Philosophy at Hampshire College

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Philosophy in the Humanities

Philosophy in the humanities is a conceptual practice--a mode of questioning and a form of critical reading and analysis--that is integrated into three of the five Schools at Hampshire, and into the broader Five College philosophical community. Within the humanities our specialties lie within the fields of modern and contemporary European philosophy, critical theory, the philosophy of art, feminist philosophy, and critical race theory. In introductory and advanced level courses in these fields, philosophy students in the humanities learn, among other things, poststructuralist, historical, analytical, Marxist, and psychoanalytical modes of analysis, and are challenged to think critically about the nature of language, literature, art, power, modernity, difference, and aesthetic form.

We challenge students to devise innovative concentrations and projects of their own within philosophy, and/or to expand philosophical boundaries by combining cutting-edge philosophical questions with novel approaches in related disciplines. The result is a diversity of possible tracks within and beyond the limits of multiple philosophical traditions.

Concentrations in Philosophy Concentrations in philosophy at Hampshire tend to take four different forms. Many Hampshire students are interested in studying 1) philosophy as an element in a concentration, 2) philosophy as a central part of a concentration, 3) a philosophical field as a concentration, or 4) the field of philosophy as a concentration.

  • 1) Philosophy as an element in a concentration

Hampshire students often combine coursework in philosophy with projects in other humanities and cultural studies fields, such as literature, painting, music, dance, film, video, performance, visual culture, or political theory. Philosophy in this case can help you to bring out conceptual complexities in your area of interest, deepen your thinking, and strengthen your theoretical perspectives. It can reshape aesthetic decisions and political choices. If you decide to choose an area of study that includes a substantive amount of philosophy, we recommend taking at least four courses in philosophy.

  • 2) Philosophy as central part of a concentration

Hampshire students often pursue philosophy as a central component of their field of concentration. For these students, philosophy not only helps to shape and complicate an interdisciplinary background, but becomes aas well a fundamental form of argumentation and analysis. Such students engage philosophical questioning as a discipline, a historically emerging vocabulary. For students who are interested in studying philosophy as a central mode of thought, we recommend taking at least eight courses in carefully selected areas of philosophy, areas that make for an innovative and distinctive area of expertise. This will put you in a good position to engage in work in related disciplines as a philosopher and to bring insights from these disciplines to the practice of philosophy.

  • 3) A philosophical field as a concentration

Hampshire students often specialize in specific areas of philosophy, such as the philosophy of sound or music, aesthetic theory, the philosophy of the arts, Deleuze, Irigaray, Kristeva, Butler, critical theory, or the philosophy of race. Such specializations invite distinctive intellectual trajectories that productively draw on coursework in other theoretical and artistic fields.

  • 4) The field of philosophy as a concentration

Some Hampshire students choose philosophy as a basic field of concentration, striving to develop a broad understanding of philosophy as an academic discipline, including its different traditions and subfields. For students wishing to develop a broad and basic philosophical expertise, we recommend selecting at least eight courses ranging widely across the following set of philosophical fields:

Contemporary European philosophy; feminist philosophy; critical race theory; philosophy of art; philosophy of culture; aesthetics; social and political philosophy; ethics; history of European philosophy (ancient, medieval, and modern); Asian philosophy; African philosophy; Latin American philosophy; Native American philosophy; applied moral, social, and political philosophy; logic; metaphysics; philosophy of language; philosophy of mind; epistemology; philosophy of science; and philosophy of religion.

Students following this track are especially encouraged to pay close attention to the broader philosophical offerings at other area institutions.

Studying philosophy at Hampshire allows students to complete substantial groundwork within the history of Western philosophy, while at the same time engaging in dialogue with other traditions and perspectives.

Through Hampshire’s classes, students become versed in the work of philosophers representing a wide range of cultural and historical backgrounds, and develop abilities to analyze, articulate, construct, and criticize philosophical arguments.

Philosophy courses are also utilized to strengthen an understanding of the law, gender studies, religion, psychology, social justice, and history or to supplement a focus in studio arts or film.

Philosophy in the School of Cognitive Science

The CS program in philosophy concentrates on philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and epistemology. These areas are richly tied to other areas of study in the school, such as cognitive neuroscience, animal behavior, and computer science. Students and faculty explore the philosophical dimensions of questions about, for example, consciousness, personhood, the emotions, knowledge, meaning, the implications of neuroscience for morality and the law, and the nature of the conflict between sciences and religion. The CS philosophy program also contributes significantly to the College-wide programs in Culture, Brain, and Development and Integrated Sciences and Humanities.

Student Project Titles

  • Comparisons Between Deleuzean Thought and Philosophical Taoism
  • The Changing Self: Reflections on a Computer-Mediated Existence
  • Free Will, Determinism, and Personal Responsibility
  • The Figuration of the Author in the Text
  • Impossible Recognition, Negotiations of Difference, and the Dissonant Body: A Reflection in Philosophy and Drawing
  • Identifying Agamben’s Conception of the Homo Sacer in Democratic Kampuchea
  • Introspection and Inner States

Featured Faculty Profiles

Christoph Cox Professor of Philosophy

Monique Roelofs Associate Professor of Philosophy

John Drabinski Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Laura Sizer Associate Professor of Philosophy

Sample First-Year Course

  • Love, Sex & Death

This class examines conceptions of love, sex, and death, and how they influence both our private and public lives. We will discuss some of the philosophical literature on the natures of love, sex, and death, and contemporary issues such as same-sex marriage, pornography, prostitution, and abortion. Philosophy is more than a subject matter, it is a way of thinking, asking questions and evaluating answers to them. The aims of this course are not political but philosophical: to teach you to examine critically these issues and arguments, and to formulate and defend your own views on these topics. These topics are controversial for a reason: there are no easy answers. Assignments will consist of a series of short papers, and an independent project.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • Alienation
  • Between Husserl & Heidegger
  • Between Levinas & Derrida
  • Ethics, Aesthetic, Politics & the Concept of Address
  • Identity Beyond Identity Politics
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Love, Sex & Death
  • On Derrida’s Politics
  • On Time & Being
  • The Philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy, Relativism & Truth
  • Questioning the Self
  • The Residue, the Detail, the Intimate: or, the Workings of Neoliberal Culture
  • Science & Religion: The History & Philosophy of an Uneasy Relationship
  • Topics in Contemporary Political Philosophy

Through the Consortium

  • Ancient Philosophy (AC)
  • Buddhist Philosophy (SC)
  • Feminism & Knowledge (MHC)
  • The Greek Period (MHC)
  • Kant (UMass)
  • The Meaning of Life (SC)
  • Metaphysics (UMass)
  • Philosophy for Children (MHC)
  • Plato (AC)
  • Problems in Social Thought (UMass)

Facilities and Resources

Soap Box is a philosophical society open to all members of the Five College community aimed at creating a supportive and enriching space for philosophic dialogue in the area. A biannual journal of philosophy composed of student work is published and open discussions are held weekly.

The program in Culture, Brain, and Development at Hampshire College was founded in 2003 with a grant from the Foundation for Psycho-Cultural Research. It provides an arena in which perspectives from a range of disciplines are brought to bear on questions about what is considered innate, how the social and the biological influence one another, and how experience is integrated into the developing architecture of the human brain. With core and advanced courses, the program sponsors seminars, lecture series, summer institutes, colloquia, and conferences, as well as collaboratively taught, cross-School courses. In addition, it offers stipends to encourage student and faculty work at the intersection of culture, brain, and development.

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