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Philosophy

The goal of Hamilton's Philosophy Department is to encourage students to trace great thinkers and timeless ideas through the ages, while at the same time exploring current issues and the means we use to understand them in our own lives.

The Philosophy Department sees philosophy as a practice, and to that end we encourage active student engagement in our courses. Most classes require students to give group or individual presentations, participate actively in discussions or debates, and present course material in paper presentations or independent projects. Several classes require students to demonstrate their mastery of course material in individual or team oral exams.

We encourage students to take their philosophical training out of the classroom by supporting service and experiential learning.  Recently, philosophy concentrators have developed and taught philosophy mini-classes to middle and high school students and to other Hamilton students. Students have also undertaken group independent projects in non-violent direct action and radical pedagogy. We encourage our concentrators to think creatively about what philosophy is, and how it may (or may not) demand practical action.

The Truax fund allows the department to hire up-and-coming new scholars as postdoctoral fellows, allowing our students to benefit from the latest philosophical research and trends in the country’s best graduate schools.  The fund also supports other visiting scholars, speakers, and conferences that bring some of the most prominent names in philosophy to campus and into philosophy classes.  The Truax fund has supported talks and classroom visits by Nancy Bauer, Anne O’Byrne, Simon Blackburn, Ian Hacking, and Richard Rorty.  It has allowed the department to host a conference on realisms with Blackburn, Hilary Putnam, Ruth Anna Putnam, Michael Lynch, Russ Shaefer-Landau, and Mary Kate McGowan.

Our introductory classes are small and require that students read primary sources, rather than already-digested material in textbooks.  We believe that it is important that students learn to read philosophical texts early, and we require concentrators to take three courses in the history of philosophy—from ancient through contemporary philosophy— to achieve that end.

The department also encourages junior and even sophomore concentrators to take 400 level seminars, so our concentrators are introduced early to graduate-level seminar-style classes.

Every year we have several concentrators who have papers published in undergraduate philosophy journals or accepted for presentation at undergraduate conferences, and the department is committed to helping students attend professional conferences.  In the last few years, Professor Russell Marcus has taken students to professional conferences on experimental philosophy and on philosophy of mind.  The department has also hosted undergraduate and professional philosophy conferences , which have given student concentrators opportunity to present original work and learn about the logistics of scholarly conference planning.

Philosophy faculty members are dedicated teachers and creative scholars who, above all, are committed to finding the particular talents that a student has and helping her or him develop them.

Cupola