Philosophy has been taught
When he returned the next year to teach philosophy and religion, Hong added courses in Contemporary European Philosophy and American Philosophy, but the philosophy section in the catalog was still under the heading of Religion and Philosophy. Hong wrote the following statement of purpose for philosophy, a statement that remained in the catalog until 1964, when the catalog dropped introductory statements until the late 1980s:
The purpose of the courses in philosophy is to acquaint students with the attempts which have been made through the ages to find a unifying principle in the universe and to offer an explanation of its phenomena. It is the aim through these courses also to offer training in careful and systematic thinking and in the discovery of fallacies of thought to the end that students may rightly evaluate the many thought currents of the present day.
Thus began the dual emphasis on intellectual history and on intellectual skills that still is a hallmark of the department.
During World War II, many students and faculty left
the campus, including Hong, who was a conscientious objector and who served
until 1946 as Field Secretary in the
When Hong returned in 1949, philosophy became a department of its own. Joining Hong and Narum were Walter Stromseth (St. Olaf class of 1950) in 1956 and Frederick Stoutland (St. Olaf class of 1954) in 1962. These four were the builders of the department, introducing a full range of courses, establishing appropriate requirements for the major, and setting high standards for teaching and scholarship. Hong retired in 1978, Stromseth in 1996, and Stoutland in 1997. Trees were planted in their honor in the “philosophers’ grove” to the west of Holland Hall. Narum and Stromseth were two of the founders of the Paracollege in 1968, which Narum served as first Master (a title later changed to Senior Fellow and then to Senior Tutor), and in which many philosophers taught until its demise in the middle 1990s. Also, the department has had close relationships with the Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library, of which Hong, (until 1984), C. Stephen Evans (1984-94), and Gordon Marino (1994- ) served and serves as Curator.
Since the sixties, at least, the department has met several times each semester as a colloquium to discuss papers and chapters written by its members. We regard these discussions as very important, not only for the sense of mutual inquiry that they have fostered, but also because they have been useful encouragement and preparation for publishing professional articles and books. Also, at its meetings, it has often discussed its curriculum, its major, and various pedagogical issues. At least three times it has made a special effort at self-study. First, in September, 1978, after a summer of relevant readings, it held a retreat to examine its curriculum and consider changes. The outside consultants were Roy Elveton, Carleton College, and Kent Bendall, Wesleyan University. Second, in April, 1986, it held another retreat with Michael Root, University of Minnesota, as consultant. Preceding this meeting was a series of informal meetings with non-philosophy colleagues, and the sending out of numerous questionnaires to St. Olaf faculty and administrators, asking about their perceptions of the role of philosophy and the department at the college, and seeking their recommendations about possible changes. In particular, we discussed the balance between philosophy as intellectual history and as a traditional set of areas and issues, on the one hand, and, on the other, philosophy as the activity of critical thinking and practicing important intellectual skills. Third, as a result of the college-wide demand for outcomes assessment, over the past several years the department has formulated a statement about its overall educational mission and its objectives: “To foster a love of wisdom and to develop competence in critical interpretation, critical reflection, and philosophical literacy, so that graduates will be well-prepared for whatever calling or career they pursue.” Associated with the objectives is a statement of what they mean, of assessment methods, and of the use of the results of the latter. Part of the current self-study is our discussion of how to change and implement this plan, especially given the recent staff reduction.
In the section on “institutional context” there is further discussion about the effects of the college’s staff plan on the department. Here we note only that, in spite of the reduction, we still have department members actively involved in a wide range of activities: a number of us have led international terms abroad as field supervisors, or have been on-campus program directors of international study programs. Also, during the last two decades we have hosted the Minnesota Philosophical Society annual meetings several times and will do so again next year, with Vicki Harper as vice-president and then president of the society. We have also hosted the annual student meeting of the Minnesota society several times over the past dozen years, including the April 10, 1999 meeting. Meanwhile, our graduates continue to do graduate work at many of the first and second ranks of graduate schools, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Michigan, Brown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Teaching philosophy at St. Olaf before it became a separate department, in addition to those mentioned above, were: President John Kildahl (1899-1914), Andrew Fossum (1899-1900, 1901-10), Julius Boraas (1910-22, 1938-46), Abner Hansen (1938-39), and Gerrit Schipper (1939-40).
Teaching philosophy at St. Olaf after it became a separate department, in addition to those mentioned above, were and are: Kenneth Bailey (1954-55), Jenkin Davies (1954-55), Charles Magel (1957-58), Paul Johnson (1959-60), Ed Miller (1963-66), William Mann (1967-72), Albert Anderson (1967-68), Mark Ylvisaker (1969-71), Douglas Alfors (1970-73), Edward Langerak (1972- ), Karen Gervais (1972-74, 1989- ), Karen Fiser (1972-74), Al Brinton (1974), Terrence McConnell (1975-76), Carl Brandt (1978, 1982-84), Gregory Mellema (1974-75, David Peters (1974-77), Howard Mueller (1978-82), David Hoekema (1977-84), Gary Deason (1977-90s), Karen Warren (1978-85), Vicki Harper (1979- ), Haavi Morreim (1982), Cynthia Sundberg (1984-85), Charles Taliaferro (1985- ), William Lad Sessions (1985-86), Sandra Menssen (1985-1990), Patricia Sayre (1985-87), Peggy Crouch (1985), Carla Johnson (1985), Dean Jon Moline (1986-94), Peter Shea (1986-87), Patrick Goold )1987-94), Corliss Swain (1987- ), Rick Fairbanks (1988- ), Andrew Ward (1988-91), Josh Roberts (1988), Mark Linville (1991-97), Ken Casey (1992-97), David Vessey (1993-94), Jack Schwandt (1995), John Poling (1995-2000), Jeanine Grenberg (1996- ), Edmund Santurri (1995- ), Piotr Boltuc (1996-98), James Harold (1998-99), Jeff Gorham (2000-01, rehired for 2003-05), Anant Rambachan (2000- ), and Anthony Rudd (2001- ).
