History of the Colorado College Philosophy Department

Since 1948, the Colorado College Philosophy Department has been known for its leading teacher-scholars and innovative curricula.  For details on each era of its history, expand the text by clicking on the plus (or "show all").

1948-1963: Distinctive Beginnings

The modern Colorado College Philosophy Department was formed after the Second World War and led by distinguished scholars with expertise in continental philosophy, American pragmatism, and Asian philosophies.  While most American philosophy departments focused on logical positivism, the Colorado College faculty cultivated a diverse and progressive curriculum, while also publishing challenging and influential works.

The Philosophy Department at Colorado College has had a unique and illustrious history, which began over seventy years ago when J. Glenn Gray (PhD, Columbia) came to Colorado College in 1948. Taking the place of Sherwood Gates, he became department chair and taught all the Philosophy courses. Glenn had served on the European front in the Second World War, and in 1959 he published a classic philosophical study of war and violence, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle, introduced by his friend, Hannah Arendt. Not only does this work remain in print more than sixty years later, but in 2005 a Spanish translation became available and in 2015 an eBook version was published. Professor Gray's other works include Hegel and Greek Thought (1969) and The Promise of Wisdom (1972). In the sixties he became General Editor of Harper & Row's initiative to translate the works of Martin Heidegger into English, thereby becoming one of the first American philosophers to bring continental philosophy to the United States, at a time when many philosophy departments were dominated by logical positivism. Long before students in most other institutions had the opportunity to study Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Arendt, and Merleau-Ponty, Colorado College students were exploring the riches of the continental European tradition.

American pragmatism and social thought were added to the Philosophy offerings in 1954 when Darnell Rucker (PhD, University of Chicago) joined the department. Darnell's writing and teaching reflected his conviction that it was philosophy's responsibility to address concrete social problems. He was particularly remarkable for his careful reading of texts inside and outside of class, and for guiding students to engage in philosophical discussion. His interest in John Dewey and George Herbert Mead led to the publication of The Chicago Pragmatists in 1969. He also wrote essays on Dewey's ethics, civil disobedience, and technology and human values. Darnell taught at CC until 1968, when he moved to Skidmore College.

In 1960, Glenn Gray and Darnell Rucker hired Jane Cauvel (PhD, Bryn Mawr College), the first woman in the department. Having earlier earned a master's degree in comparative philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Jane was prepared to introduce Indian philosophy into the curriculum. Later, as Chinese and Japanese philosophy gained more attention in the West, Jane began teaching courses on these East Asian traditions as well. Professor Cauvel was instrumental in developing both the Asian Studies and Women’s Studies programs at the College.  In the 1990's, she invited Li Zehou, one of China's foremost philosophers, to teach courses in both Chinese and Western aesthetics. In 2006, she and Li Zehou co-authored Four Lectures on Aesthetics: Toward a Global Perspective, a work that has come to be regarded as a classic in Chinese philosophy and that remains in print.  In 2010, Jane came out of retirement in order to serve as the College’s first Ombudperson, a post she held until 2012.

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1963-1999: Expanding Disciplines

The department continued to grow after the 1960s, with new faculty members adding both wider coverage in the discipline of philosophy and helping to found innovative interdisciplinary courses and programs at CC, including environmental studies, psychoanalytic studies, comparative literature, women’s studies, and Africana studies.  This generation of faculty continued and, in some cases, continues the program’s tradition of combining engaged teaching with active scholarship in emerging areas of philosophical study.

Together, Glenn, Darnell, and Jane began to build a department whose lineaments are still visible today. In 1963, they hired Hans Krimm (PhD, Johns Hopkins). Hans was a skilled logician with previous training in physics. For over thirty years, he taught the department's courses in logic and philosophy of science, and he was among the first philosophers in the country to develop an Environmental Ethics course - one that would become an integral part of the interdisciplinary Environmental Science program at Colorado College.

In 1968, the department hired a 25-year-old philosopher named John Riker (PhD, Vanderbilt University) to teach courses in ethics and metaphysics. After more than five full decades of service, John remains a vital and active member of the department. Like many other members of this intellectually curious department, John has developed new interests over time, focusing increasingly on the ethical implications of psychoanalytic thought. He is the author of several books, including Human Excellence and an Ecological Conception of the Psyche (1991), Ethics and the Discovery of the Unconscious (1997), Why It Is Good to Be Good: Ethics, Kohut's Self Psychology, and Modern Society (2011), and most recently, Exploring the Life of the Soul: Philosophical Reflections on Psychoanalysis and Self Psychology (2018).  In 2003, John served as the Heinz Kohut Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and he has been named CC  teacher of the year a record four times and advisor of the year a record three times.

