The department has three areas of special strength: 1) the History of Philosophy, 2) Continental Philosophy, and 3) Practical Philosophy (encompassing not just ethics and applied ethics but questions and issues relating to politics, social justice, and the understanding and application of scientific knowledge, both from the natural and social sciences, to contemporary problems and issues). All these areas are explored in a broad humanistic and interdisciplinary way, as offering resources for deep reflection on contemporary questions and concerns.
The department offers a balanced program of courses in the history and problems of philosophy, allowing for concentration in the following areas: medieval philosophy, continental European philosophy from Kant to the present, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of science.
The department co-sponsors a program in medieval philosophy and theology. There is provision for other interdisciplinary programs in cooperation with other departments of the University.
The range of courses available within the department and elsewhere, allows the student considerable flexibility in planning an individualized program of study.
A number of scholarly journals are currently edited by members of the faculty. The department members are actively involved in research.
The faculty consists of 31 full-time members and, in addition, regular visiting professors from both the United States and abroad. There are currently about 49 doctoral students and about 46 students in the Master's program.
Mission Statement of the Philosophy Department
Every human being seeks answers to life’s most basic questions—questions regarding the nature of knowledge, truth, rationality, language, being, transcendence, God, faith, beauty, the good, justice, humanity, friendship, love, sexuality, identity, power, authenticity, and so on. Reflection on such questions remains the core of the study of philosophy. Philosophy is faithful to the human condition itself when it maintains a living relation with these basic questions of meaning and concern: What is the good life? What is evil, and why is there suffering? What constitutes our proper relation to the truth? What are the prospects for rational reflection and shared conviction? The persistence of these questions (rather than uniformity of answers) confers on the history of philosophy its unity, even as the diversity of possible responses also provides for richness and a growing stock of intellectual resources for addressing such questions. The mission of the Philosophy Department at Boston College today, in both its teaching and scholarly research, is to provide a challenging, yet supportive environment for the exploration of these questions and answers that inform our personal, communal, and institutional lives.
We approach our mission in our teaching and scholarly research through the critical examination of multiple philosophical traditions. In our view, a contemporary philosopher cannot begin to address the same questions that her predecessors also faced except from within the field of proposals previously opened up by those predecessors. It is certain that whatever we today may achieve will in no small part be indebted to the prior achievements conveyed to us. Yet this is no more to say that good philosophy simply repeats its past than it is to say that “the good life,” “truth” or “rationality” are today quite what they were two centuries or two millennia ago. The great figures in the history of philosophy offer us works to which we are immediately indebted, but which cannot speak to our own time and place exactly as they spoke to the time and place in which they were written. This is why a healthy relationship of philosophy to its own history requires constant sensitivity to the contexts in which questions arise and responses are worked out. Hence, philosophical reflection is not only simply historical but also, in a careful sense, hermeneutical.
This conception of philosophy, evident already in the most ancient texts of our tradition and preserved especially in what is now called the continental tradition, refuses to exclude or privilege any dimension of human experience over any of the others. Instead, it attempts to understand their true relations—whether these be of reason and passion, body and soul, or animal, human and divine. So conceived, philosophy is necessarily interdisciplinary because different disciplines attend well to different features of human reality. And philosophy is therefore also intimately in accord with the Jesuit Catholic mission of Boston College, since a positive relation to other disciplines and a positive interest in the full range of human experiences is essentially consistent with Ignatius’s suggestion that one should seek truth and goodness in all things.