Saint Michael's Philosophy

The philosophy major at Saint Michael's College is designed to ask the most important questions of the human heart. Unlike other programs that are founded primarily on logic and proofs, the curriculum at Saint Michael’s is based on reading and discussion of classic and contemporary literature, geared toward contesting stereotypes and inspiring you and your classmates to ask questions of yourselves and your world. Those questions might include: “What if anything gives meaning to our existence?” “Do we have a spiritual dimension; and if so, what does that mean?” and “How can I determine what should be my personal morality; and can it be both personal and objective?” By inspiring you and your fellows to ask such questions, our objective is to help you develop your mind and broaden your thinking - an essential component of a truly liberal education.

Philosophers' ideas have become the very roots of the great social, political, educational, economic, literary, and scientific movements of every age. Thus, philosophy includes as one of its tasks a consideration of the presuppositions of other academic disciplines as well as the presuppositions of our fundamental social practices. This is one reason why philosophy is viewed as an essential component of a truly liberal education.

All students at Saint Michael's take one basic course in philosophy to enable them to meet with these fundamental questions and to see how thinkers of the past and present have responded to them. This course introduces you to some basic philosophical issues with the help of Plato's dialogues and other philosophical texts. For those students who wish to deepen their knowledge of the subject, philosophy electives are offered to acquaint them with the history, development, methods, and content of nearly the entire range of philosophy.

Some course topics you might explore are ethics, logic, philosophy of religion, of science, of technology and the environment, of mind, of human rights, of human existence, and of society. Additional topics include truth and propaganda, otherness and marginalization, and ethics of the heroic. There are also courses that cover the entire history of philosophy from Ancient times to the contemporary period: ancient, medieval, modern, contemporary (both continental and analytic) as well as more focused courses on major philosophers of the past. Philosophy majors will also complete an independent thesis or a senior seminar at the end of their studies.

Philosophy Learning Outcomes

Sample Four Year Plan for Philosophy Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
PH 103 Introduction to Philosophy 200 level Philosophy elective
Foreign Language I Foreign Language II
First Year Seminar Liberal Studies course
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Fall Spring
300 level Philosophy elective 300 level Philosophy elective
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
  Electives    Electives 
Fall Spring
300 level Philosophy elective(s) 300 level Philosophy elective(s)
Junior Seminar Electives
Fall Spring
PH 490 Philosophy Senior Seminar 300 level Philosophy elective
Electives Electives

Philosophy electives must include at least one course each in ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary philosophy.

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

Ronald Begley, PhD

Professor of Philosophy and Latin

Contact Professor Begley

Saint Edmund's Hall 236
Box 373
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M.A., Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A. Haverford College;

I specialize in ancient philosophy, the scholastic-humanist debate, Pascal, Newman and Kierkegaard.

John Izzi, PhD

Professor of Philosophy

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Saint Edmund's Hall 242
Box 252
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Licence es lettres, Maitrise, Doctorat, Universite de Paris-Sorbonne
B.A. Fordham University

Areas of Expertise:

European philosophy from the 19th century to the present (especially Heidegger and Nietzsche). I am also interested in the thought of Spinoza, Plotinus, Emerson, Meister Eckhart, Taoism, and Vedanta.

Courses I Teach:

  • Heidegger
  • Nietzsche
  • Experiences of Existence
  • Spinoza
  • Senior Seminar
  • Experiments in Thoughtful Living

Katherine Kirby, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Global Studies
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Saint Edmund's Hall 233
Box 368
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M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Fordham University
B.A. Salisbury State University

Areas of Expertise:

Ethics (including the philosophical ethics tradition, metaethics, applied ethics); Emmanuel Levinas (French postmodern ethicist); Continental Philosophy; Global Studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Ethics
  • Ethics of the Heroic
  • First-Year Seminar: Global Studies
  • Foundations of Global Studies
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Otherness and Marginalization: Levinas and the Alienated
  • Truth and Propaganda: Ethics and the Media

My Saint Michael's:

I've become a huge proponent of service-learning courses, wherein there is practical engagement with the community that breathes a certain life into the texts we read and discuss. I find that service-learning opportunities set the stage for a close philosophical (phenomenological) exploration of our lived experiences, especially in courses that challenge students to think about ethical or moral responsibility and engagement.

Allison Kuklok, PhD

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
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Saint Edmund's Hall 231
Box 232
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Ph.D. Harvard University
B.A. Wellesley College

Areas of Expertise:

Early Modern Philosophy, Kant, Metaphysics, Ethics

Courses I Teach:

Self and World
Early Modern Philosophy

Crystal L'Hôte, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy

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Saint Edmund's Hall 238
Box 376
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Ph.D., M.A. Johns Hopkins University
B.A. Colgate University

Areas of Expertise:

Philosophy of mind (and cognates), metaphysics and epistemology, feminist philosophy, and bioethics/neuroethics, all in the analytic tradition. 

Courses I Teach:

  • Philosophy of Mind: The Mental and the Physical
  • Logic: Laws of Thought
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Environment
  • Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
  • Introduction to Philosophy: The True, The Good, and the Beautiful

The courses I teach highlight the ongoing relevance of philosophy.  For instance, Philosophy of Mind treats topics in contemporary neuroethics; Logic: Laws of Thought prepares students for the Law School Admissions Test (as well as democratic citizenship); and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Environment examines our relationships to modern technologies and our responsibilities to nature and the environment. I also make efforts to see that learning extends beyond the classroom: I launched the Plato Lecture and am a regular host of the Philosophers' Table.

Michael Olson, PhD

Philsophy Department Chair, Associate Professor of Philosophy

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Saint Edmund's Hall 227
Box 354
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M.A., Ph.D. Emory University
B.A. Boise State University

Areas of Expertise:

I specialize in Ancient and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy.  My interests within these areas include moral psychology, political philosophy and the philosophy of religion. 

Patrick Standen, MA

Instructor of Philosophy

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Saint Edmund's Hall 129
Box 308
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B.A. University of Vermont
M.A. Boston College

My interests in philosophy stem from a brilliant high school philosophy course I chanced to take. I subsequently pursued an undergraduate degree in analytical philosophy and a graduate degree in continental thought. I have also completed graduate studies in psychoanalysis and philosophy at Harvard University, the philosophy of education at the University of Vermont, comparative law at Harvard Law School and literature and politics at Boston University. I served as an editorial assistant on the scholarly journal Philosophy and Social Criticism. My research interests include examining the philosophical and historic dimensions of disability, as well as studying the history of ideas and aesthetics.

Peter Tumulty, PhD

Professor of Philosophy

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Saint Edmund's Hall 229
Box 191
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M.A., Ph.D. University of Notre Dame
B.A. Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception

Areas of Expertise:

My interests connect one way or another with clarifying the nature and significance of the moral dimension to human existence. This leads to examining such topics as: the nature of moral experience; the conditions for making objective yet fallible value judgments; the reconciliation of universal human rights with respect for cultural diversity; the significance of the apparent encounter with an Absolute as our moral lives mature; etc.

Courses I Teach:

  • American Philosophy
  • Human Rights
  • Introduction to Philosophy Ethics
  • Theories of Justice
  • Wittgenstein

My Saint Michael's:

I joined Saint Michael's College faculty in 1974.

I consider it a "success story" when a student comes to see more clearly why they, and all other persons, possess intrinsic dignity and worth, when this has become so much more than just a politically-correct slogan.

Saint Michael's seeks to help students see the deeply mysterious, sacred aspect of our life together. This requires much more than career training whether in a profession or in a specialized scholarly field, though these rightly have an important place; it means Saint Michael's never forgets the uniqueness of the persons who are with us, not only at the College but in the world, especially the poor.

What inspires our philosophy students most, I strongly suspect, is their own growing awareness of just how existentially "deep" the meaning of life is.

Our students are caring, keenly interested in community service, and eager to explore some of the deep ambiguities that lie at the center of our personal and social lives, all while having a really good time!

It is hard to choose my favorite class to teach -- I do enjoy them all. But perhaps there is a special place for the first introductory course. The metaphor of "minds lighting up" often receives its most vivid realization there. It is very satisfying to show young students how philosophers like Plato, Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard can genuinely lower one's "inner mental fog index." It is very satisfying to help free students to see more deeply into life.

Recently, Saint Michael's signed an agreement with Vermont Law School that guarantees Saint Michael's graduates admission into Vermont Law providing they meet the entrance requirements.

Several among the philosophy faculty emphasize the value of service-learning courses, wherein, as associate Professor Katherine Kirby puts it, "there is practical engagement with the community that breathes a certain life into the texts we read and discuss." Students and professors in such courses find that service-learning opportunities set the stage for "a close philosophical (phenomenological) exploration of our lived experiences, especially in courses that challenge students to think about ethical or moral responsibility and engagement," she says. She regularly leads service trips to Guyana built around philosophical reflection on "otherness."

Assistant Professor Crystal L'Hôte notes two other special opportunities that she enjoys being a part of: "On campus, our philosophy students are encouraged to join in the lunchtime conversations that take place at the Philosophers' Table, an informal, student-centered venue that has students debating topics ranging from the freedom of the will to the military draft. Off-campus, Saint Michael's has been able to send a number of our students to present their work at an annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference outside Portland, Oregon; here, these students have presented their work and forged professional relationships with motivated undergraduates from colleges and universities across the nation."

The philosophy major can be applied in a number of fields, including law, government and education. As a philosophy major, you will have the chance to work with professors on independent study projects. For example, one student is currently working with a professor on the study of Aristotle's logic. The philosophy major is an excellent foundation for graduate school, teaching, law school and federal service of all kinds. In recent years, our alumni have attended such graduate schools as Yale University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Princeton University.

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