What You Like About Your Philosophy Department

Sometimes you need to remember the good things in life, including your professional life.

[optical illusion mural by Peeta]

Let’s focus on the context of our philosophy departments. For one thing, departments are “local” enough that, much in the way that people hate Congress but like their own congressperson, even people who think there are problems in the profession at large can find good things about their own department. Also, since the department is a unit of manageable size, it’s posssible that some (but probably not all) of the good things in place in some departments might be available or implementable elsewhere.

So what is something you like about your philosophy department? Is it some practice or procedure or policy, some type of event, some prevalent attitudes or informal norms, the people, the kind of work people tend to do, the funding, the amenities, the layout, the library, the artwork…? Whether it’s a big deal or just a little thing, let us know.

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Patrick Standen
Patrick Standen
15 days ago

In a word, my colleagues. We all come from different perspectives but mesh into a collegial and friendly department. In my humble but considered opinion, it is one of the best in the nation.Report

Jeff Kasser
15 days ago

I like the fact that we have distinct specialists in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Islamic philosophy. For a terminal MA program, we embody the global nature of philosophy tolerably well.Report

Wise Guy
15 days ago

What I love most about my department is its ranking at the philosophical gourmet report [insert evil laughter]Report

Reply to  Wise Guy
14 days ago

Username checks outReport

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
15 days ago

We are not yet a department, but just submitted a department proposal (🤞). I really like a weekly undergraduate-focused discussion hosted by one of our faculty (Hanna Gunn) called Examined Life…attendees choose a topic together through a method she developed that is fun and democratic (using post-it notes on the wall that are then upvoted). Similarly, I like the weekly “philosophy lab” for graduate students interested in philosophy, in which they presents work to get feedback. I also really like how diverse our students are (our majors/minors match campus numbers on women, Hispanic, and first-generation students), in part due to our collective efforts (changes made to the program as well as an annual syllabus review in which we spearhead changes based on commonly-developed guidelines). Finally, I like how the interdisciplinarity keeps us lively: if the department happens, we will have people crossing over with literature and cognitive science and courses offered in lots of other programs, including environmental ethics, medical ethics, data science methods, etc. Since we are just getting started, I am excited to hear more about what works in other programs. Thanks for posting this, Justin! (Porch philosophy sounds pretty great.)Report

Bob Kirkman
15 days ago

I hate to be contrary, but . . . what am I saying? I love to be contrary!

My favorite thing about my philosophy department is that it is not a philosophy department. In fact, my university has never had a philosophy department. Instead, a handful of us make our home in the School of Public Policy, alongside economists, political scientists, sociologists, organizational theorists, policy analysts and others, including one or two with degrees in engineering.

Most of my students are pursuing degrees in engineering, except for those semesters in which I’m teaching a core course for undergraduates in public policy.

Working in this context, with these colleagues and these students, forces me to stay grounded. I am always considering how the tools of philosophical inquiry might be of use to others in the wider world, and I am always experimenting with ways to make those tools accessible without blunting their edges.Report

15 days ago

I love many things about my department (for example, my colleagues! our students!), but having two extremely smart, competent, thoughtful, interesting, wonderful human beings as department administrators, who somehow stepped into a huge mess and are turning it into friendly but well-oiled machine, is one I’ve been particularly grateful for recently.Report

Fritz Allhoff
15 days ago

I really like my colleagues. Not just as philosophers–though I think they’re really good–but also as people. We hang out outside of work, and we rarely talk about philosophy when we’re doing so. We’ve got a lot of shared interests, many of which hang around food, wine, camping, and stuff, so there’s plenty to talk about and do. Our MA students are also really fun, work hard, and bring lots of fun activities to the department. We’re also lucky to live in a great town with plenty to do, and lots nearby to get away to.Report

Joe Saunders
15 days ago

We have some great students. They really care about philosophy, and that helps!Report

15 days ago

This is an easy question because my department is the best! We have only undergrads and lots of service courses, but we manage to combine deep concern for high quality teaching across the board with efforts to advance our research program and get our student majors involved in independent research projects. Our faculty have about three times as many different opinions as we are numbers of people, but we all value open, respectful discourse and we genuinely like one another as human beings, so we work hard to keep one another and our students happy. I love it here and could not imagine anything better.Report

Aeon Skoble
Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Laura
7 days ago

This post also describes my department, to the letter. Definitely fortunate to work in such an environment.Report

Sara Protasi
15 days ago

It might seem like a small thing but I like the respect for one’s personal life. It’s given for granted that one has other duties and interests outside of work. I’ve never felt like the time and energy I wanted to devote to my family and to my passions and hobbies was dismissed or expected to be neglected or that I had to hide it, somehow. I love that. We all respect each other as whole persons and never expect work to come before everything else.Report

Kian Mintz-Woo
13 days ago

I like the way my department is run, both administratively and personally. I started a job here during the pandemic, August 2020, and it was a pretty scary time to move (intercontinentally!). But my boss and his wife picked my wife and I up from the airport and drove us to our place, where they also surprised us with some food for the first couple days of our quarantine (luckily, all vegetarian since they didn’t know our eating habits). They also held onto the boxes of books I mailed so I had an address to send them to when the university was unstaffed. These were not huge things, but they really made the transition to a new institution and a new country much more comfortable. My colleagues, of course, helped by offering to answer questions and get me settled in, but those first couple thoughtful gestures really made a difference.Report

Georgi Gardiner
13 days ago

University of Tennessee:

The community and camaraderie amongst our grad students. To the best of my knowledge, they are a truly lovely bunch and have cultivated a supportive, non-competitive community.

Their placement record is very strong, which I think helps. They worry less about the job market than other grad student communities. (This is my sense, anyway.)

Thanks for the question, Justin!

Georgi GardinerReport

Jonathan Ichikawa
7 days ago

My department has excellent staff support; my colleagues and I are required to spend quite a bit less of our time and energy dealing with frustrating and tedious administrative tasks — managing grant details, booking classrooms, claiming travel reimbursements, etc. — than do some of our colleagues around the university. This is a major factor in the quality of one’s work life, and one that is easy underappreciated. I try to remember to make a point to appreciate it!Report