Undergraduate

Head Tutor's Office

emily ware

As the Department Coordinator, Emily is a great resource if you have any questions about program requirements, department procedures, or events happening within the department.  Emily is always happy to chat, so please feel free to stop by Emerson 303 to say hello!

paul marcucilli

Paul is a 5th-year graduate student in the department, with interests in epistemology and philosophy of mind. As Assistant Head Tutor, he's available to discuss any questions you might have about the concentration--what classes to take, whether to write a thesis, or just what it's like to concentrate in philosophy. You can stop by his office hours or email him (paulmarcucilli@fas.harvard.edu) to schedule a meeting.

Office hours for members of the Head Tutor's Office are by appointment only.

To make an appointment please use the following link.

cheryl chen

Cheryl Chen received her Ph.D. in philosophy from UC Berkeley and taught at Bryn Mawr College before coming to Harvard in 2006. She works mainly in epistemology and the philosophy of mind, though she also has interests in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, the history of philosophy, and applied ethics. Research topics include: transcendental arguments, the relation between perception and belief, first person thought, the epistemology of religious experience, and the passage of time.

Office hours for members of the Head Tutor's Office are by appointment only.

To make an appointment please use the following link.

Sean Kelly earned an Sc.B. in Mathematics and Computer Science and an M.S. in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from Brown University in 1989. After several years as a graduate student in Logic and Methodology of Science, he finally received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. He taught in Philosophy and the Humanities at Stanford and in Philosophy and Neuroscience at Princeton before joining the Harvard Faculty in 2006. His work focuses on various aspects of the philosophical, phenomenological, and cognitive neuroscientific nature of human experience. This gives him a broad forum: recent work has addressed, for example, the experience of time, the possibility of demonstrating that monkeys have blindsighted experience, and the understanding of the sacred in Homer. He has taught courses on 20th century French and German Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Perception, Imagination and Memory, Aesthetics, and Philosophy of Literature.

Office hours for members of the Head Tutor's Office are by appointment only.

To make an appointment please use the following link.

Welcome to the Department of Philosophy!

Whether you are considering an undergraduate concentration in philosophy or exploring a personal interest in the subject, we hope you will find the department a welcoming and stimulating place.

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy  studies many of humanity’s fundamental questions. Some of these questions arise when we reflect on the most basic and most widely shared elements of human experience:

  • what kind of life should we live?
  • what kind of society should we want?
  • what makes one system of belief better than another? Its being more rational?
  • what are the limits of human knowledge?  

Whether in the street, court, classroom, or lab, we often assume implicit answers to these questions. Some of those answers, and even the questions themselves, are the product of a centuries-old philosophical tradition that has shaped and reshaped our society and culture. Philosophy seeks to reflect on these questions and answers in a systematic, explicit, and rigorous way—by studying the tradition, relying on careful argumentation, and drawing from outside fields as diverse as economics, literature, religion, law, mathematics, the physical sciences, and psychology. Those fields raise philosophical questions of their own:

  • does neuroscience show us that we lack free will?
  • how should we interpret quantum mechanics?
  • what is the source of political rights? what are the limits and obligations of the state?
  • when and why is punishment justified? how should a constitution be interpreted?
  • what is beauty? are there “objective” standards for works of art?

Philosophical questions are everywhere. If you find yourself drawn to them, studying philosophy in college is likely the best opportunity in your life to address them. In fact, many concentrators find their way into philosophy from other disciplines, where they encounter interdisciplinary or foundational questions that can only be addressed through philosophical reflection. And given the small size of the department, concentrators have to the rare opportunity to closely engage with dedicated faculty at the top of their fields.

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