2022 Department Chair's Letter to Alumni

July 14, 2022

Dear Alumnae and Alumni,

Warm greetings to you all!

With academic year 21/22 now behind us, I’d like to take the opportunity to look back, brag a bit about the accomplishments of our students and faculty this past year, fill you in on some of our programs and activities, and convey general news about the Department and upcoming events.

First, it is my pleasure to begin by highlighting some recent accomplishments of our faculty.  This spring, Professors Garrett, Hopp, Speight and Sreedhar were promoted to the rank of Full Professor.  In April, Professor Kumar’s new monograph appeared, A Better Ape: The Evolution of the Moral Mind and How it Made us Human.  (Other recently published books by faculty include Derek Anderson’s Metasemantics, Intersectionality, and Truth in the Misinformation Age (2021), Walter Hopp’s Phenomenology (2020), Juliet Floyd’s Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Mathematics (2021) and Marc Gasser-Wingate’s Aristotle’s Empiricism (2021).)  I mention only monographs, but all of us of course publish journal articles and book chapters as well (far too many to list).  Professor Star’s Ethics Seminar hosted seven events in 2021/22, on topics such as “Well-Being and Unconscious Goals” and “Partiality, Impartially, Values”.  Professor Kumar’s Mind and Morality Lab put on five events during which topics such as “Evolution and Progress” and “Fighting Propaganda”  were discussed.  In September, Professor Katsafanas hosted his Modern Philosophy Workshop, which he organizes every year.  Two of our faculty, Professors Star and Hesni, were awarded highly competitive BU Humanities Center Fellowships which will release them from teaching one semester this academic year.  Since the term ended in May, many of us have been flying around the globe giving talks.  Several of us have been in Berlin, and I am aware of colleagues presenting papers in Bergen, London, Paris, Stockholm and China (although in the latter case, only virtually).

Our undergraduates continue to impress us with their engagement and enthusiasm.  This past academic year, they revived the Undergraduate Philosophy Association (UPA) which organizes events and discussion groups.  The UPA hosted weekly social events and discussion groups to stimulate community engagement; it aided in solidifying the partnership between the Philosophy Department and the Writing Department’s Tutoring Writing in the Disciplines program; and it produced Arché, its very own journal.  As I write this, ten undergraduates are working on the projects for which they were awarded Karbank Summer Fellowships.  We have students writing, for instance, on Kafka, on Foucault, on Christian ethics, on the ethics of care in special education.  We also have a student writing a play on the theme of human freedom and dignity, and another translating a short work by the “Georgian Socrates”, philosopher Merab Konstantinovich Mamardashvili.

At the graduate level, we have many achievements to report as well.  Three of our recent PhDs will begin academic posts this fall (at Denison University, Northeastern University and the University of Baltimore).  Others working on their dissertations were awarded competitive BU Fellowships sponsored by BU’s Center for the Humanities and BU’s Women’s Guild Scholarship.  Some had papers selected for presentation at upcoming conferences (the North American Nietzsche Society, the Friedrich Nietzsche Society and the American Philosophical Association meetings).  In addition, our graduating students are getting papers accepted in prominent journals such as the European Journal of Philosophy, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies and Philosophy of Science.  In addition to teaching their courses and attending to their own research projects, they regularly host workshops and discussion groups as well as occasional teas with faculty.  In April, they put on a conference, “Sustainability and Environmental Ethics”, that featured prominent international speakers.

You may not be aware that the Department regularly hosts academic visitors.  Professor Lydia Patton (Virginia Tech) was our Findlay Visiting Professor Lecturer during the spring term.  She taught philosophy of science to undergraduate and graduate students, and delivered a fascinating public lecture entitled, “Making and Breaking Theories: Multimodal Frameworks in Scientific Theory Change”.  Professor Floyd hosted visits from Professor Sandra Laugier (Paris) throughout the year, and in May the Department welcomed a young Hegel scholar for a two-month visit, Professor Mario Farina (Venice).  Beginning next month, we are expecting three visitors in academic year 22/23: Dr. Giovanna Luciano (Padua), Joshua Folkerts (Rostock) and Prof. Dr. Giulia Battistoni (Verona/Naples).  The Department greatly values these opportunities to forge close connections with philosophers from all over the globe.

In further news, our treasured colleague Professor Charles Griswold taught his last BU course this spring.  Professor Griswold does not officially retire for another year, but he will be on leave in AY 22/23, and the Department is going to miss him terribly.  Of course, we need to keep moving forward.  We are thrilled to be welcoming a new faculty member to the Department, Assistant Professor Darien Pollock (Ph.D. Harvard), who specializes in ethics, philosophy of law, and the philosophy of race.  We have also hired a Visiting Assistant Professor, Stephanie Sheintul (Ph.D. Wisconsin/Madison), who will teach a number of ethics courses for us this year.  Because we need staff to cover undergraduate section instruction, the university also gave us the green light to engage Eric MacTaggart, a recent University of Illinois/Chicago Ph.D. and expert on aesthetics and philosophy of the emotions.  We will begin searches to fill two further faculty positions this fall.  One position is the Maria Stata Professorship in Classical Studies, which was held by Professor David Roochnik for many years.

On behalf of the entire Department, I want to encourage you to stay in touch with us.  Our Senior Program Coordinator, Claudia Valenti, prepares regular newsletters about the Department, and we would love to make the newsletters available to you.  If you are interested, please send a message to Claudia at: casphilo@bu.edu. You are always welcome to drop by to say hello and of course, attend our public events.  This April, for example, we will host a Memorial Lecture for our late colleague Professor Klaus Brinkmann.  We would be delighted to have you join us.  That and other events will be announced in our Newsletter and on our Department website, which you can access here: bu.edu/philo/events.

Should you feel so inclined to support the Department financially, we of course welcome that as well.  Let me mention two specific expenditures for which we typically lack sufficient funds.  The University gives us a modest travel budget which is meant to cover transportation and hotel costs for participation at workshops and conferences.  It is vitally important that our undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to do this.  By attending and presenting papers outside BU, they learn professional skills we cannot give them in the classroom.  Our students want to take advantage of such opportunities, and we would like to have more resources to make it possible for them to do so.

In addition, we would benefit from having more funds at our disposal to support our tutor program which hires students (undergraduates or graduates) to assist undergraduates struggling in their philosophy courses.  In our experience, this program has been extremely successful – in some cases saving students from real failure or despair.  The program benefits not just the recipients of help but also those who are hired to give it.  With more resources, we could expand the program.

Click here to give a gift to the Department of Philosophy.

To conclude, let me express my deep gratitude to all of you who have made financial contributions to the Department or have supported it in other ways. And once again, I encourage you to stay in touch with us. Let us send you our Newsletter, and please drop by to see us if you should find yourself in Boston. If you have any questions about the Department or comments you would like to share, do not hesitate to get in touch.

With very best wishes,



Sally Sedgwick
Chair, Department of Philosophy