Senior Interviews — Grace Osborne-Neukirc ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. In this video interview, Grace Osborne-Neukirc ’21 tells us about first getting interested in philosophy, favorite courses, how philosophical education can contribute to scientific practice, and more. Grace is graduating with majors in Philosophy and Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience.

Senior Interviews — Ben Sovocool ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. For this post, we interviewed Ben Sovocool ’21. Graduating with majors in Economics and Philosophy, Ben is planning to attend Cornell law school in the fall.

How did you get interested in philosophy in the first place?

My interest in philosophy was first really sparked through high school English, funnily enough.  In fact, I think it was Shakespeare, probably Hamlet.  Once you start to really dig into it (though with Hamlet you don’t have to dig very hard) these really interesting questions start to come up. Live versus death, meaning, our moral obligations and so on. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was also an influence. How do we understand and confront evil? I tried reading some philosophy in high school, which largely went nowhere. It felt like a challenge, though, and it was immediately appealing to have this great intellectual puzzle. I didn’t have any high school philosophy classes, which I am pretty thankful for in all honesty.  I took PHIL 101 my first semester and from there I was off.

Is there an area of philosophy that interests you the most?

My primary interests are metaphysics, moral philosophy, and metaethics. Of the three, my real favorite is metaphysics.

What about this area is interesting to you?

The foundation of philosophy is the instinctive human practice of asking questions which are very hard to answer. I think that metaphysics is a category of philosophy which approaches some of our most difficult and most important questions regarding the nature of life and the world around us. Moreover, the way we answer these metaphysical questions has a distinct impact on the way we perceive the world around us all the time.

Has your study of philosophy informed your day to day life or how you make decisions?

It’s difficult to identify the ways that the study of philosophy has directly influenced my life or decision-making in the sense of pointing to a few scenarios or choices. I do feel that studying philosophy has had a profound impact on the way I think systematically, though the change has been in bits over time. So to answer your question, yes to both, but more in the sense of providing a way to think than a set of information to apply.

What was your favorite philosophy class?

It’s very hard to choose just one. It might be 17th and 18th Century Philosophy, which is a really fascinating course. The burst of intellectual developments in those two centuries was really staggering, producing a great number of philosophers whose works are still very relevant now.

How has your other major shaped your philosophical studies and vice versa?

Studying philosophy has had a huge impact on my study of economics. Economics was, in its early stages, essentially a branch of philosophy. Certainly in Plato and Aristotle we see discussions of economy, and Smith, Mill, and Marx were self-admittedly philosophical. They thought this because economics is concerned with a number of philosophical questions, and the answers we choose dictate a great deal of the economic program. These hidden normative components, once you are able to see and understand them, really influence how you view all economics (orthodox and heterodox). I also feel that understanding philosophy, especially epistemology, is useful for all sciences (or pseudosciences).

Studying economics was useful in studying philosophy because economics tends to encourage a particularly analytical method of thinking. This x causes y, which acts on z in so and so way. I think that method of thinking is useful both for breaking down arguments in philosophy and for maintaining a level of focus and coherence in my own writing, which was a problem for me in the past.

When and why did you ultimately decide to become a philosophy major?

I entered college wanting to be a philosophy major. My advising class was in economics, which I also really enjoyed, and so for a while I was torn. I never really made up my mind, so I decided to double major at the start of sophomore year and never regretted it.

How did your parents and strangers react when you told them you were a philosophy major?

My parents were very supportive. The economics major I’m sure allayed their concerns somewhat. I got the question about what I would do for a job for a while, although recently I haven’t very much.

Do you have a particular memory as a philosophy major at Puget Sound that stands out to you?

Not one in particular, but I remember a number of real writing sessions which will stick with me for a while. Locking myself in the study closet on the third floor of Schiff to write a paper freshman year, or downstairs in the library in the stacks junior year. Hours and hours of Satie and Debussy. I remember all of it very fondly.

Do you have any advice for current philosophy students?

You will find yourself at times unable to understand what you are reading, or translate it into your own words on paper. Try and break it down into smaller, understandable pieces, and then reassemble the argument in parts until you understand the whole thing. With enough time, all arguments are understandable. Ask questions if you have them, because usually someone else is wondering the exact same thing. Introductions in primary sources often greatly aid in understanding. However, you need to always read the primary source. Summaries online will give you a partial understanding at best, and a misinterpretation at worst.  Don’t be afraid of classic philosophy; understanding the big names will give you the context a lot of later authors assume. Find a good study space and use it.

Any final thoughts?

As a philosophy student, one good trick is to lean on a quotation to say precisely what you struggle to express. It’s appropriate, then, to close out with a quote on the value of philosophy. In De Officiis, Cicero wrote the following: “if the man lives who would belittle the study of philosophy, I quite fail to see what in the world he would see fit to praise. For if we are looking for mental enjoyment and relaxation, what pleasure can be compared with the pursuits of those who are always studying out something that will tend toward and effectively promote a good and happy life? Or, if regard is had for strength of character and virtue, then this is the method by which we can attain to those qualities, or there is none at all. And to say that there is no “method” for securing the highest blessings, when none even of the least important concerns is without its method, is the language of people who talk without due reflection and who blunder in matters of the utmost importance. Furthermore, if there is really a way to learn virtue, where shall one look for it, when one has turned aside from this field of learning?” (Book II Part 6)

Senior Interviews — Guillermo Ruiz ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. In this post, Guillermo Ruiz ’21 notes his appreciation for philosophical discussions with other students and says that majoring in philosophy is like ‘majoring in life’ given that ‘you are constantly problem-solving’. In addition, he speaks about what he likes about philosophy, his favorite class, how philosophy helps him approach challenging situations, his advice for students considering philosophy, and more.

Congratulations 2021 Philosophy Majors and Minors!

While we missed the opportunity to have an in-person philosophy reception, this past weekend we had a chance to celebrate virtually philosophy graduates and their families and friends. Prof. Beardsley led our virtual toast reflecting on Hume’s view of philosophy as a practice that crucially connects to the imagination: In allowing us to consider alternative possibilities, philosophy can help us through tough times such as the ones we are living (by helping us imagine how things may be worse) and to appreciate good times (by helping us realize how lucky we are that they are so.) The toast was followed by fun comments and conversation, including Guillermo’s “I think that I am majoring in life” and Darian’s “I hear that I am minoring in coping.” Here are a few photos from the event and from the in person commencement (sorry about those we missed!) In addition, we got to see some philosophy students from the class of 2020 that returned to campus for the in-person 2020 commencement ceremony. What an eventful weekend! Congratulations to all!

Sienna, Brian, Ellinor, Grace, Guillermo
Guillermo, Roan, Brian, Ellinor, Sienna, Prof. Tiehen

Senior Interviews — Roan Furmanski ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. For this post, Guillermo Ruiz ’21 interviewed philosophy major Roan Furmanski ’21. In the video interview, Roan speaks about his experience becoming a philosophy major, his favorite philosophy classes, Marcos Aurelius, Nietzsche, his advice for students, and more.

Senior Interviews — Quinn Bohner ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. For this post, we interviewed Quinn Bohner ’21. Graduating with a major in Philosophy and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Emphasis: The Artist As Humanist, Quinn is currently in the training period for a behavioral technician position, helping to provide autism therapy services.

How did you get interested in philosophy in the first place?

I took a course in political philosophy at my local community college.

Is there an area of philosophy that interests you the most?

It’s hard to pick just one.

What about this area is interesting to you?

Systematic critical thinking is satisfying to practice in almost any domain, and the insights it generates in my fields of interest like art, phenomenology, and politics are especially interesting for me.

Has your study of philosophy informed your day to day life or how you make decisions?

Yes.

What was your favorite philosophy class?

Probably the course offered on Aristotle by Prof. Beardsley, because it challenged me to analyze philosophical writing with an explicit eye for presenting it to others, not just enjoying it myself.

When and why did you ultimately decide to become a philosophy major?

After taking the first community college class. I enjoyed studying it on my own, and came to the conclusion I could not go as far as I wanted to alone, when I tried and failed to read through the Phenomenology of Spirit without outside help.

How did your parents and strangers react when you told them you were a philosophy major?

My parents didn’t really care, reactions from others have ranged from amusement to praise.

