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Upcoming Events

2018 Mar 02

Ethics of Belief Workshop

Fri - Sat, Mar 2 to Mar 3, 9:00am - 6:00pm


Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Professors Selim Berker and Susanna Rinard invite you to attend a workshop on the "Ethics of Belief" on March 2nd and 3rd. Speakers will include:

  • Stewart Cohen
  • Richard Foley
  • Pamela Hieronymi
  • Jim Joyce
  • Miriam McCormick
  • Conor McHugh
  • Kate Nolfi
  • Susanna Rinard

The workshop is free and open to all. Talks are not pre-read.

In addition to the speakers, commentators-at-large will include: Melissa Barry, Rima...

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2018 Mar 05

Harvard Review of Philosophy Annual Lecture: Dale Jamieson (NYU)

4:00pm to 6:00pm


Emerson 305
Dale Jamieson (NYU) will present the annual Harvard Review of Philosophy Lecture on Monday, March 5th in Emerson Hall Room 305. A reception in Robbins Library will follow.

Abstract:  It is now widely accepted that humans and non-humans are continuous with respect to sentience and other properties that may be regarded as sufficient for moral concern. To suppose otherwise is sometimes derided as requiring Homo Sapiens to have a moral immaculate conception that is scarcely believable. Yet, the idea that agency appeared in Homo Sapiens by... Read more about Harvard Review of Philosophy Annual Lecture: Dale Jamieson (NYU)

Department News

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

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 in spring

Tribute to Alex Patel '18

December 2, 2017
As the Department of Philosophy and the larger Harvard community continues to mourn the loss of Alex Patel, we wish to pay tribute to Alex’s memory by collecting testimonials from those who knew him. These testimonials will appear on our website until May, after which we will we will collect them into a bound hard copy to give to Alex’s family.

If you wish to contribute your thoughts, stories, or memories of Alex, please send them to...

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harvard memorial church

Remembering Alexander Patel '18

November 7, 2017

On Wednesday, November 8th at 7:30 pm there will be a memorial gathering in celebration of the life of Alexander Patel '18, a senior philosophy and mathematics concentrator. The gathering will take place in Memorial Church, with doors to the sanctuary opening at 6:30. Following the service, at 8:30 pm, the Adams House Faculty Deans will host a reception at their residence.

As many in our community have noted, Alex was more than just an exceptionally intelligent and highly accomplished student—he was a deeply caring and attentive friend who gave generously of himself to those...

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alexander prescott-couch

Prescott-Couch appointed associate professor at Oxford

October 6, 2017

Alexander Prescott-Couch (Harvard University, PhD 2015) has been appointed Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow, Lincoln College, Oxford University. Prior to his appointment, he had been a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT.

While at Harvard, Prescott-Couch worked with Ned Hall, Selim Berker, Philip Pettit, and Tommie Shelby. His dissertation, "Rational Reconstruction and the Construction of an Interlocutor," combined work in democratic theory and philosophy of science to explore how journalists and social scientists enable our understanding of others through the...

Read more about Prescott-Couch appointed associate professor at Oxford
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The UnMute Podcast talks with Wendy Salkin

October 3, 2017
The UnMute Podcast--a project of Myisha Cherry, a Fellow in Philosophy in the department and W.E.B. Du Bois Research Fellow at Harvard--speaks with PhD candidate Wendy Salkin about the powers and duties of informal representation in its latest podcast.
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.