Philosophy encourages us to uncover presuppositions, to scrutinize arguments, and to reflect clearly and creatively about the most fundamental questions informing our legal, political, scientific, artistic, and moral pursuits.

Many of these basic questions are developed in depth by different branches of philosophy. For instance, ethics asks, “What is good and bad, right and wrong? What is justice?”

Epistemology asks, “What is knowledge as opposed to mere opinion or belief? How do we justify knowledge claims?” Aesthetics asks, “What is art and what is beauty?”

And logic asks, “What are the rules of critical thinking and sound argument?”

Raphael, "School of Athens," 1509-10, Vatican, Rome
Raphael, School of Athens, 1509-10, Vatican, Rome

About the Department

Philosophy, one of the oldest and broadest disciplines, is a living intellectual enterprise that belongs at the heart of a liberal arts education. From the Greek, philosophia means “love of wisdom” and in that sense of the term, Socrates famously said that philosophy proved necessary for leading “the examined life.” From its ancient origins to our own times, philosophy has always guided our thinking about difficult and controversial issues by allowing us to question assumptions, to examine arguments, and to think clearly and creatively about the most fundamental questions.

The Philosophy Department at Middlebury explores these pursuits through a diverse offering of courses, on topics both historical and contemporary. Students well-versed in philosophy gain outstanding preparation for graduate study and law school, as well as for medicine, business, and many other professions.

Philosophical commitments lie at the foundation of law, government, science, art, and moral debates. Professors of philosophy at Middlebury represent a diversity of research fields and teaching areas; students benefit from this diversity by studying both classics from across the history of philosophy and a wide range of contemporary topics.

Welcome Back! Fall News & Events

  • PHIL major Olivia Reposa ‘24 will co-moderate the Global Call to Heal the Planet event on Wednesday, September 28th at 7:00 PM in the MAC Robison Concert Hall.
  • Someone left a fresh pile of free philosophy books in the common room. There’s lots of logic and science this time, take a look and help yourself. The remainders will be donated on 9/26.
  • Senior Work: The Senior Research Project Supplement (SPRS) deadlines for students seeking funding for senior work this academic year will be as follows:

    • For amounts greater than $350: applications are due by Oct 1, Jan 24, and April 15, depending on the project start date. For work done this academic year, most students will need to apply by the Oct. 1 deadline.  Students can apply for a maximum of $1,200 from SRPS. Projects with international travel may be eligible for up to $3,000 with the support of the Hoskin Family Fund. 

    • For amounts of $350 or less: applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

  • Academic Travel Funding: Students from all class years can apply for funding to support attendance ($350 maximum) or presentations at academic conferences ($1,000 maximum). Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and require a statement of support from the student’s faculty or research advisor. Group applications are also possible. See go.middlebury.edu/atf  for more information.

  • Bates Fund Applications for travel or research relating to Philosophy are accepted on a rolling basis.

Student talking by the pond.

Why Study Philosophy

Are you fascinated with intangible ideas and questioning reality? If you look for meaning in everything, and are troubled by the moral injustices taking place around you and want to do something about them, your mindset is in line with the study of philosophy. Human consciousness, our own self-awareness, and where science and truth intersect—these are the topics we explore and develop together as we prepare graduates for careers in law, economics, government, education, public service, or any other number of fields that have deeply rooted philosophical bases.

Awards and Prizes

Prize photo
2018 Andrews Prize winner Bernardo Andrade with members of the department, his thesis co-advisor Dennis O’Brien, and Kit Andrews of the Andrews family.

The Stanley P. Bates Endowed Prize in Philosophy is accepting applications to pursue research and independent study in Philosophy. Students with qualifying projects should apply here.

The John T. Andrews Memorial Prize in Philosophy was established in 1987 by the Flint Charitable Trust in memory of Professor Andrews. It is awarded to the senior  philosophy major (or majors) who, in the judgment of the department, is the best  philosopher among his/her peers.

Lorraine Besser

Professor Lorraine Besser has been awarded funding from the New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC), which includes Middlebury, to support a Public Philosophy Writing Workshop. The collaborative workshop will bring together a group of philosophers from NEHC institutions who are interested in writing about critical philosophical ideas and insights for a public audience.

Closeup of a student writing in his notebook.

Student and Faculty Works

Philosophy majors often do independent work with faculty, work jointly with professors on collaborative research, and pursue internships in a variety of fields, enabling them to apply their liberal arts learning in real-world settings.

More Student and Faculty Work

Jewish Thought and Enduring Human Questions

David Puyandayev ’14 took part in a summer seminar with a stipend from the Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought at Princeton University. 

Summer Seminar on Justice

Julian Macrone ’14 participated in an intensive three-week seminar at the University of Colorado Boulder. The seminar is designed for undergraduates considering advanced study and offers insight into the life of the contemporary professional philosopher. 

The Case of Bjorken Scaling

Professor Kareem Khalifa and Michael Gadomski ’13.5 published their paper, “Understanding as Explanatory Knowledge: The Case of Bjorken Scaling,” which develops the idea that scientific understanding is a species of explanatory knowledge and uses it to explain an interesting episode in the recent history of high energy physics.

Upcoming Events

See more news and events
  • Philosophy Club Meeting

    We have weekly discussions on philosophical topics and questions. If you are interested, come join us in Axinn

    Axinn Center 104

  • Philosophy Club Meeting

    We have weekly discussions on philosophical topics and questions. If you are interested, come join us in Axinn

    Axinn Center 104

  • Philosophy Club Meeting

    We have weekly discussions on philosophical topics and questions. If you are interested, come join us in Axinn

    Axinn Center 104

  • Philosophy Club Meeting

    We have weekly discussions on philosophical topics and questions. If you are interested, come join us in Axinn

    Axinn Center 104

Our Alumni

Majors in philosophy gain outstanding preparation for graduate study and law school, as well as for medicine, business, and many other professions. Some of the many interesting ways our graduates have applied their liberal arts learning to engage the world include the careers listed below. Read more alumni highlights.

  • United States Institute of Peace, Senior Program Officer
  • CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc., CEO
  • Limitless Argentina, Founder and President
  • Pacific Standard Magazine, Executive Editor
  • FlameStower Inc., Vice President, Sales and Marketing
  • Systems and Software Inc., Director of Implementation Consulting
  • Tsai Capital Corporation, President and Chief Investment Officer
  • Conscience Bay Company, Director of Resource Investments
  • Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Executive Director
  • The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, Writer
  • Kirk Documentary Group/Frontline, Field Producer
  • U.S. Air Force, Surgeon
  • Uber Advanced Technology Groups, Senior Product Manager, Self Driving Trucks
  • Institute Sarita, COO and CFO
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Library, Special Projects Librarian
  • Kaiser Permanente, Clinical Psychologist
  • Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, Research Director
  • Google Inc., Legal Specialist
  • Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, Director of Recruitment
  • Children’s Law Center of California, Staff Attorney
  • Yacobian Group, Creative Director
  • JP Morgan, Analyst at the Philanthropy Centre

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