About the Major

At Hamilton, philosophy professors encourage students to engage actively in classes. Our small introductory classes focus on primary sources rather than predigested material in textbooks. All courses invite students to participate in collaborative conversations, with emphases on developing clear writing and presentation skills. Philosophy majors apply their training beyond the classroom through experiential learning projects or by participating in our exciting summer program. Visiting speakers bring some of the most prominent names in philosophy to campus and into our classrooms.

Students Will Learn To:

  • Explain a range of philosophical views, historical and contemporary
  • Identify philosophical problems in philosophy, other academic disciplines, or outside the academy
  • Formulate their own views about philosophical problems in conversation with other philosophical works
  • Defend those views cogently in writing and in speech

A Sampling of Courses

Truax Pillars

Environmental Ethics

Examines the appropriate relation of humans to the environment. Specific topics include ways of conceptualizing nature; the ethical and social sources of the environmental crisis; our moral duties to non-human organisms; and the ethical dimensions of the human population explosion. The goal is to help students arrive at their own reasoned views on these subjects and to think about the consequences of everyday actions, both personal and political. Preference given to environmental studies majors and minors, starting with seniors.

Explore these select courses:

How ought we to live our lives? How ought we to treat other people? What features of an action make it right or wrong? What are the character traits make a person good or bad? We will examine three major traditions in ethical theory: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. And we will discuss some applied questions concerning the morality of abortion, affluence and poverty, war, pornography, climate change, and the treatment of non-human animals. We will explore questions of moral motivation. We will read primary texts.

What is a self? Does each person have one? Does each person have only one? How is the self related to the soul? Is it unchanging or in constant flux? What is the relationship between the self and the body? Examination of personal identity, the self and the soul as these topics are addressed in traditional philosophical texts, literature and the natural and behavioral sciences.

A study of justice within the history of ethical theory, including developments and debates among Humean, consequentialist, and deontological perspectives. We pay special attention to aid (when are we required to help others in need?) and distributive justice (what constitutes a fair distribution of goods and resources?), discussing theories from Dworkin, Rawls, Sen, and Nussbaum. The course concludes with a unit on the capabilities approach to distributive justice, which introduces basic questions about the requirements for living a good and happy human life.

It makes sense to see morality as adaptive, yet from an evolutionary perspective it’s puzzling that we follow and enforce moral standards even when it is costly for us to do so. This course will critically examine different sorts of evolutionary accounts of morality (e.g. group selection, cultural evolution), with methodological issues in mind.

Meet Our Faculty

Russell Marcus

Chair, Professor of Philosophy


philosophy of mathematics, logic, modern philosophy, and pedagogy

Justin Clark

Associate Professor of Philosophy


ethics, ancient philosophy, social and political philosophy

Katheryn Doran

Associate Professor of Philosophy


American philosophy; the problem of skepticism; contemporary Anglo-American philosophy; environmental ethics

A. Todd Franklin

Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies


existentialism, African-American philosophy, and Nietzsche

Marianne Janack

John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy, Acting Chair of the Department of German, Russian, Italian, and Arabic


epistemology; philosophy of science; philosophy of mind; theories of identity; feminist theory; philosophy and literature; American pragmatism

Alessandro Ramón Moscarítolo Palacio

Visiting Assistant Professor in Philosophy


philosophy of love and sex, feminist philosophy, medical ethics, and aesthetics

Alexandra Plakias

Associate Professor of Philosophy


metaethics, moral psychology and ethics

philosophy of science (esp. biology), metaphysics (esp. personal identity), death

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in philosophy are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Writer, Simon & Schuster
  • Psychiatrist, SW Connecticut Mental Health
  • Director & Counsel, Credit Suisse Securities
  • U.S. Ambassador, Federal Republic of Germany
  • Professor of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University
  •  Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Virginia Tech
  • Senior Scientist, GE Global Research
  • Director, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Vice President, Goldman Sachs
  • Officer, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Principal Law Clerk, New York State Supreme Court
  • Lieutenant, U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Explore Hamilton Stories

2024 Gilman Scholars

Six Awarded Gilman Scholarships

Six Hamilton students — Lara Barreira ’25, Nikki Conlogue 25, Miranda Gregory ’25, Kelvin Nunez ’24, Christina Stoll ’25, and Mimosa Van ’26 — are studying abroad this semester, thanks to assistance from Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships.

Research Round-Up / Kudos - illustration of a microscope, a student presenting a poster, books, and a student painting.

Kudos! Recent Student Accomplishments

Hamilton students take on unique projects that reflect their talents and interests. In many cases, they collaborate with faculty mentors on this work, which often leads to co-authored papers, joint presentations at professional conferences, and professors mentoring students during academic competitions.

Russell Marcus

Marcus, Schmitt ’24 Secure Grant for Summer Philosophy Program

Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus and Catherine Schmitt ’24 were recently awarded an AAPT grant for the Hamilton College Summer Program in Philosophy.


Department Name

Philosophy Department

Contact Name

Russell Marcus, Chair

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

The $400 million campaign marked the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the College's history.

More About the Campaign's Success

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