Previous Newsletters

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

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 College. 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

September 2014

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the William & Mary Philosophy Department!  I am writing to you, once again in the position of department chair, this time filling in for a year as my colleague, Elizabeth Radcliffe, is on research leave for 2014-15.  

I would like to extend a warm invitation to our informal Homecoming Reception, which will be held on Friday, October 17.  Please stop by any time between 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., in the Frank MacDonald Memorial Commons Room, on the first floor of James Blair Hall, for conversation and light refreshments.  

If you are in the area, you are also most welcome to attend any of the sessions of our upcoming conference, The Authority of Tradition, which will be held on Friday, October 3, in the Leadership Hall of the Alumni House.  Details about the conference schedule and speakers may be found at the conference website:

We are grateful to all of our donors, especially for the generous support of Teresa Thompson and Michael Foradas in funding our major biennial conferences and speaker series, and for the generous support of James Bassage in funding a number of departmental programs that enrich the intellectual environment for department faculty and students, including the departmental reading group and mentoring programs.  Our thanks also go out to William Richardson for his continuing support of a senior essay prize and to Eric Dietrich, Sean Echevarria, Douglas and Sebastiana Springmann, and Christian Colton for their significant gifts and pledges this year.  If you are interested in supporting the department, we are grateful for any gift large or small:

As a brief update on department news, we have been happy to greet three new visiting assistant professors this fall: Chad Vance, Jonah Goldwater, and Tucker McKinney. You will find interesting interviews with each of them in the News section of our department homepage:

Their addition makes us a department of fourteen full-time faculty members, each dedicated and enormously productive in research, service to the College, and teaching.  You will find a handsome photo of the department faculty here:

Finally, if you'd like to send us an update, we would be delighted to hear from you. Our students are especially interested in learning more about how our alumni and friends have used their philosophy training in pursuing their careers. You’ll find an on-line form that’s easy to use at this location:

We hope we will have the pleasure of seeing you during Homecoming Weekend or whenever your plans bring you back to William & Mary.

All best regards,

Laura W. Ekstrom
Class of 2016 Professor and Acting Chair
Department of Philosophy
College of William & Mary
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795

September 2013

Dear Alumni and Friends:

Fall is upon us, and we in the William & Mary Philosophy Department would like to invite you to make plans now to join us at the Department’s Homecoming Reception on Friday, October 25th! The reception will be from 3:30 – 5 pm, in the Frank McDonald Department Library (James Blair 127). Drop in for refreshments and conversation with other alums, friends, students, and our faculty. We would love to see you and catch up.

 I write this letter as new Chair of the Department of Philosophy. I am very pleased to be here, and I thank Laura Ekstrom, my predecessor, for her capable leadership. (You will no doubt hear from her again. My term as chair will be interrupted by a Scheduled Semester Research Leave, and she has graciously consented to fill in for a year when I am away.)

 The Philosophy Department has just welcomed its newest tenure-track faculty member, Christopher Tucker, who most recently taught "Down Under" at The University of Auckland. Chris received his Ph.D. from Purdue and has much teaching and research experience. He works in the areas of epistemology, philosophy of religion, and ethics.

 The 2012-13 academic year was a very productive one. I'm happy to say that three seniors were recipients of the Jerry Miller Essay Prize at May graduation: Justin Burnam, Grace Mendenhall, and Zach McCarty. We are grateful to Bill Richardson for the funding of this annual award. I can also report that the department took a very active role in discussions of a new general education curriculum for the College. Development of the new curriculum will be on-going this coming year, and the department will soon be engaged in the tailoring of new courses.

 I would like to spotlight some of the significant accomplishments of our faculty in this past year:

Neal Tognazzini co-edited a book on blame and how it affects the moral community. You can watch an interview with Neal about his book here.

Robert Sanchez, who also works with the Latin American Studies Program, co-led a group of students to the Mexican border over winter break, to explore the ethical dimensions of immigration issues. Robert’s work is highlighted here.

 Tim Costelloe published a collection of original essays on the topic of “the sublime,” awe-inspiring experiences of beauty. You can read about Tim's collection here.

 Alan Goldman’s newest book, Philosophy and the Novel, which discusses iconic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Huckleberry Finn, is featured here.

I am pleased to announce that the Department’s next biennial conference will be held Friday, October 3rd, 2014, at the Alumni House on campus. It will be a day-long event, addressing the topic of “The Authority of Tradition.” The presentations will investigate the tension between the power that tradition has over our attitudes and behavior, on the one hand, and the suspicions we have about it as a source of authority for us, on the other. We have so far confirmed speakers from Oxford University and Columbia Law School. A website for the conference will be up shortly, so please look for it! We are very grateful to Theresa Thompson for establishing the endowment that makes possible our conferences, and to Michael Foradas for generous contributions that support our conference and our speaker series.

 I also would like to invite you to the Department's fall speaker series, with talks by Trenton Merricks (UVa) on Sept. 13th, Christian Miller (Wake Forest) on Oct. 4th, and Jamie Dreier (Brown) on Nov. 15th. Please check out the "Events" section on our homepage for titles, times, and rooms.

We appreciate all of your donations, no matter the size. We would especially like to acknowledge the substantial gifts this past year from James D. Bassage, on behalf of the Hummingbird Foundation; Stephen Nathan Chase and his firm, KPMG, LLP; and H. Edward Mann.

 Finally, I invite you to send us news about yourself. We are always interested in knowing what the graduates of the W&M Philosophy Department are up to. So, feel free to use this on-line form to contact us.

We hope to see you in October at the Homecoming reception!


Warmest wishes,

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe

Professor & Chair, Department of Philosophy