Professors Dudrick, Kawall, McCabe, U. Meyer (Chair)
Associate Professors J. Klein, Tumulty, Witherspoon
Assistant Professors Lennertz, L. Tomlinson
Visiting Assistant Professors Conley Patel, Wolf
Philosophy is a central component of a liberal arts education. It raises fundamental questions about the nature of reality and the place of human beings within it. What is the nature of morality? What is free will and are human beings free? What is the relation between mind and body? What, if anything, can we know about the material world? Does God exist? What makes a state just? What makes for a good life?
In attempting to answer such questions, students of philosophy reflect on both their own responses to these questions and the ways in which past thinkers have defended their answers to them. The process of formulating and testing these answers requires education in logical analysis, reasoned argument, and analytic thinking. In acquiring such education within the philosophy curriculum, students develop their ability to solve problems and to think, read, and write critically — skills that are in high demand in a number of different professions. Philosophy majors go on to successful careers in law, consulting, finance, and medicine. Many have also embarked on academic careers.
But philosophy is about more than reflection and finding answers. As the love of wisdom, it is also a practice and a way of life, one characterized by openness to viewpoints other than one’s own, a willingness to question both received opinions and one’s own opinions, and a passionate concern to integrate thought and practice into a meaningful life.
The department offers a number of courses that serve as gateways to the practice of philosophy. These gateway courses are PHIL 101 - Introduction to Philosophical Problems ; PHIL 111 - Ethics ; and PHIL 121 - Political Philosophy . Prospective philosophy majors are especially encouraged to take PHIL 101 early in their course of study. Other courses at the 200 and 300 level are either courses in the history of philosophy or courses that focus on problems in specific areas of philosophy. Many of these courses do not have specific prerequisites and are open to all interested students.
There are two distinct major programs: philosophy and the joint major in philosophy and religion. The department does not offer a minor in philosophy and religion.
Major Figures (MF)
Metaphysics and Epistemology (M&E)
Value Theory (VT)
The Balmuth Award for Philosophical Engagement — established an as award in honor of Jerome Balmuth for the student who, in the judgment of the department, best exemplifies Jerry’s love of philosophy and cultivation of philosophical community at Colgate.
The M. Holmes Hartshorne Memorial Awards for Excellence — established as an award for students who, in the judgment of the department, have performed exceptional work in philosophy.
The M. Holmes Hartshorne Memorial Award for Postgraduate Study in Philosophy or Religion — established as an award for a graduating senior, for achievement in the study of philosophy and to assist the recipient with postgraduate study in philosophy or religion at a recognized graduate or divinity school.
The Marion Hoeflich Prize for the best Philosophy Paper in a Foreign Language – established in memory of the grandmother of Richard Klein ‘78. Awarded to the best philosophy paper in a language other than English, usually written as part of a recognized study abroad program.
The Robinson Essay Prize —awarded on the basis of an essay written for a 200- or 300-level course in the department during the previous spring or fall semesters.
Advanced Placement credit is not offered. Placement into more advanced philosophy courses may be granted to incoming first-year students who have achieved a score of 6 or 7 on the higher-level International Baccalaureate (IB) Philosophy Exam.
Transfer credit for graduation requirements may be awarded by the registrar on the basis of course syllabi and requirements and advice from the department. To assess transfer credit for major requirements, however, the same documents plus the student’s written work in the course (i.e., exams, papers) must be submitted to the faculty adviser for evaluation. The department chair receives a recommendation and is responsible for deciding whether to award major credit. Normally no more than two transfer credits may count toward major or minor requirements. Seminar credit is not transferable.
A student who wishes to become a candidate for honors in philosophy or who wishes to become a candidate for honors in philosophy and religion by writing on a philosophical theme must seek the approval of a faculty adviser by presenting him or her with a substantial essay that could serve as the basis for an honors project. Normally this will be an essay written for a 300- or 400-level philosophy course, together with a plan for developing the original essay into an honors thesis. If the faculty member and the department’s honors supervisor agree that the submitted essay shows promise of becoming a high-quality thesis, the student may register for PHIL 490 with a view to qualifying for honors.
The independent study should result in a senior thesis. Students writing a senior thesis will give an informal presentation of their work to students and faculty of the department. Students seeking honors must submit their theses to their advisers by the deadline set by the department. If a student’s adviser judges the thesis to be of sufficient quality, the student will be invited to stand for honors. (Independent study students who are not invited to stand for honors will still be able to complete their senior theses.) Honors candidates will undergo an oral exam (the honors defense) conducted by the adviser and two additional faculty members during exam week. Ideally the honors defense becomes a forum for intellectual exchange between the student writer and the faculty readers. A student is awarded honors on the basis of both the quality of the written thesis and the conduct of the honors defense. In addition an honors candidate must have a GPA of at least 3.40 in his or her major.
Philosophy and Religion
Candidates for honors in Philosophy and Religion normally take an independent study (PHIL 490 or RELG 490 ) with their honors adviser during spring term of senior year. The honors thesis – a substantial piece of research, analysis, or critique – is turned in to the adviser several weeks before the end of the term. If the adviser and two other faculty readers decide that the thesis can stand for honors, the honors candidate meets with their adviser and the two other faculty readers – a committee consisting of Philosophy and Religion faculty – and fields questions: the honors defense. Ideally the question and answer session becomes a forum for intellectual exchange between the student writer and the faculty readers. A student is awarded honors on the basis of both the quality of the written thesis and the conduct of the honors defense. No student can be awarded honors, however, who does not have at least a GPA of 3.40 in the Philosophy and Religion major.
During the spring semester the Department of Philosophy, in conjunction with the Department of Religion, offers a study group at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland’s first university, founded in 1410. Other than the director’s course, which is offered by a department member, students take courses of their choice from among those offered by the University of St. Andrews, at which they are enrolled for the semester. St. Andrews has a very fine philosophy department and it is a great advantage for majors in both philosophy and philosophy and religion to study there for a semester. The study group is also open to majors from other departments. See Off-Campus Study and Extended Study .
Majors and MinorsMajorMinor