Chair’s Letter to Alumni on February 3, 2007

February 3, 2007

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I write with an invitation, and updates about the philosophy department at Boston University.

First, the invitation: we are once again sponsoring the Karbank Symposium in Environmental Philosophy. The program is an exciting one, and we would be delighted if you would join us for it. Here are the details:

Nature and the Good Life
Friday, March 9, 2007, Photonics Center, Colloquium Room 9th Floor, 8 Saint Mary’s Street
Moderator: Simon Keller, Boston University

10:00 a.m.-noon
David Schmidtz, University of Arizona, Saving the Elephants
Respondent: Ronald Sandler, Northeastern University

1:30-3:30 p.m.
Nick Zangwill, University of Oxford, Clouds of Illusion in the Aesthetics of Nature
Respondent: Amelie Rorty, Harvard University

3:45-5:45 p.m.
Felicia N. Ackerman, Brown University, Nature vs. the Tragedy of Emma Faust Tillman’s Death
Respondent: Charles Griswold, Boston University

For the earlier Karbank symposia, please click here.

Things in the department go well. Enrollments are robust, the teaching program offers new courses (from environmental philosophy to my seminar this semester on Rousseau to a team taught course on utilitarianism). Both undergraduate and graduate philosophy associations are very active. The former hopes to launch and undergraduate philosophy journal, for example, and the latter is sponsoring a stimulating series of faculty presentations that provide another opportunity for discussion. The Friday ethics reading group has been a huge addition; this last week, for example, David Velleman (NYU, philosophy) joined us for a lively exchange about a chapter of his forthcoming book.

You may read all about these and other updates on our completely revamped website! If you’ve ever tried radically upgrading a website, you will appreciate the amount of work involved. We are delighted with the results, and hope not to do it again for a good long while.

The department continues its search for new faculty. Our senior offer last spring to Professor Sharon Lloyd (University of Southern California) was not accepted, unfortunately, so we are looking at the junior level this year, and may make more than one appointment. Several of our graduate students are themselves on the market, and the results so far are extremely encouraging (with many interviews, including for tenure track positions at such places as Yale, Toronto, Marquette, Guelph, York University, University of Kentucky, among many others).

The faculty’s productivity is at an all time high. Among other notable achievements, books by four philosophy faculty–Alisa Bokulich, Charles Griswold, Jaakko Hintikka, and Simon Keller–are being published by Cambridge University Press in 2007. The titles are, respectively, Correspondences, Structures, and the Classical Limit; Forgiveness: a Philosophical Exploration; Socratic Epistemology; and The Limits of Loyalty. CUP is widely regarded as one of the best presses in the field.

On other matters, at my urging the philosophy department is making every effort to save energy, conserve resources, and minimize waste. All departmental computers, monitors, and printers are shut off at night; the ‘last one out’ turns off the lights; all incandescent lights have been replaced with low energy use fluorescent lights; and faculty have agreed to use the internet to disseminate class materials. Paper recycling baskets have been placed in all offices, and a reminder sent out concerning plastic and glass recycling bins in the basement of the building. We are in discussion with university officials about installing timers on all lights and storm windows, as well as about affordable recycled paper for the photocopier.

I am very pleased to announce that we received a gift of $150,000. for the establishment of the “Excellence in Philosophical Studies Fund.” This endowed fund will, as it grows over time, help us to support the scholarly endeavors of our students. This is a much needed step, and we hope to take more.

This year’s departmental Commencement will include remarks by Don Howard (CLA
’69). You may recall his wonderful letter about his BU experience, available here). We look forward eagerly to his speech, and I invite you to send me letters about your philosophy experience at BU for posting on the website.

Please keep up with the department by consulting our website, and if we don’t have your current email and mailing address, please send it to us (you’ll see how on the “alumni” page of our website). We’d very much like to “go paperless” in these departmental messages to you! Incidentally, this letter may be found here, along with the earlier letters from the department Chair.

Very best wishes,

Charles Griswold
Philosophy Department Chair
Boston University

P.S. Remember, CAS/GRS Annual Fund gifts may be earmarked for the Philosophy Department. Philosophy alumni may express a desire to have their Annual Fund contributions allocated to their “home” department. Your Annual Giving pledge card will contain more information regarding this opportunity to participate. We deeply appreciate any support you are able to offer.