Chair’s Letter to Alumni on October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008

Dear Alumni,

With autumn upon us and classes in full swing, I would like to take this time to look back and forward six months or so to give you an idea of the happenings in the Department of Philosophy.

During the past year, close to 3,000 students enrolled in our undergraduate program and another 62 in the graduate program; 52 students graduated with baccalaureate degrees and another four with master’s degrees and six received Ph.D.s. Many of the majors took part in lively, weekly discussions of the Undergraduate Philosophy Association (UPA). Under the effective stewardship of Ted Stinson, its president, the UPA managed to publish the initial issue of Arche, a blindly reviewed, undergraduate journal, with the second issue about to appear this fall. For more information on both the undergraduate and graduate programs and their many activities, please see our website. This past year the Department also undertook an extensive self-study, including a review of the past five years and a projection over the next three years. One of the fruits of this exercise is a revised statement of our guiding principles and aims (formerly the =“mission”), which can also be found on our website. As the statement says, our department is committed to the idea that the study of philosophy is a cornerstone of a liberal arts education.

Faculty: Comings, Goings, and Conferences
After many years of valuable service to the profession, the Department, and the University, Professor Stanley Rosen retired on August 31, with a promotion to Professor Emeritus. On that same date, Professor Peter Diamandopolous also retired.

In the fall semester, we had the pleasure of welcoming to the faculty Daniel Star (DPhil, 2007) from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (Australian National University). A highly distinguished thinker and historian of philosophy, Professor Amelie Rorty (formerly of Harvard University), also joined the faculty, as did Professor Mihai Ganea, a recent University of Illinois at Chicago Ph. D. who is quickly making his mark in the philosophy of mathematics. We also have had the privilege of welcoming a distinguished scholar of eighteenth century philosophy, Professor Susan James of the University of London, as this fall’s Visiting Findlay Professor. Continuing a tradition initiated by the late and beloved Lee Rouner, Professor Allen Speight has become director of the Institute for Philosophy and Religion. For the impressive list of speakers on this coming year’s topic “Justice in Conflict – Justice in Peace,” please see the Institute’s link on the departmental website.

The upcoming year also promises to be an exciting one for the Boston Colloquium for the Philosophy of Science, administered by Professors Peter Bokulich and Fred Tauber (a link to its website can also be found on the departmental website). On September 15, Professor Tauber will be speaking on “Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher” at the Robert S. Cohen Forum (the first colloquium of the year). The entire program of 2009 is devoted to the work of Charles Darwin on the bicentennial of his birth. Included in the spring schedule is the annual Karbank Symposium on Environmental Philosophy on March 23, devoted to the theme of “Systems Biology Framed by Ecology.” Emeritus Professor Henry Allison will be returning to campus to give a Faculty Colloquium on September 19, and Visiting Findlay Professor Susan James will deliver her Findlay lecture as part of the Benedict Lectures on Ethics and Political Philosophy on December 5. The Department will also be hosting the Boston Area Colloquium for Ancient Philosophy speaker, Prof. Eugene Garver of St. John’s University (Minnesota), for October 30-31.

Commencement 2008
We were fortunate to have Ms. Jennifer Page (GRS ’06) deliver a thoughtful address on philosophical thinking in retrospect, from her present position as a third grade teacher in Saint Francis, South Dakota, and Ms. Julia Ong delivered an equally stirring student address (both posted here). The Department continued its custom of presenting every graduate with a copy of the handsome hardback edition of Hume’s Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, made possible, as we announced at Commencement, by the generous financial support of Steve Karbank (’79), President of the BU Alumni Council (for information about Steve, whose support of the Department in this and many other ways has been invaluable, please see The Karbank Challenge). At graduation we also honored:

Veronica Sewards-Rueda – The Robert S. Cohen Award in Interdisciplinary Studies
Shanna Slank – The John N. Findlay Award
Gregory Scontras – The Peter A. Bertocci Award for Philosophical Excellence
Alexander Bazazi & Rheanne Wirkkala -The Peter A. Bertocci Award for Humanitarian Service
Juliet Johnson – The Matchette Prize for Excellence in Philosophy and The College Prize for Excellence in Philosophy

Our graduate program continues to thrive. This past year six graduate students received the Ph.D. I list their names followed by the titles of their dissertation, indicative of the breadth of what one can accomplish in our program:

William J. Devlin (“Defending the Enterprise: A Theory of Truth for Thomas Kuhn”)
Jonathan Hanen (“Self-Knowledge and the Art of Politics in Plato’s Alcibiades Major”)
Besim Karakadilar (“Hilbert’s Metamathematical Problems and their Solutions”)
Alice MacLachlan (“The Nature and Limits of Forgiveness”)
Ingvild Tørsen (“After Aesthetics: Martin Heidegger and the End of Art”)
Franco V. Trivigno (“The Philosophical Muse: On Comedy in the Platonic Dialogues”)

Other Awards and Recognition
Last fall, Prof. Tian Yu Cao gave a keynote address to the First International Conference on Cognitive Neurodynamics in Shanghai. Professor Juliet Floyd was appointed Visiting Professor of Philosophy, University of Vienna, Austria. Professor Krzysztof Michalski was awarded the Officer’s Cross, L’Ordre National du Mérite in France, and Professor Alfred Tauber was awarded the 2008 Science Medal from Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Bologna. Also not to be overlooked is the extraordinary recognition that Professor Charles Griswold has received for his book Forgiveness (Cambridge University Press, 2007), the subject not only of numerous reviews and commentary, but also of several international conferences.

We live in an age of e-mails, websites, bloggers, 24/7 and a raft of forms of telecommunications that can be a great source of distraction. But these technologies also provide us with the opportunity to maintain connections over times and distances that might otherwise get the better of us. With that in mind, I encourage you to make full use of our website (again: www.bu.edu/philo) to remain informed about the Department’s – your Department’s – activities and direction.

In the spirit of connection, I would like to add that if you have the resources and the inclination to support the Department, please consider making a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences/Graduate School Annual Fund. You may state a preference that your gift supports the Philosophy Department. Please visit http://www.bu.edu/alumni/support/news/annual-fund/ to make your gift today and be sure to indicate “Philosophy” in the gift designation box provided.

Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of my colleagues in the Department of Philosophy. Not only are you former students in the Department but you have also combined your philosophical training with distinctive life experiences, and we would love to hear from you about them.

With best wishes,

Daniel O. Dahlstrom, Chair
Department of Philosophy, Boston University