Department Home

 Faculty & Staff

 Ezra A. Hale Chair
 in Applied Ethics

 Coming Events

 Previous Events

  Φ  Newsletter

  Φ  Major



  Φ  Future course

  Φ  Course Descriptions

  Φ  Senior Theses

  RIT Info Center / SIS

 Philosophy Timeline

 Some External
 Philosophy Sites

College of Liberal Arts

RIT Home Page

Dept mailing address:
Department of Philosophy
College of Liberal Arts
Rochester Institute of
92 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester NY 14623-5604


Copyright ©
Department of Philosophy,
Rochester Institute of Technology

The Fly Bottle

“What is our aim in philosophy? To show the fly out of the fly-bottle.”

13 November 2016

Content links:

Φ Student Spotlight: Kellianne Kornick
Φ Student Spotlight: Chris Webster
Φ Faculty Corner: What’s you favorite -ism?
Φ Upcoming philosophy courses
Φ Chair’s Thoughts
Φ Call For Papers
Φ Newsletter archive

“Mental Cross-Training”:
Philosophy, Physics, and Philosophy Club


Kellianne Kornick
is a second year student double-majoring in
philosophy and physics.

Fly Bottle: You’re a philosophy major. Why?

Kellianne Kornick: For the same reason I’m a physics major, which surprises a lot of people. I’m always wanting to know how things work at a fundamental level, whether it’s philosophy or physics. I just really like knowing how the world works.

I wanted to be a scientist from a young age. I took two years of physics in high school and I absolutely loved it. I took the AP physics test and I thought it was so awesome: concepts that weren’t even discovered until a few centuries ago but here I am expected to know them. It was the most fun I had in high school, which is sort of sad.

As far as philosophy I adore Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Ian Hacking, and Peter Galison. I love how they approach science, how they build models, and how they use history to see if their models work.

FB: So you see a lot of overlap between philosophy and physics?

KK: I think it’s basically the same activity but with different tools. Philosophy and physics are very different states of mind, but they complement each other: it’s good mental cross-training. Both of my majors stress things like being able to speak, write, and argue well. If people are worried about getting jobs, then they should value these general skills that both fields emphasize. I also like that in both physics and philosophy you can pay attention to styles of writing and thinking and I enjoy having that versatility.

FB: You’re Vice-President of Philosophy Club. What’s Philosophy Club about?

KK: Our aim is to create a comfortable space for people with philosophical interests. We try to keep it non-frustrating—or at least we try to keep the frustration constructive. It’s a space outside of class for people to talk about what interests them. We talk about our interests, about classes people are taking, we give presentations, we try to expose people to different things. We try to balance rigor and accessibility. Some people want to do textual analysis and other people want to see how philosophy is relevant to their everyday lives. Some people want to do both. So it’s collaborative, bringing different people, with different levels of expertise, together.

FB: Who should come to Philosophy Club?

KK: Anyone who wants to! I especially encourage students who may not have time for a minor or major in philosophy—though I encourage those!—people who want less of a commitment, and people who think philosophy is just a bunch of dead white Greek guys.

Philosophy Club is like a tea tasting. We have plenty of types of tea: there may be something you don’t like, but then there’s something else you do like. Philosophy isn’t just a bunch of doctrines, or things dead people said. I like to think of it as a way of living and thinking and conducting oneself: habits of mind and habits of thinking.

FB: What are five books you’d recommend?


  • Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • Albert Camus, The Fall
  • Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future
  • Plato, Phaedo
  • Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
  • And one bonus book: Foucault, Discipline and Punish
  • Φ

Chris Webster

Chris Webster
is a second year physics major with an immersion in philosophy.

Fly Bottle: Why do you take philosophy courses?

Chris Webster: I took Introduction to Philosophy, really liked it, and wanted to take more. It’s easy to see the value: it’s immensely applicable. I think everyone does philosophy—a lot of our choices are basically philosophical—so if you’re going to do it anyway, then why not think about it and do it right.

It’s the same with how we have writing classes because people are going to write a lot. We want people to have skills they’ll use in their lives, and I think philosophy is one of the most ubiquitous skills there is. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t make a philosophical choice, so why not get some training in it?

We also do philosophy in a lot of my physics classes, though we don’t do it explicitly.

FB: Do you think there’s any overlap between philosophy and physics?

CW: I would go further than “overlap”. I would say philosophy “permeates” everything we do, including physics. The philosophy is there whether we know it or not—so why not talk about it, discuss it, and get good at it. It’s not a side thing.

At the same time, there are some differences. Philosophy is a way of taking a closer look at what you’re doing when you do science. There are philosophical assumptions behind science, and these are good to examine so you better understand what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.

FB: Agreed. Sometimes philosophy seems like a kind of conceptual engineering, or tinkering.

CW: Another great reason for studying philosophy is that you learn about different opinions. The biggest thing I got from Introduction to Philosophy was all the shades of gray: things were a lot messier than I thought. Before, I felt more certain about how things were, but in PHIL 101 a lot of my assumptions got challenged, in a good way. That’s a good thing Philosophy does: it lets you dive into these assumptions, it muddies up the water, sometimes it makes things confusing or weird, and it makes you realize that there are other ways of thinking. It may not feel good, but it is good.

