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Philosophy

Philosophy is a practice at Hamilton, where your professors will encourage you to be engaged and to apply your training beyond the classroom. For instance, philosophy majors have developed and taught philosophy mini-classes to their peers and to local high school students.

Jackson Graves '16 in a philosophy class taught by Professor Bob Simon
Jackson Graves '16, center, in a philosophy class taught by Professor of Philosophy Bob Simon and Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Theresa Lopez.

A student’s aspiration: early law school at Columbia

The open curriculum and chance to shape his education himself drew Jackson Graves ’16 to Hamilton College. So did the breadth and depth of opportunity the College offered for improving his communication skills. Graves is a philosophy major who is pursing a program through Hamilton that would enable him to start Columbia Law School in what would have been his senior year.

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“When I first started to study philosophy it was never an attempt to create a career path, it was just more of a developing interest that I had personally,” Graves says. “And as I began to study philosophy that interest also became coupled with the skills that you, I guess, develop just as a byproduct of doing that work: not only being able to communicate in a more sharp and clear way but being able to approach problems in situations with a clear mind and perhaps see solutions that you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

He took two gap years to do a church mission and volunteer work in Ireland and Scotland, and it was during that time that he began to think about the law as a way to help people. Graves is interested in education law but wants to explore more possibilities. “The first thing I want to do is find my passion and the work that accompanies that,” he says.

A graduate’s progress: writing for the Washington-Post

When Sean Sullivan ’07 spent a semester in Hamilton College’s New York City program and interned at ABC News Production, he was en route to a career. The internship led to another the following summer with ABC News “Nightline.” "And that's where I fell in love with journalism. There was never a dull day. And I felt like we were telling important stories that people needed to see. It was hard work, but a really great experience,” says Sullivan, who went on to a number of journalism jobs and now covers national politics for “The Fix,” a Washington Post politics blog.

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Sullivan majored in philosophy, a decision inspired by his  Technology and Alienation class with Richard Werner, the John Stewart Kennedy professor of philosophy.

“That sealed the deal for me. We had some great discussions in the technology and alienation class and looked at philosophy through the lens of film. It opened my eyes and showed me that philosophy really isn't this arcane subject area – it's about all the everyday things we do,” Sullivan says.

His studies have come in handy.  “Being a student of philosophy is about thinking critically, and doing a lot of reading and writing. Which is a lot of what I do in my job now,” he says.