Do you have any advice for current philosophy students?

If you want to learn something specific, a commentary is probably cheaper than tuition.

Any final thoughts?

No.

Samantha Lilly ’19 receives Fulbright fellowship

Philosophy alum Samantha Lilly, who graduated in 2019 with a major in Philosophy and emphasis in Bioethics, received a Fulbright fellowship to conduct research on mental health legislation in Argentina.

With support from the Fulbright award, Sam will be pursuing the project “Rights Based Approaches to Mental Health and Wellness: A Case Study at Hospital Alvarez in Buenos Aires, Argentina.” The Fulbright project follows on the interests and connections Sam developed during the Argentina portion of the year-long Watson Fellowship in 2019-2020. While in Argentina, Sam will be researching rights-based approaches to mental healthcare with a special focus on the work being done at Hospital Alvarez in Buenos Aires.

Sam finds that Argentina is an especially good setting to delve into rights-based approaches because of the innovative mental health law passed in 2010 that is partly the result of the human rights activism that followed the collective trauma caused by the civic-military dictatorship of the 1970’s. About her choice to apply for the Fulbright and go back to Argentina, Sam said:

I chose Argentina because I developed a profound love and appreciation for Porteño culture. It is effervescent, it is progressive, and it inspired me. I suppose in the same way I was certain the Watson was right for me, I knew a Fulbright was what I was meant to do next. Not to mention, I felt I had unfinished business in Buenos Aires—I love the city and I love Castellano [Argentina’s Spanish dialect], and I knew that I was meant to return from the moment I left.

You can read about Sam and other Puget Sound Fulbright 2021 finalists and semi-finalists here. You can read about Sam’s Watson project here and here. You can read about Sam’s summer research project that led to the senior thesis “Epistemic Injustice and Suicidality” and to the Watson application here.

Senior Interviews — Erland Cain ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. For this post, we interviewed Erland Cain ’21. Graduating with a major in Philosophy and a minor in African American Studies, Erland is currently applying to graduate programs in Library and Information Science.

How did you get interested in philosophy in the first place?

Reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder in High School was probably what got me seriously interested. The work is an exciting union between philosophical history and fiction, and it introduced me to the wide range of philosophical movements and figures.

Is there an area of philosophy that interests you the most?

I generally enjoy reading Scottish Common-Sense Philosophy, especially Thomas Reid’s critiques of the metaphysical systems of Early Modern philosophy. Recently, I have been interested in Arthur Schopenhauer’s essays.

What about this area is interesting to you?

Schopenhauer comes across to some as a contemptuous misanthrope, but he has sensitive qualities. I find his theory of humor convincing; I find his reflections on suffering compelling; and I find his compassion for animals righteous.

Has your study of philosophy informed your day to day life or how you make decisions?

I would hope that the critical thinking skills that I have developed will help me to engage more thoughtfully in civic responsibilities.

What was your favorite philosophy class?

Three-way tie between Ancient Greek philosophy, 19th Century philosophy, and the Philosophy of Science.

How has your minor shaped your philosophical studies and vice versa?

My African American studies courses have helped me to reflect critically on the history of philosophy. My AFAM courses left me eager to seek out philosophy from outside the Western canon and to acknowledge the extent to which this canon was influenced by non-Western thought.
By taking Social and Political Philosophy, I had the chance to familiarize myself with theories that I would later encounter in AFAM courses.

When and why did you ultimately decide to become a philosophy major?

In my first year. I never seriously considered studying anything else. I knew that if I ever changed my mind, the knowledge and inspiration that I would develop in philosophy would be applicable to a wide range of disciplines.

How did your parents and strangers react when you told them you were a philosophy major?

My parents are always supportive. I rarely tell strangers because I mostly know what their opinion is – and I do not want to hear it anymore.

Do you have a particular memory as a philosophy major at Puget Sound that stands out to you?

I distinctly remember purchasing my books during my first year. I was delighted to know that I would be reading many primary sources, rather than bloated textbooks.

Do you have any advice for current philosophy students?

I would advise any student to become familiar with the library’s online resources. When it comes to research projects especially, I have found that being able to explore a range of academic sources is a valuable skill.