Chairs of the Philosophy Department since it became a separate department: Howard Hong (1949-58), William Narum (1958-69), Walter Stromseth (1969-77), Fred Stoutland (1977-87), Ed Langerak (1987-98), Charles Taliaferro (1996-97), Rick Fairbanks (1998-2001), and Corliss Swain (2001- ).
For over two decades the department has held one or two retreats each year, usually with the Carleton philosophers, and usually with an accomplished philosopher to assign readings and lead the discussions. Here is the list of retreats and leaders:
1. Sept. 15-17, 1978: Roy Elveton and Kent Bendall on evaluating the philosophy department curriculum. Otter Tail Lake.
2. April 11-13, 1980: Richard Rorty on pragmatism, mirror of nature, etc. Otter Tail Lake.
3. Oct. 12-14, 1980: Alan Donagan on The Theory of Morality. Otter Tail Lake.
4. Sept. 18-20, 1981: Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and Foucault. Otter Tail Lake.
5. Nov. 5-7, 1982: Fred Stoutland (on Putnam’s [anti]realism), Maria Lugones (on understanding other people), Karen Warren (on environmental ethics). Otter Tail Lake. (This is the only retreat where we did not have an external discussion leader.)
6. Sept. 23-25, 1983: Fred Dretske on epistemology. Otter Tail Lake.
7. May 3-5, 1985: Ian Hacking on History and Philosophy of Science. Otter Tail Lake.
8. April 18-20, 1986: Michael Root on evaluating the philosophy program. Otter Tail Lake.
9. Sept. 19-21: Alan Donagan on action theory. Otter Tail Lake.
10. Sept. 18-20, 1987: John Haugeland on Heidegger, etc. Otter Tail Lake.
11. Oct. 7-9, 1988: Steve Stich on cognitive science. Otter Tail Lake.
12. Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 1989: Michel Devitt on realism. Otter Tail Lake.
13. Sept. 21-23, 1990: Peter Kivy on aesthetics. Otter Tail Lake.
14. Oct. 4-6, 1991: Keith Yandell on Indian philosophy. Otter Tail Lake.
15. Oct. 18-20, 1992: Nick Sturgeon on moral realism. Otter Tail Lake.
16. Sept. 23-25, 1994: Galen Strawson on mental reality and determinism. Tofte.
17. Sept. 15-17, 19995: Eliot Sober on evolution and ethics. Tofte.
18. April 12, 1997: Robert Audi and Terry Hogan on ethics and cognitive science. Mt. Olivet Retreat Center.
19. April 17, 1999: Keith Lehrer on epistemology and self-trust. Villa Maria Retreat Center.
20. Jan. 8, 2000: Susan Haack on epistemology and ethics. St. James Hotel, Red Wing.
21. Sept. 22-24, 2000: Thomas Hill on recent Kantian ethics. Round Lake, Wisconsin.
22. May 12, 2001: Julia Annas on ancient ethics and religion. St. James Hotel, Red Wing.
23. Oct. 5-7, 2001: Noel Carroll on Aesthetics and Ethics. Round Lake, Wisconsin.
24. Oct. 11-13, 2002: Robert Pippin on Henry James, etc. Round Lake.
Each year, since 1979, the department has sponsored the Eunice Belgum Memorial Lectures, named in honor of a 1967 graduate who received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and taught at William and Mary College, where she died in 1977. The fund was established by family and friends of Eunice, and stipulates that “the lectures may be on any topic of philosophical relevance, though a special effort will be made to select those in the areas of special interest to Eunice Belgum—namely ethics, philosophy of mind, and issues connected with liberating both men and women from stereotyped roles.” In spite of the relative modesty of the endowment, Eunice’s reputation and connections have enabled us to bring an impressive list of philosophers to campus. Here is the list:
“Not Judge, Not Victim, Nor Savior”
“Understanding and Rationality”
“The Fragility of Goodness”
“Truth, Knowledge, and Freedom”
“Authority and Paranoia: The Social Construction of Gender and the Philosophical Self”
“The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism”
“Myths for Our Technological Future”
“Feminist Social Philosophy”
“Living Morally: A Psychology of Moral Character”
1989 Keith Gunderson
“The Aesthetic Robot”
“Virtue and Ethics”
“Ethics and the Genetic Revolution”
“The Many Faces of Morality”
“Scientific Knowledge and Feminist Theoretical Virtues”
“Superficialism about Mind and Meaning”
“Aestheticism: Defined and Defended”
“Mind, Matter, and Making Sense”
“How Far Have We Fallen?”
“Two Dogmas of Empiricism in Ethics”
2001 Lydia Goehr
“Listening, Laughing, and Learning”
2002 Fred Stoutland
“How to Believe in Free Will”
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Date Last Modified: 8/10/03