Skip Navigation
A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.



Among the benefits of studying philosophy are the well-crafted tools it offers for approaching questions that we as human beings inevitably face: What is happiness, and can we hope to attain it? How do we balance our desires, needs and rights with those of other people and animals, now and in the future? Is there a God? Do people the world over think the same way about basic issues, or are there fundamental differences among cultures? If there are differences, must we respect them? At Smith, philosophy students learn to think with clarity, objectivity and precision; to become more skillful writers adept at expressing difficult concepts; to express themselves clearly in discussions; and to recognize and analyze the philosophical issues that arise in their other classes.


Philosophy Department Presentation of the Major and Minor

Join the faculty and hear from current students at a presentation of the philosophy major and minor on Monday, October 18 at 12:15 p.m.  Meet under the tent on Seelye lawn -- the one that's closest to Dewey House.  Location changes to Dewey Common Room in bad weather.  Lunch provided. 

Interview with Theresa Helke

Theresa Helke, lecturer in philosophy, was recently interveiwed by Project Vox for their blog series, Revealing Voices. Project Vox concerns an important scholarly development in philosophy: the acknowledgement that a number of early modern women have been unjustly ignored in our narratives of the history of philosophy.

The Smith College Interdisciplinary Philosophy Journal

The philosophy department is pleased to present Eudaimonia, the Smith College Interdisciplinary Philosophy Journal. The latest issue is available in pdf format.


We encourage our students to read philosophical texts from an array of traditions, historical periods and genres, closely and critically, in order to develop an awareness of complexity and nuance, and we wish them to use those texts, orally and in writing, as sites for their own critical thinking, moral and intellectual exploration, and engagement with the world in which they live.

Accordingly, students who complete the major in philosophy should be able to:

  • Understand and be familiar with major movements, authors, and philosophical traditions across the world.
  • Understand philosophy in relation to historical frameworks, both diachronic (contemporary texts in relation to prior texts) and synchronic (texts in their own time, in relation to the contexts that shape an era’s thought and expression).
  • Write clear, forceful interpretive arguments, which give voice to a complex understanding of philosophical texts, and marshal evidence carefully and persuasively.
  • Conduct scholarly research in print and electronic formats, citing sources accurately and responsibly—and using that research to enter the critical debates and conversations that texts provoke.
  • Make effective use of oral communication and presentation techniques.

Here is a small but representative sample of the kinds of questions raised in Smith philosophy classes which help students to achieve these goals:

  • What does it mean to be a cosmopolitan person—a global citizen?
  • In the United States and some other countries the gap between the super rich and everyone else has been growing in recent decades. Does this matter? Why (not)?
  • Which (if any) of your behaviors can be explained by appeal to biology?
  • What is the fundamental nature of reality? Is three one? Why should we care?
  • Does privacy matter only if you “have something to hide”?
  • A prison's warden has asked that you, a physician, participate in the execution of a death row prisoner by lethal injection. You are aware that the American Medical Association’s ethical guidelines prohibit doctors’ involvement in executions. You also know that if you decline to participate, the prisoner is at risk of greater suffering. What do you decide, and why?

Advisers: Members of the department
Study Abroad Adviser: Jay Garfield

Philosophy majors must take at least 10 semesterlong courses. You must include among those 10 courses:

  • Two courses in the history of philosophy, one in the Western tradition (e.g., PHI 124, PHI 125) and one in a non-Western tradition (e.g. PHI 112, PHI 127)
  • LOG 100 or LOG 101 or PHI 202
  • PHI 200, usually taken in the sophomore year
  • Two 300–level courses
  • Three 200–level courses (other than PHI 200), each from a different one of the following areas:
Value Theory

Including: PHI 221, 222, 233, 238, 241, 242, 255

Social/Political Philosophy

Including: PHI 225, 234, 235, 237, 242

Culture and Material Life

Including: PHI 221, 233, 234, 237, 241, 254, 255

Metaphysics and Epistemology

Including: PHI 209, 211, 213, 225, 230, 252, 253j, 254, 262

Language and Logic

Including: PHI 211, 213, 220, 236, 262

Science and Technology

Including: PHI 209, 224, 238

Advisers: Members of the department

The minor in philosophy consists of at least five courses, which typically will include:

  • A course in LOG
  • A 100-level PHI course
  • A three-course "concentration," to be built by the student in close consultation with her adviser and with the approval of the department

Honors Director: Jeffry L. Ramsey

PHI 430D Honors Project
Credits: 8
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

PHI 431 Honors Project
Credits: 8
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

PHI 432D Honors Project
Credits: 12
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.


