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Philosophy Newsletter: September 2016

Dear friends and alumni of the W&M Philosophy Department:

A new academic year is underway, and the Philosophy Department is already in the midst of an exceptionally busy semester. As we catch our breath, our thoughts are turning to one of our favorite Fall events. Once again (of if you are a new alum, for the first time), our Department warmly invites you to join us at our Homecoming Open House on Friday, October 14th. Please drop in for refreshments and conversation any time between 3:00 and 4:30 pm, in the Frank MacDonald Library, James Blair Hall 127. We’re always happy, and often surprised, to find out what impressive endeavors our graduates are engaged in! And we always enjoy seeing old (and young) familiar faces.

The Philosophy Department had a tremendously successful year since I last wrote. Read on, and I think you will agree. Many of its most valuable undertakings are only possible because of your donations, for which we are very grateful. With your support we have had student conferences, department colloquia, biennial conferences, student awards, and philosophy club events, among other things. A special thanks goes to those who helped this spring to fund our students' Honors research projects. I would also like to recognize very generous gifts this year from James Bassage, Jr., Sean Echevaria, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jennings. We thank all of you who have contributed to our Department, no matter the size of your gifts. Small donations add up and have a large impact.

I start our news with our most recent special event. The Department hosted its fifth biennial conference, Epistemology and Cognition, just this past week, on September 9th and 10th. The conference featured six philosophers, two psychologists, and four discussants, who debated the relation between perceptions, beliefs, and knowledge and celebrated the 30th anniversary of a momentous book by renowned philosopher Alvin I. Goldman. The event was very well-received, and participants contributed to especially lively question-and-answer sessions. We are ever grateful to Teresa Thompson ('67) and Michael Foradas ('78) for their continuing support, which makes our conferences possible. You can see the program and read about the speakers here.

~Student News~

This past year, Philosophy Club was active, organizing several student discussion meetings in the fall and its annual student conference in the spring. The conference showcased presentations by students from six universities, including William & Mary, and a keynote talk by philosopher Kelly Trogden of Virginia Tech. All paper submissions were anonymously vetted by W&M Philosophy students. Philosophy Club owes much gratitude to 2016 graduate, Max Miroff, who steered the organization for the past three years, beginning when he was a sophomore! Here is a feature article on the successful 2016 student conference.

And we have even more news about student-driven projects within the Department. Last fall, several students, led by recent graduate and new alum Alison Heisel, launched an exciting discussion group focused on issues outside the mainstream philosophical diet and on which courses are infrequently offered. The Diversity in Philosophy Discussion Group met almost every other week throughout the academic year to discuss such issues as feminist bioethics, Marxism, Chinese philosophy, post-structural feminism, and issues in disability ethics. You can read about the students’ initiative here.

I am happy to say that, in this new academic year, the Diversity in Philosophy Discussion Group and Philosophy Club are merging their energies, under the guidance of student co-facilitators Hunter Gentry, Nate Wahrenberger, and Ellen Yates (all class of 2017) and faculty adviser Aaron Griffith. The new group meets weekly for philosophical discussions and plans to place special emphasis on underrepresented work, new perspectives, and diverse authorship.

I am also pleased to note that graduate Allison Heisel, mentioned above, was awarded “The Active Citizen of the Year Award” by a national organization. Congratulations to Allison! You can read about her outstanding work here.

In other student news, the Department is currently gathering nominations for the Jennifer Bosanko Scholarships and will select recipients in October. The scholarships will be bestowed annually on one or more continuing Philosophy majors who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, industriousness, and a well-rounded approach to the world. We are grateful to Kathleen Jennings and other family and friends who have contributed so liberally in memory of Jen, a 2009 alum and a young woman of many talents and passions.

Last May, the Department graduated thirty-one majors. A little over half of them were double majors with another discipline. Our diploma ceremony was held on a beautiful Sunday morning on the second floor of Swem Library. We are grateful to Jill Gunn, Swem Board Member, for sponsoring a lovely reception at Botetourt Gallery afterward. At the ceremony, William Richardson presented the Jerry Miller Award to graduate George E. Rudebusch for his essay "Fair Equality of Opportunity," taken from his Honors thesis, "Political Liberalism and a Theory of Justice." Compliments to George! We thank Bill and Mary, as always, for their continuing support, which makes this annual award possible. I also want to acknowledge the four students who graduated with Honors: Delaney Berman (High Honors), Connor Dantzler (Honors), Jackson Eskay (Honors), and George Rudebusch (Highest Honors). Many of our illustrious grads are off to graduate programs—among them, law, business, and government—or to engage in non-profit endeavors, amidst other pursuits.

~Faculty News~

Congratulations to Christopher Tucker and to Christopher Freiman, each of whom was awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor this past year! In addition, Chris Freiman was chosen as a 2016 recipient of an Alumni Fellowship Award, given to early-career faculty whose "classroom work has already achieved notoriety among students, colleagues, and staff." You will find Chris, along with four other W&M faculty, featured in the Fall issue of the Alumni Magazine.

I am also pleased to recognize Tim Costelloe, Professor, who was the recipient this past Spring of a Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, given in honor of his accomplishments as a scholar, teacher, and colleague in his fifteen years at William & Mary. All of the 2016 W&M Plumeri Award recipients are highlighted here.

And just for fun, read about how two of our metaphysicians, Aaron Griffith and Chad Vance, along with two W&M physicists, view time travel. Or even better, listen to their video interview from last October, done for “Back to the Future Day."

~Upcoming Colloquia (You Are Invited!)~

The Department is hosting three colloquium speakers this year. On October 21st, political philosopher Michael Huemer (University of Colorado-Boulder) will give a talk on “Devil’s Advocates: On the Ethics of Unjust Advocacy.” In the spring, Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA), who works on issues of moral responsibility, and Ross Cameron (UVA), who specializes in metaphysics, will visit us. If you are in the area, you are cordially invited to attend any and all of these sessions. Watch our on-line events calendar on our Philosophy homepage for dates, times, and locations.

~Send Us your News~

We would be delighted to hear from you. We invite you to submit your updates online and we’ll be pleased to post them on our website. Please catch us up on your activities! Our students also love hearing how your philosophical studies have had a bearing on your life. You can use this link.

We hope to see many of you at our Homecoming reception on October 14th!

All best wishes,

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe
Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy