Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Faculty News Philosophy

Letter from the Philosophy Chair

August 26, 2019

For better or worse, we live in interesting times. As stressful as these days can sometimes be, lived as they are amid warring headlines, political factions, and the constant sensory assault of social media, I take solace in the timely value of the work of my colleagues and students in the philosophy department.

In an era of rants and tweets, what could we need more than logic, critical reasoning and sustained, concentrated thought?

In an age where people of opposing viewpoints rarely talk to one another, what could be more helpful than studying the arguments on both sides of important issues so that we become clearer not only about what we think, but about what others think as well?

When what is right often bows to what is popular, profitable or politically efficacious, what could be more important than the study of ethics?

In the Department of Philosophy at SMU, we take seriously the idea that in a tumultuous and changing world, nothing pays so well as slowing down to carefully understand what is at issue, to reflect on the evidence at hand, and to make the distinctions that help us see through the fog of confusion. Though our course offerings range from the somewhat abstract studies in the nature of language, causation and conscious experience, to the more concrete studies in Biomedical Ethics, the Philosophy of Law, and the ethics of emerging technologies, they all share the common goal of teaching our students to analyze arguments, and to read, write and think clearly. Philosophy students are extremely successful at getting into graduate schools, partly because they consistently score higher than any of the other liberal arts majors on admission tests such as the LSAT and GRE. Our majors have gone on to some of the best law, business and medical schools in the country, and our curriculum helps prepare them to be the sort of flexible but careful thinkers who ask the questions that open the doors of the future.

Our award winning faculty shines in the classroom, but also consists of internationally respected scholars. Our professors publish in the top journals and presses, with recent books from Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. We have notable strengths in philosophy of mind and ethics, which support our minor in ethics, and the interdisciplinary minors of cognitive science, and neuroscience. In addition, we are excited to be pursuing work in the ethics of technology in partnership with professors from Engineering, Law and Data Science.

As you can probably tell, I am very proud of the students and professors in the department of philosophy, and I encourage you to browse through our website to get to know them better. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about our work or our curriculum.


Robert J. Howell

Professor and Chair