For up-to-date course schedule information for 2021 fall semester Philosophy courses, use the Smith College Course Search.  The Five College Course Guide is a tool to search for courses throughout the Five Colleges.  The Smith College Course Catalog may also be a useful source of information.  

For more information about the department and the academic year 2021–22, please see the philosophy brochure.

The following courses are taught by philosophy faculty and listed under categories different from philosophy in the course catalog.

Fall 2021

ENV 101 Sustainability and Social-Ecological Systems
We have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, characterized by the accelerating impact of human activities on the Earth’s ecosystems. All over the globe, humans have transformed the environment and have sometimes created catastrophic dynamics within social-ecological systems. Scientists have studied these phenomena for decades, alerting both the general public and policy-makers of the consequences of our actions. However, despite convincing evidence of environmental degradation, humans continue to radically transform their environment. This course explores this puzzle and asks how we can remodel our social-ecological systems to build a more sustainable and resilient future. {H} {N} {S} Credits: 4
Efadul Huq, Jeffry Lee Ramsey

FYS 120 Philosophical Explorations of Humor and Laughter
A focus on some of the ethical, social and political issues raised by humor and laughter. Humor can be a forceful instrument, often deployed by the powerful to control the powerless and by the powerless to try to topple the powerful. Its effects, intended or unintended, can be benign or hurtful. Closely examining texts from a variety of philosophical perspectives, we explore questions such as: What have been the hopes for, and worries about, what humor achieves? Who offers instructions about the proper objects of and occasions for humor and laughter? What reasons have they given for doing so? Enrollment limited to 16. WI {M} {S} Credits: 4
Elizabeth V. Spelman

FYS 176 Existentialism
The term “existentialism” refers to a nexus of twentieth-century philosophical and literary explorations focused on themes including human freedom, responsibility, temporality, ambiguity, and mortality. Existentialists Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre oppose a longstanding philosophical view that human beings flourish by understanding themselves and the cosmos in rational terms. In addition to exploring assigned readings in depth, the seminar addresses broader questions: “Are there insights involving existentialist themes that literary works are in a distinctive position to convey?” “Is there an existentialist ethics?” and “Do existentialists’ realizations about living well continue to have resonance today?”. Enrollment limited to 16.  WI {H} Credits: 4
Susan Levin

Spring 2022

FYS 105 Ethics of Big Data
The emergence and rapid development of networked information technologies has produced an enormous amount of data about us, from our consumer habits and financial histories to our health histories and social media identities. This class considers ethical and political questions in connection with the collection, use, and storage of this data, considering empirical research in the social sciences and computer sciences against the backdrop of philosophical conceptions of consent, privacy, personal identity, and equality. Students will analyze ethical questions prompted by the generation of big data, and social implications of data-driven governance, considering possible theoretical and policy-guiding responses. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. (E) {WI} Credits: 4
Melissa Yates

HSC 211 Perspectives in the History of Science
Topics course: The Scientific Revolution 
What was the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries? Did a revolution even occur? If it did, was it really revolutionary? If it occurred, what forces produced it? How did the boundaries of “science,” which was known as “natural philosophy,” change during this time period? Readings are drawn from primary and secondary sources. {H} {N} Credits: 4
Jeffry Lee Ramsey

As an inherently interdisciplinary field, the philosophy department is associated with a number of other departments and programs at Smith, including:


Featured Programs

The Linguistics Minor

The linguistics minor at Smith delves into such questions as what common features do languages of the world share, and what are the connections between languages.


Tibetan Studies in India 

Students spend interterm in Sarnath, India, studying Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan history with faculty from the Central University of Tibetan Studies.



Research Resources

Finding Philosophy eresources
Links to useful and popular philosophy databases to find articles, papers and other eresources.

Finding theses and dissertations
Links to databases for UK and international dissertations. MPhil theses and extended essays are also available at the Issue desk to consult in the library.

3:AM Interviews
Richard Marshall interviews a range of people, including many philosophers, on both their lives and their ideas/beliefs.

Philosophy Bites
Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds conduct “bite-sized” interviews of a vast group of distinguished philosophers. Topics include aesthetics, linguistics, ethics, metaphysics and politics.

History of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps)
Peter Adamson, Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and at King’s College London takes listeners through the history of philosophy, “without any gaps.” The series looks at the ideas, lives and historical context of the major philosophers as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.

Conference Calls for Papers from Conference Alerts

American Philosophical Association Conferences, Events and Seminars and Calls for Papers




Department of Philosophy
Wright Hall 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3662
Fax: 413-585-3248

Administrative Assistant: Phoebe McKinnell 

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.