Also in 1968, the department brought in Harvey Rabbin (PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz) to fill in for Glenn Gray, after Glenn suffered his first heart attack. Harvey’s wide learning allowed him to build on the department’s strong continental European tradition, introducing various European philosophers to the College.  Having studied in both Germany and France, Harvey returned to the United States to enter the History of Consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then become the program’s first graduate. Fluent in many languages, Harvey was among the founders of the Comparative Literature program in the 1980s. He recruited Gianni Vattimo, student of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the most prominent philosopher in Italy, to teach phenomenology and hermeneutics at the College. Among the other visiting scholars from Europe that Harvey brought to campus during his time at CC, one of the more noteworthy is Christoph Nyri, the Hungarian political philosopher.  In 1999, Harvey retired to France.

When Glenn Gray passed away in 1977, the department - under the leadership of Jane Cauvel, the longtime chair, hired the Wittgenstein scholar Judith Genova (PhD, Brandeis University), who had been teaching at Yale. This added a new voice to the curriculum, helping the department to expand its sphere of competence to include a stronger representation of themes that were prominent in the world of Anglophone philosophy. Immediately after her arrival, Judy collaborated with other women at the College to form a thriving program in Women's Studies, which she headed for over ten years. She is the author of Wittgenstein: A Way of Seeing (1995) and editor of the collection Power, Gender, Values (1987), along with articles on a wide variety of topics. Judy served as a Fellow at the Ligurian Center for Humanities in Genoa, Italy, and as a visiting scholar at several other campuses. Judy retired to Florida in 2010.

The department would not undergo any significant changes in its composition until 1992, when Jonathan Lee (PhD, University of Connecticut) was added to the faculty after many years of teaching at Knox College. Trained as a scholar of Neoplatonism, Jonathan would later gravitate toward Lacanian psychoanalysis and Indian philosophy. He was the first person in the department to teach courses on Africana thought, including the philosophies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Jonathan is the author of Jacques Lacan, co-editor of I Am Because We Are: Readings in Africana Philosophy, and author of a number of other philosophical and musical works. Jonathan's catholicity of interests can be cited as an example of the department's pluralistic and interdisciplinary commitments.  He chaired the program for twelve years and has been active in developing an Africana Studies program at the College.

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1999-Present: Diversity and Traditions

After several years during which new faculty hires left the College for one reason or another, the department recruited four new colleagues who eventually were tenured and began graduating some of its largest classes.  While the new colleagues continued to engage European and American traditions of thought, they also connected philosophy to vital new areas of interest, including Latin American and environmental philosophy, philosophies of race, sex, gender, and identity, and the philosophy of emotions.  And while committed to the effective teaching of undergraduates, these new colleagues maintain the department’s strong tradition of publishing, research, and professional engagement.

The department expanded again after the millennium.  First to be hired was Alberto Hernandez-Lemus (PhD, New School for Social Research). A 1987 CC graduate in Comparative Literature and student of Harvey Rabbin (among others), Alberto returned to the College in 1999 as a Riley Scholar in Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Spanish, after which he was appointed to the faculties of Comparative Literature and Philosophy.  In 2005, Alberto joined the department on a full-time basis, building on the program’s tradition of continental scholarship, with his expertise in the philosophy of Deleuze, and enriching its offerings in aesthetics, film, and the arts.  As with many of his predecessors, Alberto’s interests have expanded over time. Focusing more on social and political philosophy, he has added to the department curriculum courses on Latin American philosophy, the philosophy of race, globalization, and Marxism.  Alberto has served as director of the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration program and has been active in community engagement projects, most recently leading the department’s Philosophy for Children program.  He has published and translated articles on topics including the Zapatist movement and women in Chiapas, Deleuze and Italian realism, NAFTA, and the conquest of Aztec Mexico.

Rick Anthony Furtak (PhD, University of Chicago) came to the department in 2003 as a visitor and then was appointed to a regular faculty position in 2004.  Rick’s philosophical interests range from the moral psychology of the emotions to the relations between philosophy and literature, with a strong focus the tradition of existential thought, especially Søren Kierkegaard and his legacy, as evidenced by his two monographs, Wisdom in Love: Kierkegaard and the Ancient Quest for Emotional Integrity (2005) and Knowing Emotions: Truthfulness and Recognition in Affective Experience (2018).  Rick has also edited collections on Kierkegaard and Thoreau and translated the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.  He served a term as chair of the department.  His courses on ancient Greek philosophy, philosophy and literature, the philosophy of emotion, existential philosophy, and early modern philosophy have deepened the department’s curriculum in the history of western philosophy, while also addressing contemporary concerns. Rick's courses have been cross-listed in Asian Studies, Classics, Comparative Literature, English, Environmental Studies, Psychology, and Religion.

