Philosophy at Union College
This page is a guide both to our website and to the study of philosophy at Union.
Whether you're a first-year student thinking about taking your first philosophy course, a senior majoring in philosophy, or a visitor from another institution, we hope you will find the site helpful.
Comings and Goings
And the Department wishes to warmly welcome its newest faculty members (effective September 1 2012): Prof David James Barnett (Ph.D. New York University, 2012), and Prof Krisanna Scheiter (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2012). We are all delighted to have you onboard!
Philosophy Students News
Several recent graduates have decided to pursue careers in philosophy:
Ben Lawrence (2011) will be pursuing his Ph. D. in philosophy at SUNY Buffalo, where he was also awarded a Presidential Fellowship.
Laura Schwartz (2010) will be pursuing her Ph. D. in philosophy at Georgetown University, where she was awarded a full scholarship.
Many of our recent graduates have gone to law school. Amongst the many achievements of our recent graduates in law school, the following deserve special mention:
David Kanaan (2010) (Pace Law School), was (in 2011) a Judicial Intern for the United Nations' Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in The Hague, Netherlands.
Nick Poli (2011) (Boston College) has been offered a Teaching Assistantship, and is now a member of the Boston College Law Review.
Philosophy Faculty News
Some of Professor Robert Baker's publications during the last couple of years include:
"Bioethics and Human Rights: A Historical Perspective", in Gordon, John-Stewart, Teas, Wanda, (eds.) Global Perspectives on Bioethics, New York: Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming 2012.
"Medical Ethics, History of", in Chadwick, R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2nd edition, London & San Diego: Elsevier, Vol. 3 (2012): 61-69.
"Medical Oaths and Codes", in Chadwick, R. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2nd edition, London & San Diego: Elsevier, Vol 3 (2012): 155-163.
Professor Felmon Davis published "Habermas' Expressivist Theology: Chalice Half-Full?", in Las Torres de Lucca: International Journal of Political Philosophy (2012) 97-119.
Professor Krisanna Scheiter's "Images, Appearances, and Phantasia in Aristotle" was accepted for publication in Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy. Forthcoming 2012.
Some of Professor Leo Zaibert's publications during the last couple of years include:
“The Instruments of Abolition, or Why Retributivism is the Only Real Justification of Punishment”, Law and Philosophy. Forthcoming 2012.
“Beyond Bad: Punishment Theory Meets the Problem of Evil”, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 36 (2012): 93-111.
“On Forgiveness and the Deliberate Refusal to Punish: Reiterating the Differences”, Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2012): 103-113.
“Why Compare? Comments on The Handbook of Comparative Criminal Law, Kevin Heller and Markus Dubber (eds.), (Stanford University Press, 2010), for The University of Toronto Law Journal 62.2 (2012): 277-292.
“The Moralist Strikes Back”, New Criminal Law Review 14.1 (2011): 139-161.
What is Philosophy?
It is thinking clearly and logically about deep questions: Who am I? What is a person? What ought I to do? Is genuinely free choice or action possible? How can I distinguish truth from falsehood, reality from illusion? What is reality? What is truth? What is knowledge? How is it distinguished from mere true belief? How is it best acquired? What is beauty? How should society be organized? How ought people to act toward one another? What, if anything, is the meaning of my life?
In philosophy courses at Union, we study the best efforts that people have made to answer such questions. But not just to answer them. We are especially interested in examining the reasons people have given in favor of their answers. In philosophy, as opposed to religion or mysticism, we test proposed answers by bringing them before the bar of reason. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Whether or not that's so, in our courses we aim not only to test others' answers, but to provide you with the motivation and skills you need to critically and imaginatively examine your own.
Although you may not know it, you already have a philosophy! Everyone does. However, you may not have a philosophy that you've thought about carefully. Few do. The reason we know that you already have a philosophy is that everyone's thought and actions occur against the backdrop of assumptions about nature, human life, and themselves. However, having a philosophy is not the same as living an examined life. Living an examined life requires uncovering and then critically assessing these hidden assumptions. Philosophy at Union will help you to do this.
Is Philosophy For You?
As many realize, philosophy addresses some of life's most important questions. As it happens, although many don't realize it, philosophy also has great practical value, including as preparation for one of the professions, such as law. Even so, philosophy is not for everyone. It is a discipline that aims at excellence. Answers to life's big questions that are clear, thoughtful, and worthy of belief do not come easily. Finding them requires patience and perseverance. Many people want ready-made answers; philosophy is not for them. Spinoza put it best: "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare."Courses
For students new to philosophy: We recommend our introductory-level courses (numbered from 100 to 199). Descriptions for all courses offered this year can be found on the Courses page. You might want to start with Introduction to philosophy (PHL 100); a course in one of its main branches, such as Introduction to Ethics (PHL 105); or Logic and Critical Thinking (PHL 125), which teaches the skills you'll need as a philosopher. First-year students also have the option of beginning their studies with the Freshman Seminar in Philosophy (PHL 120).
For more experienced students: Perhaps you've already taken some courses with us and been bitten by the philosophy bug. If you're considering becoming a major or an ID major, see the page for Majors for some insight on why becoming a philosophy major may be a good idea. In the same place, you will find advice on how best to study philosophy while at Union.
Every member of the Philosophy Department is an advisor. Each of us has regular published office hours and is available to meet you by appointment at many additional times. (Our e-mail addresses and phone numbers are available on the Faculty page.) We are eager to talk with you, even if you're merely curious about exploring philosophy as a field of study.
Everyone is welcome to take part in the many student activities sponsored by the Department. Under the Activities page, you'll find details about the Philosophy Club; the undergraduate philosophy journal, Ephemeris; the Philosophical CafÃ©; the Ethics Bowl; and our monthly Logic Puzzle Contest.
The Department also sponsors more formal events, including a series of Philosophy Talks given by distinguished guest speakers from all over the country. Occasionally we also have lunch-time talks as well. These events are open to anyone who is interested. If you would like to be put on our mailing list for these events, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
Please take a look around our website, and feel free to Contact us with any questions.