About Philosophy

Chair's Message

Christopher WilliamsImagine that you are a character in a science-fiction fantasy. You are offered a chance to step into a teletransportation device, and are told that it will enable you to travel immediately to a distant galaxy. But when you realize that the person re-created at the other end will be stocked with your transferred memories while the person at this end will be physically destroyed as a result of entering the device, you may have second thoughts. Will you really be traveling? Or will you be dying?

Now imagine that you are a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, making a decision about the subject you are choosing for your major or minor – or perhaps, less ambitiously, just a decision about a single elective that will be worth some of your scarce time. The question that we were asking ourselves a moment ago about space travel and our own personal identity is one example of a philosophical question, and the good news is that the department of philosophy is a securely anchored place where it is possible for you to explore serious answers to that question, and to many others besides. If, for instance, you have ever asked yourself whether cruelty could be wrong merely because you disliked it, what makes a life well-lived or a society just, or why the universe could (or could not) be a product of chance or design, you have been asking yourself the kinds of questions philosophers routinely investigate, possibly without even noticing that you were doing so. On behalf of my colleagues, let me invite you to join us in these investigations.

If you do take our classes, you will find faculty members who are actively engaged in a plethora of stimulating research projects but give freely of their time and attention to students. You will encounter an intimate community of people, faculty and students alike, who are unafraid to tackle hard intellectual problems, but who support one another in our common inquiries (as all of them, in some sense, are). You will be introduced to distinguished visiting speakers with international reputations, and have opportunities to engage with them directly. You will grow, we are prepared to bet – not only as a philosopher, but as a person.

Finally, as the airlines (a conceptually stable mode of transport) like to say, "We know you have other options and we appreciate your business." An important reason to regard philosophy as an option when planning your academic future is that the training we provide cultivates keen analytical skills, the ability to make careful distinctions and to frame focused arguments, and the power to express complex thoughts in lucid, powerful prose. Not to mention a far better sense of what matters. These virtues are rightly prized in almost every professional sphere. Our alumni enjoy a variety of fulfilling and successful careers – and even some hardy souls among them have become teachers of philosophy. But whatever your fancy, or desired level of involvement, do peruse our website, look over our course offerings, and (needless to say) always feel free to pay us a non-virtual visit.

Christopher Williams
Department Chair