to the Philosophy Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
The Department of Philosophy has among its offerings two sets of
courses that tell the story of how we view philosophy. There is
a set of courses in which we focus on the treatment of some questions
during a specific historical period. Those courses are Ancient Philosophy,
Early Modern Philosophy, Kant, Existentialism, Phenomenology, and
Analytic Philosophy. There is a set of courses in which we focus
on some contemporary social and ethical questions. Those courses
are Justice and Equality, Crime and Punishment, Philosophy and Feminism,
Environmental Ethics, and Economic Justice. In the former set of
courses, we aim at giving students a firm grounding in the history
of philosophy. We try to enable students to see why the question
that were addressed during the historical periods covered were seen
as important by the philosophers of the time. We try to get students
to see how what was done in those times long past may be seen as
significant for us today.
About the Philosophy Program
Just as philosophers of the past saw themselves as contributing
to the resolution of dilemmas that faced their worlds, philosophers
today recognize the unique virtue of applying the tools and insights
of philosophy to questions that we face today. Is abortion morally
permissible? Is affirmative action morally justifiable? Under what
circumstances should a person be held criminally responsible for
his or her conduct? These are some of the questions that are addressed
in some of the courses in the second set of courses mentioned above.
In these courses, students are enabled to see how philosophy is
indispensable in efforts to understand issues that confront us as
a society and as individuals.
There are, of course, other courses that we offer. The two sets
of courses mentioned are, however, the ones that show that the department
views philosophy as shaped in part by its history and that, consequently,
we must be aware of that history in order to understand how philosophy
works; and that department views philosophy as growing out of and
as responsive to our lives.
One of the courses not mentioned is called Critical Thinking and
Argumentative Writing. That course is limited to 20 students per
section ( Introduction to Philosophy is limited to 25). In this
course, we help students to develop the ability to read carefully
and critically and to formulate arguments that represent the reasons
one may have for holding a position. We also help them to develop
the ability to react critically to arguments. While this course
has as its specific objective the development of the skills I just
mentioned, all of courses have that same objective as part of their
overall goal. In order to pursue that objective, we maintain the
size of classes at a level that makes it possible for students to
engage in the kind of vigorous discussion that is conducive to intellectual
growth. Small classes allow us to give the kind of attention to
student writing that is needed and permit us to see students in
offices or in less formal environments to discuss their work on
an individual basis. And we encourage students to see us without
having to issue specific invitations.
Other courses in the department reflect the varied interests of
the five faculty members. Eugen Baer, a Yale Ph.D., a former town
supervisor of the town in which he lives, works in philosophy of
medicine and semiotics. Rosalind Simson, also a Yale Ph.D., works
in epistemology and has interest in issues related to values and
gender. Steven Lee, a University of Toronto Ph.D, works in ethics
and social and political philosophy, with special attention to the
morality of nuclear weapons, the morality of war, and environmental
ethics. His book, Morality, Prudence, and Nuclear Weapons, was recently
published by Cambridge University Press. Ben Daise has his Ph.D.
from the University of Texas at Austin and is interested in existentialism
and ancient philosophy, with special attention to the idea of self,
and is working on a book on Kierkegaard's Socratic maneuvers.
Where We Are Located
The HWS Philosophy Department is located
in Demarest Hall.
For more Information, Please Contact:
The Philosophy Department
Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Demarest Hall 303
Geneva, NY 14456 phone (315) 781-3377 fax (315) 781-3348