• emilie du chatelet anniversary event

Department News

tommie shelb's new book dark ghettos

Shelby's Dark Ghettos fills "normative gap" in discussions of urban poverty

December 8, 2016

In a country of obvious wealth—and one that purports to embrace the ideal of equality of opportunity for all of its citizens—why do American ghettos persist? Many theories have been advanced over the years to explain the persistence of American ghettos and various measures proposed and, occasionally, undertaken to address the problem of concentrated urban poverty. But for Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University, the social scientific discourse about the ghetto has been marked by a curious omission.

Susanna Rinard speaks at Res Philosophica Conference

Susanna Rinard speaks at Res Philosophica Conference

May 9, 2016

At the 2016 Res Philosophica Conference hosted by the Department of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, Professor Susanna Rinard delivered a talk on "Imprecise Probability and Higher Order Vagueness." The focus of this year's conference was "Bridging Formal and Traditional Epistemology."

Rinard's paper, which addresses problems in both orthodox Bayesian models and popular efforts to fix them, will appear in a special issue of the journal Res Philosophica.

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Graduate News

sadovsky and rabenberg

Rabenberg and Gura Sadovsky named Safra Graduate Fellows in Ethics

May 9, 2016

Michael Rabenberg and Ronni Gura Sadovsky will join the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics as Graduate Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year. As part of their year-long fellowship, the two will take part in the Center's weekly seminar, which brings together graduate students working in areas of practical ethics from across the university. This coming year, in addition to doctoral candidates in Philosophy, the Center's list of Graduate Fellows includes students in Environmental Studies and Geography, Health Policy, Modern European History, Religion, Sociology, and Education. 

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

brynn elliott

Three chords and some Kierkegaard

December 1, 2016

Kierkegaard and Sartre are to Brynn Elliott what Rimabaud and Blake were to Patti Smith: sources of deep musical inspiration. A junior philosophy concentrator, Elliott '18 is also a working musician, traveling on weekends to perform shows with her L.A. based band. But while some might find the demands of a music career and of being a philosophy concentrator overwhelming, as Professor Alison Simmons notes, "thinking through complex--and even some bizarre--ideas in class is Brynn's power source."

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.

Upcoming Events

2016 Dec 12

Emerson Hall Poetry Night

7:00pm

Location: 

Robbins Library of Philosophy, Emerson Hall 211

Join your fellow philosopher-poets in Robbins Library for an evening of familiar and original readings.

Refreshments will be served and guests are welcome. 

 

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.