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Professor Marc Gasser-Wingate Publishes New Book

The cover of Professor Gasser-Wingate's new book.

The department wishes a warm congratulations to Professor Marc Gasser-Wingate on the publication of his first book, Aristotle's Empiricism.

The book, published by Oxford University Press and now available, is described thus:

"Aristotle is famous for thinking that all our knowledge comes from perception. But it's not immediately clear what this view is meant to entail. It's not clear, for instance, what perception is supposed to contribute to the more advanced forms of knowledge that derive from it. Nor is it clear how we should understand the nature of its contribution—what it might mean to say that these more advanced forms of knowledge are "derived from" or "based on" what we perceive.

Aristotle is often thought to have disappointingly little to say on these matters. Gasser-Wingate makes the case that this thought is mistaken: a coherent and philosophically attractive view of perceptual knowledge can be found in the various texts in which Aristotle discusses perception's role in animal life, the cognitive resources on which it does and does not depend, and the relation it bears to practical and theoretical modes of understanding.

Aristotle's Empiricism offers a sustained examination of these discussions and their epistemological, psychological, and ethical implications. It defends an interpretation of Aristotle as a moderate sort of empiricist, who thinks we can develop sophisticated forms of knowledge by broadly perceptual means—and that we therefore share an important part of our cognitive lives with nonrational animals—but also holds that our intellectual powers allow us to surpass these animals in certain ways and thereby develop distinctively human forms of understanding."

Congratulations, Professor!

Professor Alisa Bokulich Named 2021-2022 Fellow at Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Professor Alisa Bokulich in the promotional image for the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

We are delighted to announce that Professor Alisa Bokulich has been named a 2021-2022 fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, joining an extraordinary group of artists, scientists, scholars, and practitioners who will learn from and inspire one another in a year of discovery and interdisciplinary exchange in Cambridge. Professor Bokulich will be researching and writing her book Philosophy of the Geosciences: Data, Models, and Uncertainty.

As she describes in her proposal, "this year the pandemic has forced the public to confront two difficult lessons: the natural world is complex, and science does not offer instantaneous definitive answers. For those who study science, this comes as no surprise. Uncertainty is an inherent part of science, science proceeds through an ever-ongoing process of iteration, and most importantly, uncertainty is not ignorance." Professor Bokulich's Radcliffe Fellowship project is to write a book articulating these points in the context of the geosciences, which have largely been neglected by philosophers of science. "The geosciences must confront some of the most pressing global issues today," writes Professor Bokulich, "including climate change, species extinction, and a variety of geohazards." Her project will show "how geoscientists build reliable knowledge about a complex world despite the uncertainties that arise in the data they collect, the models they build, and even the uncertainty estimates they give."

Congratulations, Professor!


3/26: Harvard University Department of Philosophy Colloquium Lecture: Sally Sedgwick

By corywMarch 5th, 2021in Current News, Philosophy Blog

Our very own Prof. Sedgwick is giving a lecture for the Harvard University Philosophy Colloquium Series on Friday, March 26th at 3pm. See details below:

This talk follows the read-ahead model; the format consists of a brief 20-minute lecture followed by a 60-minute Q&A session. All attendees must register in advance to gain entry. Registered attendees will receive a link to access Prof. Sedgwick’s paper via email along with the talk's Zoom link.

Webinar Registration Instructions:

  • Click here to access the Zoom webinar registration page:  Webinar Registration
  • Complete registration form and click ‘Register’ at the bottom of the page.
    • Attendees without a Zoom account will be unable to register for this event. You can sign up for a free Zoom account here:


Hegel’s “Philosophic” Approach to World History

In the first paragraphs of his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel flags the fact that his “philosophic” approach to world history is neither purely empirical nor purely a priori but somehow a hybrid of both. As he notes, the philosophic historian sets out to satisfy what seem to be incompatible demands: the demand to objectively describe the historical facts without the distorting influence of interpretation, and the demand to avoid the naïveté of assuming that our access to the facts is unmediated. In this chapter, I identify key features of Hegel’s philosophic method and suggest how that method can help us demystify some of his most curious pronouncements, for example, that the purpose of history can be known and realized by us, and that the “actual” is “rational”.


Student Success Week

By corywFebruary 17th, 2021in Current News, Philosophy Blog

Boston University’s Educational Resource Center will be celebrating Student Success Week by hosting a series of workshops from Tuesday, March 2 - Thursday, March 4. As we approach the midpoint of the semester, these workshops support students in taking stock of their learning strategies while sharing effective learning and study strategies to support student success. An ERC professional staff member and a Student Ambassador will co-facilitate these workshops to provide both an expert and student perspective.

On March 2 from 3:30-4:30, the ERC will be hosting the Becoming an Expert Learner Workshop, in which they will discuss studying and learning techniques as well as some common misconceptions about them. On March 3 from 1:30-2:30 is the Effective Note Taking and Study Strategy Workshop, which will focus on methods of taking notes as well as scheduling your study time so as to retain more material. Last is the Boost Your Reading Strategies Workshop on March 4 from 3:30-4:30, which will help boost both your reading and annotating skills. All of these events will be hosted via Zoom; links are available on the ERC's website.

Shanshan (Susan) Cao Uses Karbank Fellowship to Explore a Future in Philosophy

By corywFebruary 16th, 2021in Current News, Philosophy Blog

The question of what to do after college is something many undergraduates struggle with, Shanshan (Susan) Cao was no exception. In her search for answers she secured funding through the Karbank Fellowship, she talked with professors and graduate students in BU's Philosophy Department, and made a film to document her journey. The project "To Think Or Not To Think: Is Philosophy Grad School Worth It?" explores the pros and cons or pursuing philosophy, career prospects, life fulfillment, and even her own mental health throughout the process. Watch her film and read her thoughts, along with Assistant Professor Michaela McSweeney's thoughts on the video, on the Daily Nous. Shanshan is pictured below using props for her video essay!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

By corywFebruary 12th, 2021in Archive, Philosophy Blog

We know this Academic Year has been unconventional and hard for everyone, so we wanted to take some time to remind everyone what's really important this Valentine's Day: dorky memes. Hopefully getting a Valentine's Day card* from Hegel or Wollstonecraft can brighten your weekend!

*Note: BU Philosophy is not responsible for the consequences which may result from printing these cards out and delivering them to your paramours, whether these consequences be declarations of love or the opposite.