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Ergo | Summer 2014

Undergraduate Program Update

The UT Philosophy undergraduate program continues to grow, thanks to the work of current Director Clerk Shaw.   The Department is nearing its goal of graduating about 35 philosophy majors per year.  This year’s graduates, a very promising bunch indeed, includes the first students completing the new concentrations in political and legal philosophy and in the philosophy of science and medicine.  The Department wishes all of this year’s graduates the best for future endeavors!  Stay in touch!

Incoming philosophy students will find two additional enhancements to the undergraduate programs.  First, they will have the opportunity to earn in five years a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy.  Second, they will be able to satisfy their “quantitative reasoning” distribution requirement with either critical reasoning or formal logic.  The Department hopes soon to add a capstone experience requirement for all majors. 

The winners of the 2014 Mark and Inge Moore Undergraduate Essay Prize were Robert Nowell and Kristen Beard.  Robert’s essay “Indeterminism in Kane’s Event-Causal Libertarianism” took first place, and Kristen’s essay “The Indispensability of Pain and Security” took second place.  Well done!

The Department awarded undergraduate scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year to Robert Nowell, Kristen Beard, Felipe Oliveira and Jessica Shultz.  Kristen and Felipe received McClure Scholarships; Robert received a Rolf-Deiter Herman Scholarship, and Jessica received a Postow Scholarship.  The Department is thrilled to be able to support their work in the coming academic year and looks forward to their many contributions to its intellectual life. 

Several undergraduates ventured away from Knoxville this past year to pursue further their philosophical ambitions.  Robert Nowell spent time as a visiting student at Harvard where he worked on philosophical and policy issues raised by the health impacts of global climate change.  Eric Dixon spent time as a visiting student as the University of Arizona where he pursued his interests in political philosophy and public policy.

And after spending her summer at Carnegie Mellon where she completed the summer program on logic and formal epistemology, Kristen Beard ventured to the UK to study at the University of Manchester.  While there she ventured to Nottingham to present a paper at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research.  And Kathleen Connelly traveled to San Diego to present a paper on Kant at an undergraduate research conference.

As with graduate students, UT undergraduate philosophy students enjoy close working and student-mentor relationships with the faculty.  These relationships often enable them to produce publishable research.  For example, working with Prof. EJ Coffman on a paper originally written for EJ’s epistemology course, Robert Nowell published a paper on the norms governing assertion in Dialectic.

The undergraduate Philosophy Club joined forces with the Neuroscience Club to host events focusing on neuroethics and the intersections between neuroscience and the philosophy of mind.  In one instance, the jointly sponsored event drew a standing room only crowd.  The clubs have drawn faculty interest and participation from philosophy, psychology and various sciences.  The Philosophy Club co-sponsored events also with the Meditation and Mindfulness Club, drawing on the shared interest in understanding compassion.  The Club hosted also a series of nuts and bolts meetings devoted to exploring and supporting undergraduate research, and some more open ended meetings devoted to discussion of war, climate change, personal identity, and perfectionist ideals. 

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