FB: I know that feeling, probably all too well.

CW: The department here is great: all my interactions have been very, very good. Everyone seems excited about philosophy and it’s not judgmental. It’s very much a conversation. I think because everyone has innate philosophical tools that we can have discussions about philosophy that are harder in other disciplines. The department does a good job of teaching through these conversations.


Faculty Corner

Nihilism, realism, optimism—what’s your favorite -ism? Here are some of ours:

  • Silvia Benso: Abstentionism.
  • Evelyn Brister: Meliorism.
  • John Capps: Contextualism.
  • Tim Engström: Maculate lapsarianism.
  • Colin Mathers: Antidisestablishmentarianism.
  • Jack Sanders: Anti-ism-ism.
  • Brian Schroeder: Nomadism.
  • David Suits: Anti-isthmusism.
  • Katie Terezakis: Pantheism.
  • Larry Torcello: Liberalism.

Upcoming Course Offerings

See them here .


Chair’s Thoughts

It is fall again, a season of bright colors and many changes. For our Department, fall is the beginning of a new academic year, with all the novelties that any new year brings. Many things are going to happen this year in the Department of Philosophy.

One of our kindest and most generous colleagues, a beloved teacher, and for many of us a dear friend, Professor David Suits, is going to retire from teaching at the end of the academic year 2016-17. His sense of humor, his benign witticism, his sharp yet kind irony will be sorely missed by all of us. There has been no departmental meeting where he has not lightened up the mood of us all with a good laughter provoked by one of his inimitable jokes—uttered in stern seriousness, yet completely hilarious. Good luck, David, in all your future endeavors. You will always have a home among us, if you would like to come back and visit us—which we hope you will do frequently.

David’s retirement means that the Department of Philosophy has embarked in a search for a replacement colleague. This brings some anxiety in terms of being able to find the best candidate to meet our many departmental needs with respect to teaching, curricular offerings, and future course developments. It also brings a bit of anxiety in terms of being able to find a good colleague who will fit well into the departmental, College, and Institute culture, who will be willing to collaborate with all of us for the benefit of the Department, the philosophy program and the students, and who will tolerate the various idiosyncrasies of our personalities with a smile and an appreciative gesture, even when they are not warranted. Besides and above all, though, hiring a new colleague means a lot of excitement and expectations for the many new possibilities that are going to open up to the benefit of all of us, colleagues and students alike—new courses, new perspectives, new energy, new conversations.

As usual, this year the Department of Philosophy will welcome various invited speakers who will come to RIT to stimulate the intellectual life of our philosophical community. At the end of October, we had the pleasure of hosting Simon Blackburn, who until 2011 was the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, UK and more recently was the Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; he will speak on the theme of feelings and judgement. In early November, we hosted Alison Simmons, Samuel H. Wolcott Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, who spoke on the lasting impact of Descartes’s Meditations. At the beginning of March, we will welcome Jill Gordon, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy at Colby College in Maine, who will speak on myth, memory, and homecoming in Plato’s Phaedo. These lectures are free and open to all, so we hope to see many of the recipients of this Newsletter at some of the events.

As has been the case in recent years, this year too we are proud to sponsor, with major help from the students in the Philosophy Club, who truly organize and run the event, the RIT Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, now in its eighth edition. This is a wonderful opportunity for our philosophy students to present and discuss their work among peers coming from various parts of the state and even from out of state. It is not necessary to be a philosophy major, minor, or immerser to present a paper. Just submit your philosophical essay to Colin Mathers (see below or A committee composed of philosophy students and faculty members will then review and select the papers that will end up being presented at the conference.

There are other events that will occur during the year thanks to the activities of various members of the Department or of the students in the Philosophy Club. For a list of them, you may want to check our website at I would still like to remember here a couple of students oriented events though, since our students are in many senses the heart of all our academic activities—a fall “welcome back to philosophy” event, which occurred in September with the goal of fostering a sense of community among philosophy students, and a similar event that will most likely occur late in the spring before the conclusion of the academic year.

Returning briefly to the topic of the website, something new is going to happen in this area too this year. We are in fact in the process of redesigning and reconfiguring our webpages. The content will remain more or less the same, but in a new vest and a new format. Stay tuned for this exciting novelty that will make our website possibly more user-friendly and perhaps more attractive to all visitors to the webpages.

Finally, this is the last fall Newsletter to which I am contributing as Chair of the Philosophy Department since I will be rotating off from the position later this academic year. This has been a rather demanding time for me, and I am extremely happy at the prospect of returning to full time teaching and research—both activities that mean a lot to me. Next fall, you will read about the thoughts of a new chair. That will be an exciting novelty too.

To all of you then, Happy Fall and Happy Academic Year.

Silvia Benso Φ

Call For Papers

Previous newsletters

2 April 2016