The Brock philosophy department: then and now!

The Department of Philosophy was among the first departments at Brock University, which opened in 1964. Appointments to the department and its first undergraduate courses took place in 1965; students were admitted to the Master’s Program, the first Master’s program in the Humanities at the university, as early as 1974.

Then

The Department of Philosophy has been an utterly unique department both in Canada and the rest of North America. Its unique focus on Eastern, as well as Western philosophies, was part of its original mission, conceived by the founding members John R.A. Mayer and Mervyn Sprung. Dr. Mayer had a strong background in Continental philosophy as well as Eastern thought while Mervyn Sprung was a pioneer in Comparative Philosophy and an internationally known scholar of Buddhist thought. The honours program was originally conceived by them as grounded on “four pillars”: Greek, Early Modern, Contemporary Continental, and Indian/Chinese. These four pillars have been reflected in the selection of courses offered by the department since the inception of the undergraduate program. Students are encouraged to take courses in all 4 areas, but most students will come to specialize in Contemporary Continental or Eastern philosophy given the research interests of faculty members and the structure of the graduate program.

Now

The graduate program seeks to prepare students for doctoral study in at least one of its three areas of specialization: Contemporary Continental, Comparative and Eastern Philosophy.

For more than a decade, the Philosophy Department has organized a very successful speaker series named Research in Progress Colloquia. These Colloquia serve as showcases for new research by faculty members, external speakers and graduate students. These discussions are well attended both by students in philosophy (graduate and undergraduate) and members of the Brock University at large. All are welcome to these open presentations. Prof. Athena Colman, the current Graduate Program Director, is responsible for this renaissance of community driven speaker series. Her energy and commitment has been a tremendous source of vitality to the programs as a whole.

The Philosophy Department continues to expand and diversify its undergraduate and graduate courses. In the past few years, classes on

Post Modernism (PHIL 2P18),
Creatures, Cyborgs, and Carnality (PHIL 2P50),
Bioethics (PHIL 2P95),
The Technological Dimension (PHIL 3P18),
Transhumanism (PHIL 3Q98),
Weakness of the Will (PHIL 3V94), and
Advanced Buddhism (PHIL 4V32)

have been offered at the undergraduate level. These offerings are buttressed by courses like

Plato and the Pre-Socratics (PHIL 2P00),
Ethics (PHIL 2P09),
Hinduism (PHIL 2P12),
Buddhism (PHIL 2P13),
Chinese Philosophy (2P17) and
Logic (PHIL 2P25).

While at the graduate level, new courses include

French Feminism (PHIL 5V00),
2nd Wave Phenomenology (PHIL 5V02),
The Phenomenology of Justus Buchler (PHIL 5V09)

all of which have complemented the Department’s traditional offerings on

Nietzsche (PHIL 5P05),
Husserl (PHIL 5P07),
Heidegger (PHIL 5P15),
Sartre (PHIL 5P02),
Merleau-Ponty and Nagarjuna (PHIL 5P16), and
Advanced Vedanta (PHIL 5V34).

This range of courses demonstrate the Department’s commitment to its founding vision, while simultaneously advancing and expanding this vision.

Department of Philosophy: conferences

In addition, two major international conferences were recently hosted at Brock, signaling the Philosophy Department’s and the Master’s program more specifically, growing footprint in one of its core areas: Continental Philosophy. In September 2016, Brock hosted the International Merleau-Ponty Circle, spearheaded and organized by Prof. Rajiv Kaushik. This interdisciplinary conference featured scholars from all over the globe and was a significant beacon to the philosophical world that Brock is a leading institution for the study of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, one of the most significant French philosophers of the 20th century. Another major conference and milestone was Brock’s hosting of the Irigaray Circle held in June of 2018 at the Marilyn Walker School, which was organized by Prof. Colman. This event, too, was a major achievement indicating the importance of Brock as school for Feminist Continental research. Indeed, this three-day international interdisciplinary conference at Brock’s downtown campus was the first Canadian conference devoted to scholarship/creative work on, or inspired by, the thought of the contemporary French feminist thinker, Luce Irigaray. The Luce Irigaray Circle is a core group of academics who have been producing sustained and significant philosophical, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in feminist thought and scholarship on Irigaray’s philosophy.

Members of the Department of Philosophy have been, and continue to be active researchers and popular and caring teachers. The current complement of faculty remains dedicated to the unique project of Philosophy at Brock University, namely, to offer its students a solid background and training in both Eastern and Western philosophies. We are proud to say that there still remains no place like the Brock Philosophy Department, and very few comparable departments in the rest of North America.