Name: Kate Wagner
Year: Class of 2009
Hometown: Wernersvilla, PA
With the intention of entering into the pre-medical curriculum at Hopkins, I hoped to find a major that would keep me grounded to the humanities and out of TOO many science classes. In choosing Philosophy, I assumed I’d cruise through the basics of ethics, ancient and modern texts without letting philosophic questions get the better of me during my undergraduate years. On the contrary, my years studying philosophy not only surprised me by opening my mind to questions I’d never thought to ask, but also challenged me to think in ways I’d never thought would work.
Starting with a broad spectrum of philosophers, the major allows undergraduates a substantial amount of freedom in choosing courses, while still encouraging everyone to sample a little bit of every type of philosophy offered. From Metaphysics and Epistemology to Philosophy of Science, Ethics, and Political Philosophy, it’s impossible not to find a few favorite classes in this department. Whether you’re concerned with bioethics, or the Greeks really spark your interest, issue- and author-specific classes allow for a concentration in a particular niche of philosophy. Welcoming professors and graduate students who are eager to discuss a philosophic dilemma over coffee make it a pleasure to attend every class, and I’m not just saying that (I once had a TA bribe us with milk and cookies to come to his office hours). Once you’ve progressed to the upper level courses, class size is intimate and conducive to discussion that makes your head hurt for hours afterwards. A motivation to read and learn is essential to this major, but there is nothing more rewarding than the satisfaction of engaging in a rapid-fire debate that lasts until the end of the hour.
One of my favorite classes in all of my time at Hopkins has been “Probability and Inductive Logic”, taught by one of my favorite professors, Peter Achinstein. While inevitably some classes bore you to tears, and others are just a block of time that you struggle to get through each week, Professor Achinstein’s class made me feel like I’d had a cerebral work out every day. From the history of logical thinking to the practical uses of inductive reasoning in every day life, this class was one of those gems that really made me want to learn.
Another favorite was “Do Miracles (Still) Happen?”, a Humanities and Philosophy course taught by Professor Hent De Vries, that examined the history of miracle belief and how miracles were, and are, interpreted. Without fail, a weekly class of Miracles would end in a good-natured verbal sparring of students, genuinely interested in the subject and in hearing other people’s opinions. I never appreciated an argument so much as I did after taking this class.
Of course when I told my friends back home that I had chosen a Philosophy Major, the obvious question was “Why?” They knew I loved to read, but to subject myself to hours and hours of hair pulling, pouring over tens of books, acquiring the stereotypical “graduate slouch” from hours in the library… why? Despite these bitter-sweet images, I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience in this major. In fact, in recent semesters I have joked about staying on for a few more years (there’s just so much more to read!), unwilling to let go of my studies so quickly. I still intend to enter the medical field, and I know that my degree in philosophy will influence the way I approach a problem, and that my many philosophy classes will continue to affect the way I think for years to come. I would encourage any prospective student of philosophy to get to know this department and all that it has to offer.
Click here to access more information about the Philosophy Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and Philosophy question thread._______________________________________________________________________________