Mission Statement

​The primary objective of the Philosophy faculty is to explore, through our research and with our students, the experience of studying and understanding major philosophical questions. The faculty believes it is essential to be aware of the alternative answers proposed by philosophers and the ways answers are achieved.

Through our teaching, our research, and through the activities of our graduates, the Department seeks to further the understanding of philosophy both inside the university community and beyond its bounds. The course offerings reflect the particular questions and problems of philosophy that each faculty member seeks to explore and understand through research, study, and teaching. The Department shares with the University an ongoing dedication to excellence in preparation and strives to enrich the lives of our students and enhance their leadership abilities.

Moreover, the faculty seeks to aid its students in developing a new view of life. In addition, philosophy courses help students achieve the goals common to all liberal arts studies that will provide a solid basis for their future intellectual life.

Program Highlights

The Philosophy Department offers several classes at the 100 level that students use to fulfill their Liberal Studies requirements. Among classes that students may choose from at all levels are: Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Logic, Introduction to Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, History of Modern Philosophy, History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of the Arts, Epistemology, a variety of applied ethics classes, and World Religions.

Special Programs and Facilities

The philosophy program at Northern is traditional but also includes a minor in applied ethics and a minor in religious studies. The department does try to be attentive to the educational desires and changing needs of its students in our global, multicultural environment. The courses offered provide students with an historical foundation of the discipline and its concerns about problem areas in ethics, religion, science, epistemology, existentialism, logical and analytic skills, etc. The department stays in touch with current developments in the field and has integrated critiques from postmodern and feminist voices into the curriculum. 

History of the Department

NMU's Department of Philosophy began in earnest with the University's expansion in the 1960s. Until the installment of A. Craig in 1966 as the department's first full-time faculty member, philosophy courses at the University were offered only occasionally by a member of history or social sciences. In 1968, Francis Lee joined Dr. Craig. Dean David Dickson supervised the small department until Eugene Whitehouse took over his position, serving from 1967 through 1981.

Lee went on to take a new position, and between the years of 1969 and 1971, the department grew. It added three new faculty members to its ranks: Donald Dreisbach, James Greene and David Cooper, all of whom held Ph.D.s and taught in the department as full-ranking professors. Associate Dean Whitehouse led the department until becoming its permanent head in 1981, a position he held until July 1, 1994 when Barry L. Knight, head of the History Department, took over until his retirement at which time he was replaced by Russell Magnaghi as Chair of History and Philosophy.

In 1993, Dr. Sarah Jones joined the department. She taught as an adjunct instructor until 2003 and then as an assistant professor (both part and full-time) until 2011. She received tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2012. With the retirements of Dr. Dreisbach, Dr. Green, and Dr. Cooper, the department needed to refill the ranks. Thus, Dr. Zac Cogley and Dr. Antony Aumann both joined as full-time members in 2010. Dr. Cogley received tenure and promotion in 2014, and Dr. Aumann received the same in 2015. In 2011, Dr. Chet Defonso took over from Dr. Magnaghi as Chair of History and Philosophy; he was succeeded by Dr. Keith Kendall in 2014.