Philosophy Department

The Department of Philosophy is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and offers both a Major and a Minor in Philosophy.

The Department counts 21 full-time faculty members working in a variety of specialties, who are active scholars committed to undergraduate education. They share their expertise in a wide variety of philosophical schools, national traditions, historical periods, and specialized areas of philosophical work.

The curriculum is designed to provide students with a foundation in the history of philosophy and also to encourage students to pursue work in their own areas of interest. Formal coursework is only one part of the Philosophy student's education. Since inquiry and study are most fruitful when conducted in a vital community of fellow scholars, the Department is committed to offering a number of excellent learning opportunities that go beyond traditional classroom structures.

Department and Student Events

PHILOSOPHY CLUB Tuesday, February 25

February 25, 2020 5:30 PM

2020 Dewey J. Hoitenga Philosophy Essay Contest

April 10, 2020 12:00 PM

  The Department of Philosophy invites you to submit your entry to the 2020 Dewey J. Hoitenga Philosophy Essay Contest. The winning paper will receive both recognition and a prize. Papers on...

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Philosophy Department News

GVSU Philosophy Student Accepted to Johns Hopkins

February 11, 2020

Ms. Jennifer Spiller accepted and getting ready to graduate from Johns Hopkins.

GVSU Philosophy Professor Receives Prestigious Award

February 10, 2020

Dr.Peimin Ni, GVSU Philosophy Professor Sited in Modern Language Association for Achievement.

Johns Hopkins University first annual Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Research Symposium

February 09, 2020

Philosophy students invited  to apply for Johns Hopkins University first annual Research Symposium.

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Featured Alumni

Alumnus Emily McKenna

February 12, 2020

Artist, Faculty Member and Program Coordinator of Art Center

Alumnus Jessica Lefort

February 12, 2020

Alumnus Joins Legal Practice Program

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Featured Faculty

A mosquito-borne illness last summer was seriously sickening people and even leading to some  deaths, creating a public health crisis and calls for government officials to fight the spread of the virus  by spraying insecticide.But despite the threat of Eastern equine encephalitis, spraying was met with resistance by some who feared potential harm to pollinators or the effects on people whose health conditions made them vulnerable. Enough property owners opted out that officials couldn't spray large parts of the targeted areas. "This situation raises ethical questions about the tension between the good of the community and the rights of individuals and how you recognize those," said Jeffrey Byrnes, assistant professor of philosophy. The dynamic is one that is common in public health, but the resources for guidance on such ethical issues are scattered and fairly minimal, experts said.

Byrnes and a student are helping officials with mid-Michigan public health departments to develop a curriculum and companion workbook to be used by local and state departments to address these issues. The key to the training content is to understand the "underpinnings" of the kinds of ethical concepts that public health departments consider, said Anne Barna, planning, promotion and evaluation manager for the Barry-Eaton District Health Department. "For us at the local level, quite often we have to make decisions very quickly," said Barna, '01. "One of the things this does is help you make better decisions because we thought through all of the ramifications."

This work is at the forefront of developing ethics guidelines in public health and is eyed as a model for statewide use, Barna and Byrnes said. Barna has received some funding from a grant administered by the state to set up a Capital Region Ethics Committee involving her health department as well as Ingham County, Mid-Michigan District and Livingston County departments.The group spent last year developing, testing and refining a curriculum, Barna said. Byrnes played an important role as they worked through the review and recommendations."It was helpful to have that academic partnership so we didn't misunderstand anything," Barna said.The next step involves creating a workbook with case studies and other materials to help individual departments start conversations about ethics, she said. They are planning to take the training to a few different departments in Michigan, with the hope that number will grow, and are hoping to present the curriculum at a national conference.

Barna has a long-held interest in public health ethics, one that took her to a conference in Baltimore where she happened to connect with Mallory Wietrzykowski, who is majoring in philosophy at Grand Valley. Wietrzykowski has continued to work closely with the team developing the training, particularly content for the workbook. Wietrzykowski is eyeing a career in ethics and said the issues that arise in public health, in particular how the population interacts with environmental factors, are helpful in shaping her training in the field. She was drawn to this opportunity to apply the broader ethical considerations she has learned."I"m really interested in the problem-solving and seeing what is the best decision, which is not always too clear," Wietrzykowski said. "It's important to take a step back and look at all of the factors and  make a good decision."The work by Grand Valley is bolstered by a grant from the Office of Career Services.

Byrnes said the collaboration is possible because of Grand Valley's commitment to a strong liberal arts education."What has made this possible is a broader recognition of something that GVSU has known for years: philosophy and ethics are indispensable to good decision-making and foundational to the education we provide," Byrnes said. "Grand Valley had the expertise in place and when the need arose the Philosophy Department was there to provide it."Byrnes said this emerging area of public health ethics is where clinical ethics was a few years ago as that field began getting shaped, particularly by current events. In the case of public health, the Flint water crisis has highlighted the need to incorporate ethics into decision-making when considering public health outcomes, he said.

For More Information Contact: Peg West in University Communications - 616-331-2222

Picture of Professor Byrnes

Jeff Byrnes, Assistant Professor, GVSU Philosophy Department

Calvin University and Grand Valley State University present The 8th Joint Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Calvin College Logo

APRIL 3-4, 2020

Location: Grand Valley State University PEW Campus, Grand Rapids, MI


KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. Cristina Lafont, Northwestern University


“Democracy without Shortcuts: The Democratic Ideal of Self-Government and the Problem of Blind Deference”


This year, we are honored to welcome Dr. Cristina Lafont, Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University, as our Keynote Speaker. She works in critical theory and hermeneutics, but her current research is mainly in political philosophy, particularly on questions of democracy.





Dr. Cristina Lafont

Call for Papers: Ethics, Practical Reasoning, Agency: Sellars' Practical Philosophy

For Information


. . . the fundamental principles of a community, which define what is ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘done’ or ‘not done’ are the most general common intentions of that community with respect to the behavior of members of the group.

Wilfrid Sellars, Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man

w. Sellars' Pic