Areas of Intellectual Strength

We are a full-service department in the Western philosophical tradition, committed to teaching a wide range of courses on the major topics of analytic philosophy, history of philosophy, and continental philosophy. However, the department has particular strength in certain areas that merit special mention.

The department’s commitment to the study of the history of philosophy is particularly strongly reflected in three areas: ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, nineteenth-century German philosophy, and the history of analytic philosophy. In ancient philosophy, we are particularly strong in the study of Greek ethics, with special attention to Plato and Aristotle. Faculty and students participate regularly in the very active Chicago-area Consortium in Ancient Philosophy, and we have a cooperative PhD program with the Department of Classics. The study of German Idealism is another outstanding strength of the department, again supported by a cooperative PhD program with the Department of Germanic Studies. The history of analytic philosophy is also a significant strength of the department, with the work of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Anscombe, Sellars, and others being especially closely studied and regularly taught.

In value theory, we offer a wide range of courses in analytic ethics and political philosophy. The department has particular strength in varieties of Aristotelian virtue ethics, both the ethics of Aristotle himself and forms of contemporary Aristotelianism. In political philosophy, our faculty’s interests range from the analytic tradition of thought about justice to the philosophy of Karl Marx and feminist philosophy. Our strength in political philosophy is enhanced by close collaborations with faculty in the Law School and with a vibrant political theory group in the Department of Political Science.

Our strength in ethics is closely linked to another area in which we excel. The department has a strong group of faculty working in action theory, in ways that engage with central figures in recent action theory (especially Anscombe, who was a former member of this department and whose thought remains an abiding source of interest for many faculty working in the area), with recent developments in allied fields including psychology and cognitive science, and with the long history of philosophical reflection on human action extending back to Aristotle.

The department also has a special strength in aesthetics and its history. A number of faculty work on philosophical approaches to literature, music, the visual arts, and film, and study the aesthetic theories of Plato, Kant, and the post-Kantian tradition. These strengths are supported by close relationships to faculty in the Departments of Germanic Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, and Art History.

Beyond these areas of distinctive strength, the department offers a wide array of courses throughout the main areas of philosophy, including the continental tradition, where various members of our faculty offer expertise in the German Idealist tradition (especially Hegel), Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida. In the philosophy of mind, we have a particular strength in questions about self-consciousness and self-knowledge, the nature of rationality, the philosophy of perception, and various question about representational content and intentionality. In epistemology, philosophical responses to skepticism form an area of focus. Several faculty also have special expertise in formal epistemology, with a focus on the role of Bayesian and non-Bayesian reasoning in the acquisition of knowledge. We also have strengths in logic, and in formal methods in the philosophy of language, supported by a close working relationship with the Department of Linguistics, with which we have a co-operative PhD program. In the philosophy of science, we offer courses ranging from the general methodology and metaphysics of science to specific topics in philosophy of physics and biology, as well as the history of science; the department maintains close ties with the Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine and the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science.