Alumni Profiles: Holli Fillbach Simcoe ’95

Philosophy majors pursue a wide variety of career paths after graduation, including but not limited to law, business, and higher education. Every few weeks, we will be featuring one of our department’s alumni, highlighting how their studies in philosophy have helped them in their post-graduate careers.

Holli Fillbach Simcoe graduated in 1995 with a degree in Philosophy. She now works as an Assistant General Counsel at Huron Consulting Group, which is a global management consulting group. When asked how studying philosophy has helped her in her career, she said:

“It’s hard to put a finger on exactly how philosophy studies have contributed to my career. It certainly helps me to be a critical thinker but also to be open-minded and creative.  I usually have more than one solution to a problem which most people find refreshing(…) in our many class discussions, I often took the minority viewpoint for the sake of argument. For example, if you were stuck on a boat in the ocean would you fend for yourself or cooperate for the greater good.  I found it more interesting to consider fending for myself than the more “sane” concept of working together.  This “thinking skill” or perhaps, “objectivity,” allows me to consider many angles of an issue or problem.  I tend not to dismiss something that may seem less rational than other solutions.”


Summer Research Project: What is Logical Consequence?

Computer Science and Mathematics double major Jesse Jenks received a Summer Research Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences (information on the Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is available here). He describes his experience working on his summer research project under the supervision of Prof. Cannon in the Philosophy Department:


In the beginning of the 20th century, many prominent logicians and mathematicians, such as Frege, Russell, Hilbert, and others, felt that mathematics needed a very rigorous foundation in logic. The standard approach in the early part of the 20th century was to use a syntactic or proof-theoretic definition of logical consequence which says that “for one sentence to be a logical consequence of [a set of premises] is simply for that sentence to be derivable from [them] by means of some standard system of deduction” (Etchemendy 1988).

These two ways of understanding logical consequence have a long history dating back to Aristotle and Euclid. Proof-theory in particular is foundational to almost all of mathematics. For philosophers in the 19th century, the idea that was taken for granted was that a statement is logically true if and only if it can be proven. But in 1929, Gödel’s famous incompleteness theorems revealed that not all logically true statements are provable. This is now considered one of the most important results in logic and led logicians such as Tarski to define logical consequence with what was eventually developed into the standard “model-theoretic” definition. This way of defining logical consequence says that an argument of a certain form is a logically valid argument if it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false (Cannon 2016). Many philosophers have written about the effectiveness of this definition, but in 1990, John Etchemendy offered a fundamental criticism of Tarski’s definition, both as to whether it is conceptually correct, and whether it captures the right set of arguments, or interpretations. b65pddmk-kgrhqvlueyjc2kv3bmylokpdd-1_35

The modern version of model theory is derived from Tarski’s original definition, but is based in set theory. Although this is the most commonly taught version of model theory, this is problematic for foundationalists who believe that logic is the basis for mathematics. But Tarski did not originally require set-theoretic definitions. Instead, he used what Etchemendy calls “interpretational” semantics. Etchemendy’s criticism of Tarski essentially centers around the question of what “possible” means. For example, we could interpret this to mean an argument is logically valid if it is metaphysically impossible for the conclusion to be false if the premises are true. This is called “representational” semantics. The more standard approach is to say an argument is logically valid if a) we can define the “form” of an argument, and b) every argument of the same form consists of a materially (or empirically) true conclusion or a materially false premise. This is the most appealing version of model theory since it avoids both problems from metaphysics and concerns from foundationalists. However, Etchemendy points out that under an interpretational view, in almost any standard logical system we can construct sentences which are logically true, like “there are at least three objects in the universe”, which is a metaphysical claim about the size of the universe, and is not a matter of logic. This problem runs much deeper and could potentially undermine Tarski’s work. My summer research focused on what Etchemendy’s argument was and how other philosophers have responded to his claim.


Photo courtesy of S. Harris,

Submit Your Work to the Race and Pedagogy Journal

Have you written a paper or creative work about race? Would you like to? Now is your chance to get published!

Student submissions are being accepted for the Fall issue of the Race and Pedagogy Journal. Gain valuable experience undergoing the editorial review process and see your work published in an internationally-reaching professional journal. Works of all genres, including articles and essays, creative works, artwork, personal narratives, reviews, and commentary are encouraged.

Submit works to the Race and Pedagogy Journal’s Website by Friday, October 14th, at 5 PM. Previous issues of the journal can be found at the link above.

If you have questions or comments, please email the issue editors Paige Zimmerman ( and Haley Newman (



Alumni Profiles: Roger Valdez ’90

Philosophy majors pursue a wide variety of career paths after graduation, including but not limited to law, business, and higher education. Every few weeks, we will be featuring one of our department’s alumni, highlighting how their studies in philosophy have helped them in their post-graduate careers.

Roger Valdez graduated from Puget Sound in 1990 with a major in philosophy. He is now the director of Smart Growth Seattle, an advocacy group that works with the City of Seattle to manage neighborhood growth. He has been profiled in The Stranger, Seattle Met Magazine, and Seattle Times, and also contributes to Forbes Magazine. We asked him how studying philosophy has helped him in his career, and he had this to say:

“Throughout my career in public policy, I have relied on my study of philosophy in four important ways. First, I learned how to argue in philosophy – and I don’t mean just shouting louder than someone on the other side. Philosophy trains the mind to organize ideas and find flaws, inconsistencies, and errors in the other sides arguments. Second, I started to learn how to write in my philosophy classes. Many of the things I learned in my years in the program formed the foundation for the writing I do today. Third, the history of ideas matters; who’d have thought that I’d be quoting from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program (“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce”) on the local radio station more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union (…) Finally, my philosophy education, and more broadly my liberal arts education, has given me a rich context in ideas and culture from which to draw when both understanding where our current world came from and where it might be going.”



Peter O’Meara: Studying Abroad at the Institute of Ideas, London

Peter O’Meara, a Philosophy major, spent the summer of 2016 undertaking an internship at the Institute of Ideas in London. Here’s what he had to say about his experience: “My time in England at the think tank known as the Institute of Ideas proved to be a domain in which my classroom teachings could shine. In the wake of Brexit, and in preparation for our think tank’s most coveted debate forum, I found myself surrounded by the foremost issues of the day. When I was called upon to investigate the issue of Bodily Autonomy, I harkened back to my articles on Oocyte Cryopreservation from Ethics Bowl. Similarly, when attending a debate regarding self-driving cars at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, my experience in Moral Philosophy proved invaluable. When the turmoil brought about by Brexit was at a fervor, my think tank sponsored and attended a university debate on the matter, with both parties citing economic and democratic reasons for leaving and remaining.The application of my philosophy classes in a practical environment demonstrated the power of the subject beyond the ivory tower.”