Dennis McEnnerney (PhD, Berkeley), joined the faculty in 2004 with a visiting appointment in Philosophy and General Studies.  An interdisciplinary political theorist, Dennis held appointments in political science, historical studies, English, and philosophy prior to join the CC faculty.  His research focuses on critical theory, French philosophy, identity politics, and histories of resistance.  He has published articles on Sartre, Fanon, Foucault, and James Tully.  In 2000 he co-founded the Association for Political Theory, serving for a decade as its director and building it into a leading professional association for scholars interested in political philosophy.  He served as an adjunct professor from 2007-2017 and was tenured in the department in 2017.  He teaches a variety of courses in political philosophy, as well as courses on identity, pragmatism, French philosophy, and Wittgenstein.  In his early years at the College, he was active in Freedom & Authority, teaching first-year program sections and coordinating faculty seminars, and in Women’s Studies and its successor, Feminist & Gender Studies, which he co-chaired.  He also chaired the College’s Faculty Executive Committee in 2020-21.

The department hired Marion Hourdequin (PhD, Duke University) in 2006.  Marion began her career as a biologist (MS and MA, University of Montana) before turning to philosophy, with a specialization on environmental philosophy. Her research and teaching interests also include ethics, philosophy of science, and comparative philosophy. Professor Hourdequin's current research focuses on climate ethics, climate justice, the social and ethical dimensions of solar geoengineering, and relational approaches to environmental ethics. She is the author of Environmental Ethics: From Theory to Practice (2015) and editor, with David Havlick, of Restoring Layered Landscapes (2016). Marion is Vice President/President Elect of the International Society for Environmental Ethics and serves as an Associate Editor for two journals, Environmental Values and Environmental Ethics.  With David Havlick, she was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation grant in 2010 for a project entitled, “Authenticity and Historical Fidelity in Ecological Restoration: The Case of Former U.S. Military Lands.”  She served as director of the Environmental Program from 2013-15 and chair of the department from 2016-19.

The most recent addition to the department is Helen Daly (PhD, University of Arizona), a metaphysician and philosopher of language.  She has published articles on insults, vagueness, heaven and hell, sex/gender models, and the challenges of defining the sex of Olympic athletes.  Since joining the department in 2011, Helen has regularly taught core philosophy courses on logic, writing, metaphysics, language and analytic approaches to philosophy.  However, like her colleagues and predecessors, Helen’s interests extend outward from philosophy, which has led her to co-teach courses with computer scientists and cognitive psychologists and to explore the relations between philosophy and science fiction.  Helen began serving as chair of the department in 2019.

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Distinguished Visitors

Over the years, the philosophy department has been graced with adjunct teaching, lectures, and seminar visits by such distinguished guests as J. L. Mehta, Emil Fackenheim, Charles Hartshorne, Hannah Arendt, June Goodfield, Stephen Toulmin, Marjorie Grene, Gianni Vattimo, Hazel Barnes, Alasdair MacIntyre, David Farrell Krell, Richard Rorty, Russell Goodman, Edward Mooney, Richard Bernstein, Eric Santner, Paul Churchland, Jonathan Lear, Owen Flanagan, Charles Mills, Nancy Sherman, Robert Pippin, Stanley Cavell, James Tully, Linda Martín Alcoff, Donna Harraway, Alison Jagger, Robert Audi, Terry Horgan, and Lorraine Code. Each year, a leading contemporary philosopher visits campus to meet with students in the Junior Seminar and to deliver the J. Glenn and Ursula Gray Memorial Lecture.

The Mission Today

Building on the tradition established in 1948, the Colorado College Philosophy Department embraces diversity in philosophical inquiry, emphasizing in its curriculum historical, contemporary, comparative, and critical approaches in an effort to make available to students the breadth and richness of philosophical thinking.  Our program of study builds on the history of philosophy, identifying within it diverse and influential perspectives on the human experience as well as ideas that challenge predominant ways of thinking. The department highlights contemporary approaches to philosophy, seeking to incorporate insights from both analytic and continental schools of thought; and our rich array of courses in comparative and critical philosophy is central to the program. The Philosophy Department gives students the unusual opportunity to combine the study of Western, African, Asian, and Latin American approaches to philosophy while including in their inquiries the philosophical perspectives of marginalized or oppressed groups within the Western world.


Report an issue - Last updated: 04/28/2022