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Philosophy Newsletter: September 2015

Greetings to friends and alumni of the W&M Philosophy Department:

I hope this fall newsletter finds you happy and well! I start with a cordial invitation to join us at the Department’s homecoming reception on Friday, October 23rd, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, in the Frank MacDonald Library, James Blair Hall 127. We encourage you to drop in and enjoy refreshments and conversation with our faculty and current philosophy majors. We’d love to see you and catch up on the events in your lives.

I returned to Department chairing this past July, after a busy and productive research leave. Many thanks to Laura Ekstrom for serving as acting chair in my absence. The Department is currently an exceptionally dynamic place, and I have lots of news to share. First, I want to express our gratitude to this past year’s donors for their gifts of support. A new fund, the Jennifer Bosanko Memorial Scholarship Fund, was established in the spring to provide support for outstanding Philosophy majors. We are grateful to Kathleen Jennings and to friends and family of Jennifer, whom they memorialize as “a person of many talents and passions: music, cooking, humor, business, a keen intellect and a skeptical approach to the world that made her thoughtful in conversation and resilient in spirit.” The first award will be made this year. I would also like to acknowledge generous gifts to the Department from Shelley and Tom Jennings and daughter, Kathleen, on behalf of the Rixey Street Foundation; Thomas Reiser; Dawn Smith Rawls; Sean Echevaria; and James Bassage, Jr., on behalf of the Hummingbird Foundation. It is hard to describe how much all of your donations mean to us, no matter the size. With state funding for universities in steady decline, private funding is increasingly important to the well-being of the Department.

~Biennial Conference and Colloquium Speaker News~

The Department’s biennial conference last October 2014 attracted a lively audience of students, faculty, and other intellectuals. Participants enjoyed animated discussions on the Authority of Tradition, with a cadre of international speakers, both during the sessions and throughout lunch on the balcony at the Alumni House. The conference adjourned to a reception at the Great Hall of the Wren Building. Plans are now underway for the Fall 2016 conference, to be held September 9th and 10th, on the theme “Epistemology and Cognition.” The conference will feature seven speakers, plus commentators. You are invited to attend should you be in the area; please check our conference website for further details.

I am pleased to announce that two distinguished philosophers have accepted invitations to give talks in the Department’s colloquium series this coming spring. Al Mele, Professor of Philosophy at Florida State and author of ten books on free will, will speak in March. Metaphysician Amie Thomasson, who is Professor at University of Miami and has published over fifty articles and three books, will visit us in April. The Department is grateful, as always, to Teresa Thompson and Michael Foradas for funds that support our conferences and colloquium series.

~Student News~

The Department held a very successful two-day student conference in March. It featured undergraduate speakers from William & Mary, the University of Virginia, UNC/Chapel Hill, SUNY/Oswego, Boston College, and the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign. Angela Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Washington & Lee University, was keynote speaker. Thanks go to last year’s Philosophy Club President Max Miroff and Vice President Adam Enochs, and to Philosophy Club advisors, Professors Victoria Costa and Matt Haug, for all of their organizational work. The full program is here.

I am pleased to relay that the Department awarded the Jerry Miller Essay Prize for 2015 to senior philosophy major and now new alum, James Favaloro, for his essay, “Absolute Goods.” Well-done, James! We are grateful to Bill Richardson for the donations in memory of Jerry Miller, which allow us to bestow this annual student honor on a graduating senior.

~Faculty News~

This fall, the Department welcomed Aaron Griffith as new Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Professor Griffith received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in 2013 and previously taught at Central Michigan University. His areas of expertise include metaphysics and Kant. Among the courses he will be teaching for us are Metaphysics, Kant and His Successors, First-Year Seminar (on Truth), and Philosophy and Feminism.

Meanwhile, the Department said farewell to Alan Goldman, Kenan Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, who retired this summer after thirteen years of service to W&M and twenty-five years of teaching at the University of Miami. The Department hosted a small conference in honor of Professor Goldman a few weeks ago, on September 5th, which featured four speakers, with commentaries by four of our Department’s recent alums who are now pursuing Ph.D.s in philosophy at other institutions. Professor Goldman’s many accomplishments and the conference in his honor are featured here.

In other faculty news, kudos go to Professor Matthew Haug, who was named Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer and Coco Faculty Fellow this past year. In that capacity, he received research support and gave a public lecture sponsored by the Christopher Wren Association. We also congratulate Joshua Gert for a banner year. He spent the year doing research for a book on perception of color, with a prestigious research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also just completed his first year of five as new occupant of the Department’s Haserot Chair, and he was recipient of a Plumeri Award for 2014-16, bestowed upon select faculty by the university. In other Department honors, Laura Ekstrom continues in her third year as Class of 2016 Professor, and Noah Lemos continues as Legum Professor. The Department also congratulates Timothy Costelloe for his promotion to the rank of full Professor. All of our faculty are active researchers and dedicated teachers and mentors.

~Curriculum News~

The Philosophy Department is among the leading departments in the number of offerings of pilot courses this year for the new College General Education (COLL) curriculum. We are very pleased with enthusiastic student responses to the new classes. Among our new courses are: “Freedom,” “Knowledge and Reality,” “What are We? The Human Self,” “Meaning in Life,” and “Neuroscience and Ethics,” along with First-year Seminars on various topics, including “Truth” and “Emotion, Reason, and Value.” The faculty are also working on the transformation of some of our current courses. With the institution of the new COLL curriculum for the freshman class this fall, the Department will be offering these courses regularly, with more under development.

~Send Us Your News~

We would be delighted to hear how you are doing. As we’ve said before, our students are always eager to learn about how our alumni and friends have used their philosophy training in their careers. We invite you to submit your news online at this link, and we’ll be happy to share it on our website.

We look forward to seeing many of you at our Homecoming reception on October 23rd. We wish everyone a happy and productive year!

Warm wishes,

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe
Professor & Chair

Department of Philosophy