• prize winners 2017
  • in memoriam hubert l dreyfus

Department News

2017 prize announcement

Student prizes awarded for 2016-17

June 12, 2017

The Department of Philosophy recently announced the winners for the Bechtel, Bowen, Carrier, and Adams awards for 2016-17.

The Bechtel Prize is funded through the generosity of Edwin Bechtel and is awarded to a graduate and undergraduate annually for the best essays on any philosophical subject. The Bowen Prize was established in 1938 by a bequest from Miss Maria Bowen as a memorial to her father, Francis Bowen, who held the Alford professorship of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity from 1853 to 1889. A graduate and undergraduate prize is conferred annually Read more about Student prizes awarded for 2016-17

edmond j safra center logo

Graduate students named Edmond J Safra Graduate Fellows for 2017-18

May 18, 2017

Two of the department's graduate students were recently named Edmond J Safra Graduate Fellows for the 2017-18 academic year. Diana Acosta-Navas and Noel Dominguez will join six other Safra Graduate Fellows in the fall. In addition to working on their research projects, the fellows will particpate in a weekly seminar devoted to the reading of selected works in moral and political philosophy and discussion of "research problems and strategies common to the study of practical and professional ethics." The Department of Philosophy offers its warm congratulations to Diana and Noel.

Read more about Graduate students named Edmond J Safra Graduate Fellows for 2017-18
Sen receives Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science

Sen receives Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science

May 9, 2017

Thomas W Lamont University Professor Amartya Sen has been awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. Sen was awarded the prize for a body of scholarship that "combines insights into human vulnerability with knowledge about the potential of democratic political power to redress and relieve this deprivation." The award ceremony will take place on September 30, 2017 in Uppsala, Sweden and will be accompanied by a public lecture.

The Department of Philosophy congratulates Professor Sen on receiving this well-deserved award.

cover of the philosophical imagination

Moran publishes The Philosophical Imagination

May 9, 2017

Brian D Young Professor of Philosophy Richard Moran has published a collection of essays entitled The Philosophical Imagination (Oxford UP, 2017).

The essays in the collection explore a range of philosophical topics—aesthetics, philosophy of mind and action, and moral psychology—drawing together topics that are often treated in isolation. Moran's book, which will be available in June, takes a keen interest in the role the imagination plays in "our Read more about Moran publishes The Philosophical Imagination

Alumni panel highlights philosophy's versatility and value

Alumni panel highlights philosophy's versatility and value

April 28, 2017

"If you are an economics major you probably won't be re-reading Milton Friedman in twenty years. That's not true of philosophy." That was just one of the many reasons for studying philosophy given by the panel of five alumni that met in Robbins Library on March 31st. Organized by Head Tutor Cheryl Chen, the alumni panel presented the 22 undergraduate students in attendance with an opportunity to hear from former philosophy concentrators at every stage of their careers, from those just starting out to recent Read more about Alumni panel highlights philosophy's versatility and value

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 project Read more about Sean Kelly and Cheryl Chen named faculty deans of Dunster House

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.

celine leboeuf

Céline Leboeuf (PhD 2016) to join Penn State as Mellon Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar

April 24, 2017

During the 2017-2018 academic year, Céline Leboeuf—currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Florida International University—will join the Department of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar. In February of 2017, the philosophy department at Penn State announced its receipt of an Read more about Céline Leboeuf (PhD 2016) to join Penn State as Mellon Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar

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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.