynamic young teacher/scholars to our department (replacing retiring faculty members), the Department of Philosophy is ideally positioned to carry on our tradition of bringing the most rigorous and creative thought of past philosophy to bear upon the new problems of our contemporary world. Dr. Marco Nathan (Ph.D, Columbia) works on issues posed by recent advances in the biological sciences. Dr. Thomas Nail (Ph.D, Oregon) teaches and writes on issues involving human migration and its ecological, ethical, and political implications. Dr. Michael Brent (Ph.D, Columbia) pursues research concerning our understanding of human action and choice in light of recent advances in cognitive science. And Dr. Jeffrey Brown (Ph.D., Washington University; J.D., Vanderbilt) works at the intersection of law, ethics, and society, especially as they affect policies regarding human disabilities. They join our continuing faculty, who have established reputations in such areas as the contemporary relevance of ancient philosophy, ethical questions posed by advances in bio-medicine, the role of religious belief in the contemporary world, and newly emergent digital media (such as video games) in the arts. In all, we are a department deeply grounded in the historical tradition of philosophy and committed to bringing its methods and insights to bear upon the most significant issues of the 21st century.
The Department of Philosophy offers a diverse range of courses of study and other activities designed to engage undergraduate students in 'doing philosophy' together with graduate students and faculty. Recently, we have sponsored a very successful 'Bio-Ethics Bowl' Debate Team, hosted a 'Week of Jewish Philosophy' involving internationally recognized scholars, and offered a series of talks presenting the current work of our faculty. We also offer a variety of ways in which students and faculty can collaborate on philosophical projects, such as the Senior Thesis, Honors in Philosophy, and Partners in Scholarship. We also maintain an extensive network of connections with other departments; students often choose to pursue Philosophy as a double or second major. Maybe even more important, the Philosophy Department has served as a 'home away from home' for many students. Our friendly and 'open-door' department welcomes students to drop by, hang out, and interact with faculty in an informal and comfortable setting.
Why Study Philosophy?
There are good reasons why philosophy majors rank among the highest in acceptance rates to graduate programs (including the humanities, law, and even medicine) and why they often find careers in public policy, business, and technological fields. While the informational content in most other fields continually changes, the study of philosophy cultivates the indispensible abilities to analyze, interpret, evaluate, synthesize, and creatively respond to any body of data or information. Still, all of us in the Philosophy Department know that there is something else beyond these more practical considerations: studying philosophy also sometimes leads us to see something clearly for the first time, to understand ourselves in a completely new way, to give birth to an entirely new idea, or even to imagine undreamed-of new worlds.
I hope you will consider taking a class from one of our great instructors or just dropping by to visit with any of our faculty. We'll always be glad to see you and I think you'll be happy you did!
Jere Surber, chair