Chair's Welcome Fall 2016


Welcome to the Philosophy Department at Simon Fraser University. We are a small, energetic, and productive department dedicated to both teaching and research.  Browsing our website will give you a better idea of what we do and where we excel, but here is a brief introduction.

For the undergraduate student, we offer a range of courses covering various philosophical topics, many satisfying SFU's W, Q, and B requirements. Even if you are not planning to be a major or minor, you will benefit from being introduced to what philosophers do and the skills and techniques they employ. The subject matter of philosophy is a bit difficult to make precise (see What is Philosophy?), but the philosophical attitude less so: do not be afraid to ask questions, do not stop asking them when the answers are hard to find, strive to get clear about the assumptions of your inquiry. We hear a lot about critical thinking and its importance. Philosophy is a whole discipline entirely devoted to it. Philosophy courses encourage you to think through problems without prejudice, to discern what constitutes the core of an issue, to read and understand complex, abstract arguments, and to write clearly and precisely, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. These are all skills that transfer well to any field of study, any enterprise or job.

The Philiosophy Department offers Honours, Major, and Minor programs. We excited to announce our new Law and Philosophy stream. As well, we offer a Certificate in Ethics, and our brand new Certificate in  Philosophy and Methodology of Science has just been approved by the University Senate.

If you are thinking about pursuing a degree in Philosophy, you are bound to run up against the inevitable question: "What are you going to do with that?" As with any discipline, only a very small number of philosophy majors go on to post-graduate work in the field.  And, let's face it, very few firms advertise jobs requiring a Philosophy degree.  But the fact is that very few degrees are directly linked to a specific career path in any case, and very few students entering university predict correctly what careers they will have.  There is growing evidence that the sorts of skills a Philosophy degree will equip you with are highly valuable in many professions, and that changing careers several times is becoming the norm, rather than an exception. Studies tend to show that, while starting salaries of philosophers might be lower, by mid-career they surpass those of business students. Philosophy graduates do extremely well on many standardized tests, such as LSAT (best of any major), GMAT (better than Economics majors, much better than Business majors), and GRE (best overall). For data evidence of all this, you might want to follow up some links at the Daily Nous website.

At the graduate level, we concentrate on the MA. We aim to ensure our students have a solid, broad philosophical education and demonstrated ability to do advanced research on a topic of their choice.  Our record of placing MA graduates (as well as some of our top undergraduates) in the highest ranked Ph.D. programs worldwide is now second to none,  and The Philosophical Gourmet has recognized ours as one of the top five terminal MA programmes in North America.

Our faculty does research in a broad range of areas (see individual faculty web pages). Our program of research-related events includes regular colloquia as well as two or three workshops on focused topics each year.

News for 2016/17: It is a busy year for us. It started with a Site Visit from the American Philosophical Association Committee for the Status of Women. We requested the visit to help us further our efforts in dealing with gender and other equity issues. The visit has been very helpful. We are also conducting two faculty searches (one for a limited term lecturer appointment which has concluded, and one for a junior tenure-track professor) and undergoing a full External Review this year.

Dr. Endre Begby has started this year with the double achievement of receiving his tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, as well as a SSHRC Insight Development Grant.  Congratulations, Endre! We welcome Dr. Gurpreet Rattan who is visiting us for the year from the University of Toronto. Dr. Lisa Shapiro continues as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; while continuing her research supported by a SSHRC grant, graduate supervision and other work with individual students, she will not be teaching any regular courses for us this year or next. Dr. Jennifer Warriner has joined our faculty on a two-year lecturer contract starting January 2017, and Simon Pollon , who is finishing his PhD with us, as a half time lecturer for a year, commencing in the Summer term of 2017.   

Our SFU Rotating Annual Workshops series continues this year with a workshop on The Intellect and Its Philosophical Limits (April 7th and 8th, organized by Gurpreet Rattan) and one on Ancient Approaches to Perception (May 5th and 6th, organized by Rosemary Twomey).

Dr. Martin Hahn
Chair, Department of Philosophy
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC  V5A 1S6

Email: chairphi at

Phone: 778.782.3343
Fax: 778.782.4443