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Welcome to the Philosophy Department

Classroom TeacherWELCOME 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

Students and Teacher 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

Merritt Hall

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

Demarest Hall

Philosophy News

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For more information, contact:

Scott Brophy, Professor of Philosophy, ext. 3377, Delancey House

Dept. Secretary:

Tina Phillip and Cindy Warren
781- 3347

Fax: (315) 781-3348