Grad students in seminar

Dear Alumni and Friends of the Philosophy Department:

Welcome to our website!

I wish to introduce myself: I am Matthias Steup, the Department’s new Chair.

When, after eight years of being Department Head at Purdue University, I arrived on campus this past summer, I could immediately tell that CU Boulder’s Department of Philosophy is a thriving place well on its way to leaving the recent turbulent past behind and moving forward to an exciting future. Here are just a few recent events that have particularly impressed me:

  • The Summer Seminar for outstanding undergraduates, directed by David Boonin and team-taught by members of the Department, attracted as usual a group of highly motivated students. This year’s topic was “Paradoxes and Puzzles.” I myself taught a session on skepticism and had a wonderful experience discussing epistemology with these talented young philosophers.
  • On July 10, the Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy, the Center for Values and Social Policy and our new Minorities and Philosophy chapter jointly held a workshop on affirmative action that featured five specialists on the topic: Lawrence Blum (UMass Boston), Bernard Boxill (UNC Chapel Hill), Stephen Kershnar (SUNY Fredonia), Judith Lichtenberg (Georgetown), and George Sher (Rice).
  • The 9th annual Rocky Mountains Ethics Conference (RoME), August 11-14, organized by Alastair Norcross and Benjamin Hale, was once again a stunning success. Larry Blum (UMass Boston), David Brink (University of California at San Diego), and Nomy Arpaly (Brown) gave the key-note talks.
  • The Inaugural Workshop on the Study of Origins was held August 15-17. CU Boulder’s Origins project, directed by the Department’s philosopher of science Carol Cleland, brings together scholars from a wide spectrum of specialization to investigate the origins of things like our planet, life, human beings, civilizations, and ideologies.

I would like to tell you a bit more about the Department’s Center for Values and Social Policy (CVSP), its Committee for the History and Philosophy of Science (CHPS), the Climate Committee, the local chapter of the national Minorities and Philosophy Group (MAP), and its newly instituted practice of hosting visiting fellows:

  • The CVSP, directed by David Boonin, offers a regular Friday 12:00-1:00 well-attended talk followed by a faculty/graduate student lunch. The Center hosts several visiting fellows throughout the year and has recently begun a promising collaboration with CU Boulder’s Law School.
  • CHPS organizes a distinguished visitor speaker series and hosts an annual Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science. This year’s conference, October 28-30, will be on the topic of gravity from antiquity to the present.
  • With the aim of ensuring a friendly and inclusive environment for the Department’s activities, the Climate Committee has articulated Best Practices for faculty and student conduct. This year, the committee will begin investigating why, when we look at the enrollment figures of 100-400 level undergraduate courses, the percentage of women students drastically decreases. The purpose of this study is to find out whether there are ways, at the undergraduate level, to increase the number of women who will move on to graduate school to earn a PhD in philosophy.
  • Several of the Department’s graduate students recently founded, with the assistance of faculty advisor Adam Hosein, a local chapter of MAP. This group will host reading groups, talks, and workshops on topics that fall under the umbrella of diversity and inclusion, such as philosophy of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability.
  • In the spring semester, the following philosophers will visit the Department, each for about three weeks: Nina Emery (Brown) in February, Julia Staffel (Washington University) in March, and Chris McDaniel (Syracuse) in April. In the fall of 2017, Peter Klein (Rutgers) will visit. Each visiting fellow will give one or two talks and visit several classes.

All of this adds up to an amazing amount of intellectual energy and scholarly activity – a wonderful environment for stimulating of philosophical thought and discussion. I am extremely grateful to CU Boulder’s administration, particularly Dean Steve Leigh and Associate Dean Valerio Ferme, not only for supporting these activities with generous multi-year funding support for the CVSP, CHPS, and the Climate Committee, but also for giving the Department the green light for a new faculty line. Next year, we will be joined by Heather Demarest, who is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Oklahoma. Heather received a B.A. in philosophy and a B.S. in physics from CU Boulder, a B.Phil. from Oxford, where she studied with Timothy Williamson and John Hawthorne, and then her Ph.D. from Rutgers, with Barry Loewer, Jonathan Schaffer, and Branden Fitelson as her advisors. As a specialist in metaphysics and the philosophy of science, she will meet our teaching needs in the area of philosophy of physics and strengthen our profile in the metaphysics/epistemology area. We expect that she will take over as the new director of CHPS and bring valuable expertise to our Climate Committee.

You are always welcome at our colloquia, conferences, and special lectures. You can find notices of these events here. If you can’t make it in person, drop your former teachers a line and let them know how you are doing and your favorite memories of the department. We’d love to hear from you. If you have suggestions for Commencement speakers, or for alumni about whom we could do a profile in our newsletter, please contact me and let me know.

Finally, let me thank those of you who have supported our department and our students over the years. Whether you have encouraged other students to major in philosophy as you did, or have helped our graduates find a career path, or donated to our programs or helped to fund students, you have helped us in our mission to bring philosophy to as many students as possible, and to make CU-Boulder a leading center for philosophical education and research.

We are the grateful and fortunate recipient of many generous gifts, including a renewing anonymous donation to fund summer research by graduate students, and the Wille fellowship that funds an MA student each year. We have received generous donations to the Morris Reading Room. And we are grateful to the Morris family and friends for funding the annual Morris Colloquium, as well as to the Reinhardt family for funding the annual Reinhard Lecture in the Philosophy of Mathematics.

Current fund-raising priorities include endowed chairs for faculty and endowed fellowship funds to support our graduate students. We are also seeking to fund efforts to increase women and minorities in philosophy. We would also be grateful for gifts to sponsor the research and travel opportunities for both our undergraduate and graduate students.

All the best,

Matthias Steup

Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy