• in memoriam hubert l dreyfus
  • harvard mit 2017 conference poster
  • whitehead lecture 2017 announcement
  • 2017 prize announcement

Department News

sean kelly and cheryl chen

Sean Kelly and Cheryl Chen named faculty deans of Dunster House

April 25, 2017

Philosophy department faculty members Sean Kelly and Cheryl Chen have been named the new faculty deans of Dunster House, one of the twelve undergraduate residence houses at Harvard and "one of the first two dormitories constructed under President Lowell's House Plan." First opened in 1930, Dunster House recently underwent a 15-month long renewal …

Patricia Marechal awarded Derek C Bok Award

Patricia Marechal awarded Derek C Bok Award

April 25, 2017

The Department of Philosophy is proud to announce that Patricia Marechal is one of five recipients in 2017 of the Derek C Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates.  The Graduate School announced the establishment of the Derek C. Bok Awards for Excellence in the Teaching of Undergraduates in 2008.  These awards are made possible by an endowment gift from Jean F. Nathan and David G. Nathan ('51, M.D. '55).  Five awards of $1,000 each are offered annually.


hubert dreyfus

In Memoriam: Hubert L. Dreyfus (1929-2017)

April 25, 2017

Hubert Dreyfus, a renowned philosopher and a professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley for almost 50 years, died early Saturday morning. He was 87 years old.

Dreyfus studied philosophy at Harvard, arriving from Terre Haute, Indiana as a freshman in the fall of 1947. He received his B.A. with highest honors in 1951, completing an undergraduate thesis in the philosophy of physics under what he once described as the none-too-strenuous supervision of Quine. He stayed at Harvard for graduate work in philosophy, receiving an M.A. in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1964.

question and answer logo

Q&A with Senior Thesis Writer: Jonathan Slifkin

March 20, 2017

What is the subject of your thesis?

I am writing my thesis on a topic in the history of legal philosophy. To put it as briefly as possible, I am offering a new interpretation of the debate between two of the most influential legal philosophers of the 20th century (H. L. A. Hart and John Finnis) by tracing it to its heretofore unrecognized roots in the philosophy of social science.

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.