The goal of the Philosophy Department is to work with students to develop the skills of critical analysis, powerful speaking, and clear writing, skills alumni find of singular practical use in a wide variety of careers, and indispensable to their work as responsible citizens. We emphasize the value of philosophical examination for understanding broad issues that concern us all.
About the Major
At Hamilton, philosophy professors encourage students to engage actively in classes. Our small introductory classes focus on primary sources rather than predigested material in textbooks. All courses invite students to participate in collaborative conversations, with emphases on developing clear writing and presentation skills. Philosophy majors apply their training beyond the classroom through experiential learning projects or by participating in our exciting summer program. Visiting speakers bring some of the most prominent names in philosophy to campus and into our classrooms.
Students Will Learn To:
Explain a range of philosophical views, historical and contemporary
Identify philosophical problems in philosophy, other academic disciplines, or outside the academy
Formulate their own views about philosophical problems in conversation with other philosophical works
Defend those views cogently in writing and in speech
A Sampling of Courses
Examines the appropriate relation of humans to the environment. Specific topics include ways of conceptualizing nature; the ethical and social sources of the environmental crisis; our moral duties to non-human organisms; and the ethical dimensions of the human population explosion. The goal is to help students arrive at their own reasoned views on these subjects and to think about the consequences of everyday actions, both personal and political. Preference given to environmental studies majors and minors, starting with seniors.
Explore these select courses:
How ought we to live our lives? How ought we to treat other people? What features of an action make it right or wrong? What are the character traits make a person good or bad? We will examine three major traditions in ethical theory: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. And we will discuss some applied questions concerning the morality of abortion, affluence and poverty, war, pornography, climate change, and the treatment of non-human animals. We will explore questions of moral motivation. We will read primary texts.
What is a self? Does each person have one? Does each person have only one? How is the self related to the soul? Is it unchanging or in constant flux? What is the relationship between the self and the body? Examination of personal identity, the self and the soul as these topics are addressed in traditional philosophical texts, literature and the natural and behavioral sciences.
A study of justice within the history of ethical theory, including developments and debates among Humean, consequentialist, and deontological perspectives. We pay special attention to aid (when are we required to help others in need?) and distributive justice (what constitutes a fair distribution of goods and resources?), discussing theories from Dworkin, Rawls, Sen, and Nussbaum. The course concludes with a unit on the capabilities approach to distributive justice, which introduces basic questions about the requirements for living a good and happy human life.
It makes sense to see morality as adaptive, yet from an evolutionary perspective it’s puzzling that we follow and enforce moral standards even when it is costly for us to do so. This course will critically examine different sorts of evolutionary accounts of morality (e.g. group selection, cultural evolution), with methodological issues in mind.
Hamilton students take on unique projects that reflect their talents and interests. In many cases, they collaborate with faculty mentors on this work, which often leads to co-authored papers, joint presentations at professional conferences, and professors mentoring students during academic competitions.