We are committed to providing students with an outstanding experience of philosophy, whether they are taking only one course or are a major (or double or contract major). We believe that philosophical skills can have value for all areas of education and multiple vocations, and so our philosophy of education is to provide opportunities that go well beyond the completion of a particular philosophy course. Among the faculty, you will find professors with a rich set of diverse expertise but with a similar passion, joy, wonder, spirit of collaboration and openness to enhance philosophical dialogue among students and professors at St. Olaf College, but also with students and professors well beyond the campus. The department encourages student to present their work at national undergraduate philosophy conferences, to undergraduate philosophy journals, and, in exceptional cases, to mainline journals. In the past, some majors have authored, or co-authored with a professor, articles, book chapters, and book reviews.
The St. Olaf philosophy faculty are actively involved in both the teaching and practice of metaphysics (inquiry into what is), epistemology (studies of the nature and limits of knowledge, evidence, cognition, our different senses and ways of knowing), ethics, philosophy of mind, science, politics, religion, culture, aesthetics (a field that includes philosophy of art and the field of philosophy and literature), philosophy of ethnicity and gender, economics, language, history, mathematics and logic, as well as love and friendship. We are committed to ensuring that majors not only engage in contemporary work, but that each major has a sound background in the history of philosophy (ancient, medieval, modern). In addition to Western philosophy, we have courses (such as aesthetics) that include Asian, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and South American philosophy.
The philosophy faculty is active and by no means parochial. We contribute regularly at the leading professional philosophical association meetings in the United States (the American Philosophical Association), and have made contributions in philosophy throughout Europe and Asia, especially in China. Publications by the faculty have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portugese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
We believe in the importance of students having within their reach a faculty who are active as philosophers, nationally and internationally, for two reasons. First, we believe that it is important for students to have professors who not only teach what great thinkers of the past have left us, but who are themselves able to engage students in contemporary work. Philosophy, we believe, even from the ancient world, has important implications for current ideas, politics, science, culture, and personal life. Second, an active, international faculty not only provides students exposure to cutting-edge scholarship, it also provides opportunities for students to themselves follow-up and access philosophy beyond St. Olaf, nationally and internationally.