Department Chair

  • Jennifer McErlean
    Professor of Philosophy
    Siena Hall 414
    (518) 783-4129


Philosophy teaches students to think clearly, critically, and deeply about the big questions of life: Does God exist? How can we distinguish truth from falsehood? What is the relationship between mind and body? Can self-knowledge be achieved? Does language capture reality? How can we tell right from wrong? What is justice, and how can it be accomplished? Are human beings free?
At Siena College, we value the study of the history of philosophy while at the same time inviting students to reflect on complex issues of our own time. In a series of historically oriented courses, students are introduced to primary texts in the western philosophical tradition from Plato and Aristotle to Augustine and Aquinas, from Descartes, Hume and Kant to Hegel, Mill and James, and from Heidegger, Beauvoir and Arendt to Wittgenstein, Sellars and Quine. We offer thematic courses on topics such as love, nature, art, democracy, gender, knowledge, and diversity.

Our faculty members have expertise in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Philosophy, as well as Logic, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Pragmatism, Environmental Ethics, Moral Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of Film, Philosophy of Religion, and Political Philosophy. We are thus able to offer a wide range of courses and we work closely with students on their own research in both Philosophy and related fields.

As philosophy stresses logical thinking, analysis, sound argument, and clear writing, it provides the skills necessary for success in any career. Majors in Philosophy typically score high on standardized tests and go on to careers in law, business, journalism, higher education, religion, and government. Philosophy majors also have great flexibility when choosing electives in other fields.

The Symposium on Living Philosophers – a course unique to Siena College – provides students with the opportunity to both study the work of and interact directly with a contemporary thinker who comes to campus both in the fall and spring semesters. The Symposium has so far hosted Richard RortyMichael WalzerJohn D. Caputo, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. We are excited to announce that Judith Butler will be the featured philosopher for the 2013-14 academic year. The department also hosts an annual lecture, faculty research colloquia, and a vibrant philosophy club, thus preparing students to be reflective, engaged, and responsible members of their community and of the world.