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Department News

2018 prizes awarded

Carrier and Adams Prizes Announced

June 26, 2018
The Department of Philosophy is delighted to announce the winners of this year's Carrier and Adams Prizes, awarded annually to an undergraduate and graduate student. You can read more about the history of these prizes below. Congratulations to all of these deserving undergraduate and graduate students!
The recipients of this year's Carrier Prize are:
Theresa (Tez) Clark for her senior thesis, “Understanding Against the Evidence: On Believing What's Good over What's True”
... Read more about Carrier and Adams Prizes Announced
zoe jenkin

Zoe Jenkin award Bechtel Prize

May 30, 2018
Doctoral student Zoe Jenkin was recently awarded the Bechtel Prize by the Harvard University Department of Philosophy for her essay "The Epistemic Role of Core Cognition." The prize was established through the generosity of Edwin D. Bechtel and is awarded annually for the best essay on a philosophical subject. Read more about Zoe Jenkin award Bechtel Prize
sandy diehl

Sandy Diehl awarded Bowen Prize

May 30, 2018
Doctoral student Sandy Diehl was recently awarded the Bowen Prize by the Harvard University Department of Philosophy for his essay "Why Immanent Critique?" The prize, established in 1938 by a bequest from Miss Maria Bowen as a memorial to her father who held the Alford professorship of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity from 1853 to 1889, is awarded annually for the best essay upon a subject in moral or political philosophy. Read more about Sandy Diehl awarded Bowen Prize
simmons mendelsohn award

Alison Simmons receives Mendlesohn award for mentoring

May 14, 2018
The Graduate Student Council recently named Professor Alison Simmons as one of five recipients of the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award. This award, named for Professor emeritus in the History of Science Everett Mendelsohn, recognizes faculty members who have made distincitve and generous contributions towards the lives and scholarly development of their graduate advisees. Simmons has previously been recognized for the excellence of... Read more about Alison Simmons receives Mendlesohn award for mentoring
cover of no morality, no self

Doyle publishes "No Morality, No Self"

March 30, 2018

James Doyle, Lecturer in Philosophy at Harvard, has recently published No Morality, No Self: Anscombe's Radical Skepticism, which will be released in April through Harvard University Press.


Frequently cited and just as often disputed, Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958) and “The First Person” (1975) are touchstones of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. Though the arguments Anscombe advances in these papers are familiar to philosophers, their significance remains widely misunderstood,...

Read more about Doyle publishes "No Morality, No Self"
nyasha borde

Nyasha Borde receives Dean's Distinction

February 23, 2018
On Thursday, February 22, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael Smith announced this year's recipients of the Dean's Distinction award, honoring Faculty of Arts and Sciences staff members "whose contributions, citizenship, and skillful collaboration have delivered outstanding results for the FAS in 2017." Among the thirty-nine individuals recognized for their excellence was Department of Philosophy Coordinator Nyasha Borde.

Nyasha joined the department as Administrative Staff Assistant in May 2015 and very quickly established...
Read more about Nyasha Borde receives Dean's Distinction
wendy salkin

Wendy Salkin named 2018 Harvard Horizons Scholar

January 17, 2018
In December, Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences announced the appointment of eight graduate students to its Harvard Horizons Scholars programs. Among them was the Department of Philosophy's own Wendy Salkin. Salkin--who is also a Mellon Sawyer Fellow at Boston University this year where she participates in a series of seminars on the theme of “Humanities and Technology at the... Read more about Wendy Salkin named 2018 Harvard Horizons Scholar
to shape a new world cover

MLK and Civil Rights: Countering the Conventional Narrative

January 15, 2018
Professor Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy, and Brandon Terry, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies, have co-edited a new book on Martin Luther King, Jr. that challenges longstanding conventional narratives of King and of the Civil Rights Movement that have drained it of its radical political character.

As its title--To Shape a New World--makes clear... Read more about MLK and Civil Rights: Countering the Conventional Narrative
rationality of perception book cover

Susanna Siegel speaks on The Rationality of Perception at Brooklyn Public Library

December 14, 2017

On Wednesday, December 13th, Professor Susanna Siegel--Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard-- joined BPL Presents and Brooklyn Public Philosophers to share work from her recent book The Rationality of Perception. Siegel's book takes as its point of departure the truism that different people see the world differently and investigates whether, given this truth, perception itself be rational or irrational and, if so, how we can tell. As the...

Read more about Susanna Siegel speaks on The Rationality of Perception at Brooklyn Public Library
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.