Faculty News

Benjamin Bagley receives Teaching Award

Benjamin Bagley receives Teaching Award

March 30, 2016

Lecturer on Philosophy Benjamin Bagley has received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University for his work in Phil 13: Morality and Its Critics. Bagley, who is in the second year of his lectureship in the department, completed his PhD at the University of North Carolina in 2013, where his work focused on normative ethics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of action. Prior to joining the department as Lecturer, Bagley was a postdoctoral fellow at Vassar College.

Cogan University Professor Emeritus Hilary Putnam (1926-2016)

Cogan University Professor Emeritus Hilary Putnam (1926-2016)

March 15, 2016

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, the world and our department lost one of contemporary philosophy's great voices, Hilary Putnam. Hilary's contributions to philosophy were both broad and deep, and his way of philosophizing and of being in the world were marked by intense self-scrutiny, immense generosity, and genuine kindness. It will take us time to come to terms with this loss and to find words appropriate to take the measure of his life.

In the mean time, we invite you to read the moving tributes to Hilary that have already appeared and that can be  accessed at the links below.

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Graduate News

kate vredenburgh

Kate Vredenburgh receives Derek C Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates

April 14, 2016

Doctoral student Kate Vredenburgh has received one of the five Derek C Bok Awards for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates awarded in 2016. This marks the second year in a row that a graduate student in the Department of Philosophy has won this prestigious award. The award includes a $1,000 prize from a gift given by David G. Nathan ’51, M.D. ’55 (Robert A. Stranahan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School) and his wife Jean Louise Friedman Nathan.

bok center logo

Philosophy Graduate Students Receive Teaching Awards

March 30, 2016

Eight graduate students in the Department of Philosophy have received Certificates for Teaching Excellence from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University. The students, and the courses for which they were awarded these certificates, are:

Rachel Achs (Phil 3)

Olivia Bailey (Phil 98)

Ewa Bigaj (EMR 17)

James Bondarchuk (Phil 97)

Lauren Davidson (Freshman Seminar 33F)

Sandy Diehl (Phil 34)

Lauren Kopajtic (Phil 98)

Ronni Sadovsky (Phil 179)

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Undergraduate News

garrett lam

Garrett Lam '16 named Rhodes Scholar

March 29, 2016

Garrett Lam '16, a native of Wellesley, MA and a joint concentrator in philosophy and neurobiology, has been named one of thirty-two Rhodes Scholars for 2016, and one of five Harvard seniors to receive the award. Lam, who is also editor-in-chief of The Harvard Review of Philosophy and Executive Editor of the Harvard Crimson, plans to spend his time at Oxford studying philosophy with a focus on issues of free will, moral responsibility, and punishment.

rebecca panovka

Rebecca Panovka '16 named Marshall Scholar

March 23, 2016

Rebecca Panovka '16, a joint concentrator in Philosophy and English, is one of two Harvard University seniors to be awarded Marshall Scholarships for 2016. While at Harvard, Panovka, a native of New York City, has served as editor of the Harvard Book Review and The Harvard Advocate’s 150th Anniversary Anthology. In addition, she has held internships with The Paris Review and is currently editing a documentary filmed in South Africa in 2015. 

emerson hall entrance

We are the home of James, Whitehead, Quine, and Rawls, but we aren't stuck in the past.

We are the home of Gertrude Stein, W. E. B. DuBois, and T. S. Eliot because we aren't simply a training ground for future philosophers.

Today we are home to a distinguished faculty of nearly forty women and men, working in a variety of areas, crossing disciplinary boundaries, and ranging from early career academics to esteemed emeriti/ae.  We are home to more than 100 intellectually curious and talented undergraduate and graduate students.  And, every year, we are home to visiting scholars from around the world.

We are also the home of ideas, of diverse and sometimes divergent views on the nature of mind, on what our ethical and political responsibilities are, and even on what it means to do philosophy.

We are home to all of these things and more because diversity and inclusivity matter to us.

Where is your home?  Whether you are interested in taking an elective, declaring a concentration, or pursuing doctoral study, we invite you to consider making your home with us.

student thinking

Philosophy is a lifelong apprenticeship in thinking, so the not-so-simple answer is that we teach "thinking."

Since "thinking" is a broad field indeed, it should come as no surprise that philosophers think about virtually everything.  This includes thinking about very large questions on topics widely shared by human beings across time and space:

What kind of life should we live?
What kind of society should we want?
What makes one system of belief better than another?
What are the limits of human knowledge?

As well as thinking about questions that arise in particular fields, such as law, economics, mathematics, the physical sciences, psychology, art, and religion.

Philosophers seek to think about these questions in a systematic, explicit, and rigorous way, not simply to arrive at answers but to understand better just what is being asked in the first place.

students discussing

Given philosophy's special focus on thinking, it might seem obvious why philosophy matters.

Because the ability to think rigorously, analytically, synthetically, and creatively is a useful ability in any field, studying philosophy is actually one of the most marketable degrees you can pursue.

But philosophy matters for more than just securing a career.

Because it increases our understanding of ourselves, philosophy helps make us more thoughtful, engaged members of our various societies while also broadening our understanding of the various ways of being and thinking that humans have and, historically, have had available to them.

Philosophy matters, then, because it places us in a conversation, one begun more than two millennia ago and continuing into the present, a conversation involving people of varying cultures and in which we are as subject to their questions as they are to ours.