Chair's Welcome Fall 2023

Welcome to the Philosophy Department at SFU.  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.

What is Philosophy?

At its core, philosophy aims to increase our understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.  While that aim may be common to many of the disciplines within the University, what sets philosophy apart is its willingness to question the fundamental assumptions and methodologies of the various disciplines, including those of philosophy itself.  Philosophers draw inspiration from a broad range of sources – literature, history, mathematics, the natural and social sciences, and legal jurisprudence – while always casting a critical eye on significance and interpretation of those sources.  It is not enough to learn what a given scientific theory says about the causes of a given phenomenon; a philosopher questions the very concept of causation.  It is not enough to learn how the legal system defines mens rea; a philosopher wants to know what it means to be a person or to be morally culpable for one’s actions.

The primary tool in the philosopher’s toolkit – the “philosopher’s stone” if you will – is the argument.  Along with creativity and originality of thought, philosophers value clarity of expression and cogency of argumentation.  But a philosophical “argument” is not about winning and losing; it is about increasing one’s understanding of a given issue.  Philosophical questions are intriguing and complex, and the willingness and ability to grasp another’s arguments, even and especially when you disagree with their point of view, is just as important as the ability to craft one’s own argument.  This emphasis on originality and creativity of thought, clarity and cogency of argumentation, and sympathetic and charitable engagement with others, means that a Philosophy degree provides you with a powerful skill set that will help you succeed in a competitive world (see The Power of Philosophy).    

Our Programs

We offer a broad range of undergraduate courses intended to serve our majorsminors, and anyone interested in philosophical questions.  Whether your inclinations are those of a poet, mathematician, scholar, or aspiring policy-maker, there are courses that will grab your interest.

Thinking about going to Law School, or interested in Public Policy?  Take a look at our new Joint Major in Business, Philosophy and the Law and at our major and minor options in the Concentration in Law & Philosophy.  Studies show that Philosophy majors outperform most other majors both on the LSAT entrance exam and in law school.

Already have a major, but find that certain aspects of Philosophy pique your interest?  Consider our Minor Program or one of our two Certificate Programs: the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application and the Certificate in The Philosophy and Methodology of Science.  

The Philosophy Department is also a member of the Cognitive Science Program.  If you are interested in the study of the mind and its processes, including consciousness, language, learning, information processing, and decision making, you may want to explore this program.

Our Department also runs a highly successful MA program for students who already have a Bachelor’s degree and would like to continue their study of Philosophy. Our program has long and successful history of preparing students for top PhD programs, and is internationally recognized for its pedagogical strengths and its ability to foster a sense of philosophical community across diverse backgrounds. This year, the MA program welcomes a cohort of 10 new students from 8 different countries on 4 different continents.

We are excited to announce that Dr. Qiu Lin will be joining us as an Assistant Professor in January. Dr. Lin specializes in early modern philosophy, history and philosophy of science, and Chinese philosophy.

In addition, the Department celebrates an unprecedented four promotions this year: Nic Bommarito and Tom Donaldson have been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor (with tenure), while Holly Andersen and Endre Begby have been promoted to the rank of Professor.

Dr. Endre Begby

Chair, Department of Philosophy

Dr. Endre Begby
Chair, Department of Philosophy

Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC  V5A 1S6

Phone: 778.782.3343
Office: WMC 4627

"Anything you can do, we can do meta."
"Success in philosophy requires the creativity of a poet, the curiosity of a scientist, and the precision of a mathematician."