Any final thoughts?

I am grateful for the talented philosophy faculty at UPS. I only wish that I could have taken more classes with them!​

Senior interviews — Ellinor Tibbs ’21

In recent years, the Department of Philosophy has interviewed alumni and graduating seniors about their experiences as philosophy majors, how philosophy has prepared them for post-graduation, and what advice they have for current students (you can find some of those interviews  here and here.) This year in an effort to recognize our graduating seniors in the midst of the pandemic, we are expanding the number of senior interviews. For this post, Guillermo Ruiz ’21 interviewed Ellinor Tibbs ’21. Graduating with majors in Philosophy and Anthropology, Ellinor plans to attend the master’s program in philosophy at Western Michigan University in the fall, where in addition to her graduate studies, she will serve as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses.

How did you get interested in philosophy in the first place?

During my junior year of high school, my AP Lang teacher taught my class about the allegory of the cave which I found really interesting. She also taught us to question everything including her, our school system, and the curriculum we were learning which helped to start my philosophical thinking.

Is there an area of philosophy that interests you the most?

Moral philosophy and ethics interest me the most, especially when it comes to bioethics and trying to actually apply these ethical theories to everyday life.

What about this area is interesting to you?

I think the aspect of this area that interests me the most is this idea of a good person and what good truly is. Especially when it comes to conversations trying to understand human nature and if humans at our core are good.

Has your study of philosophy informed your day-to-day life or how you make decisions?

I think ultimately, studying philosophy has made me a bit of an overthinker especially in my day-to-day life. I also find myself considering the ethics of things a lot and sometimes I like to ethically judge my friend’s decisions in a loving way as well as judge my actions.

What was your favorite philosophy class?

My favorite philosophy class was probably either Chinese philosophy or Ancient Greek philosophy. I really enjoy dissecting primary texts and working to extrapolate their meanings. I also think that a lot of the subject matter discussed in these classes is intriguing and challenging in a fun way where the material is still digestible and understandable.

When and why did you ultimately decide to become a philosophy major?

I decided my second semester Freshman year to become a philosophy major due to my seminar class on human nature. I enjoyed the professor and the material and felt that philosophy was an area of study that would constantly keep me engaged and interested. I’m a double major and in my other major there are times where things seem to get a bit repetitive because everything’s pulling on the same theories. This doesn’t happen in philosophy though and I think part of that is just because there is so much that’s a part of philosophy. You never really run out of material. There’s also a lot of freedom to develop your own opinions and theories and there never seems to be a right answer which I personally find comforting despite sometimes wanting there to be a right answer.

How did your parents and strangers react when you told them you were a philosophy major?

My parents were really supportive when I told them that I wanted to major in philosophy, we did joke about how it is often considered a useless major, but they’ve continued to be really supportive of my major even when I told them I wanted to go to grad school for philosophy. I’ve luckily always had a pretty positive reaction when I tell people I’m a philosophy major, they often think it sounds really cool.

Do you have a particular memory as a philosophy major at Puget Sound that stands out to you?

When I got to eat lunch with Kate Manne, a professor at Cornell University! It was a really fun time, we got to listen to her talk about her book, and later that day we got to watch her give a lecture on it. She also gave a second lecture on her next book that she was going to publish soon which was about gaslighting and male entitlement which was really intriguing. I find myself thinking about gaslighting a significant amount now from that talk. I don’t think I would honestly think about it to the extent that I do if it wasn’t for listening to her talk about it.

Do you have any advice for current philosophy students?

It would probably be to attend everything that the department does or that they promote if you can! The department brings in really wonderful people and it’s definitely contributed a great amount to my education and time here.

Podcast w/ Philosophy Alum Quinelle Bethelmie ’17

PS: The Puget Sound Podcast has a lengthy interview with Quinelle Bethelmie ’17. Quinelle graduated with a double major in Philosophy and Communications Studies and a minor in Classics. In the interview, she speaks about her experience at Puget Sound, her work for Georgia Public Broadcasting, politics, and her plans for the future. She also speaks about how she chose to be a philosophy major or rather how philosophy found her, as she put it. Quinelle is planning to attend American University Washington College of Law in the fall. You can listen to the podcast here.