“Continue asking the hard questions. Continue following the logic of the answers. It will serve you well.”
— Ásta, Professor and Department of Philosophy Chair
Department of Philosophy Undergraduate Honoree
B.S., Biology (concentration in Physiology)
Minor in Chemistry
Coming from the rural community of Southern Humboldt County in Northern California, I applied to San Francisco State University undeclared, unsure of where my educational journey would take me. I am now graduating with a B.A. in Philosophy, B.A. in Psychology, and B.S. in Biology.
Over the past six years, the wonderful environment of this university has pushed me to discover my passion for learning, with the guidance of my mentors and professors. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from the talented philosophers that make up our faculty. Above all, I would like to thank Dr. Anita Silvers for inspiring me to embrace my passion for ethics and pursue a B.A. in Philosophy, a decision that has made an immeasurable impact on my future.
As I reflect on my experience, I know that my education in philosophy has made me a better scientist, and a better human being. Looking to the future, I hope to apply what I have learned to a career in mental health care. I will enter into SFSU's Biochemistry M.S. program in the fall, conducting research at the intersection of biochemistry and neuroscience in preparation to apply to MD-PhD dual degree programs. I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone else who has supported me along this journey, challenging me to exceed what I thought was possible.
Department of Philosophy Graduate Honorees
My master's thesis focused on the role of non-conceptual content in Wilfrid Sellars’ account of perceptual experience. There I argued that sense impressions—in order to play a constitutive role in perceptual experience—must be normatively governed, albeit by teleological, not conceptual, norms. The resulting notion of a minimal or proto-normativity enables a distinction between mere physical differential responsiveness and the non-conceptual practical engagement of evolved biological organisms. It also enables an understanding of the non-conceptual content of perceptual takings as essentially constituted by their place in a system of engaged activities. I benefitted from opportunities to present parts of this project at conferences at San Diego State University, Western Michigan University, and Indiana University, Bloomington. Teaching was a passion of mine while at SFSU, and I particularly enjoyed leading several semesters of Introduction to Philosophy of Art. I am delighted to be starting my Ph.D. in philosophy at UC Berkeley in the fall.
As a philosophy M.A. student at SFSU, I have researched and written on issues in early modern philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, and Persian peripatetic philosophy. The topics which most intrigue me are happiness—as more than just an emotion or psychological state—and the ontological approach to individuation. My thesis, entitled “Descartes and La Béatitude: The Cartesian Method for Attaining Happiness,” explores the role of ‘interest’ in Cartesian ethics and metaphysics by understanding Descartes’ connection between happiness and individuation, and addresses the following question: is the best life for any individual also the best life for all of humankind? However, in order to expand my understanding outside of the European cannon, I have also looked at other approaches to happiness in the writings of Persian peripatetic philosophers, especially those in the early modern era. Outside of my research and writing, I have had the opportunity to teach PHIL 110 and PHIL 150 as a Graduate Teaching Associate, and present my work at various conferences around the country. Ultimately, I hope to continue developing my scholarship in order to further pursue my career in philosophy.
My exposure to this department has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. I am fortunate to have completed both my B.A. and M.A. here, for the faculty has had that much to teach me, and then some. Being such an intellectually rich department, my only regret is that even 5 or so years was not enough time to befriend all of the faculty. I am also grateful for my cohort and my students, the culture of which is so well stitched together by the department's GTA program. This is an excellent place to have spent so much of my life. It will take much time to fully appreciate what it affords.
The focus of my research interest centers on the relationship between moral psychology and legal decision making; specifically, whether a virtue jurisprudential account of the law can adequately problematize why and how agents make the decisions that they do. To that end, I presented a paper at Constitution Day titled Just Law that challenged positivistic legal scholarship as being unable to track the complexity of legal decision making. I defended my thesis, An Aretaic Approach to Legal Epistemology, that advances a jurisprudential methodology that emphasizes virtue, in both its epistemic and moral iterations, in individual legal actors as well as their corresponding jurisprudential institutions.
In addition to my interest in jurisprudence, I am also interested in the philosophy of artificial intelligence. As such, I completed a graduate certificate in ethical artificial intelligence concurrently with my masters thesis. My culminating paper argues for the use of Gricean maxims to measure the concepts of competency and expertise within the broader framework of social epistemology in relation to artificial intelligence.
My time at San Francisco State has been exceptional. I was given so many wonderful opportunities to succeed and was supported by the faculty, staff, and students in nearly every capacity. I was a teaching assistant for James Blackmon for his course, Ethical Issues: Science and Technology for all four semesters that I was a student at SFSU. Likewise, I was also a TA for Joel Kassiola in his class, Environmental Ethics. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Sally Casanova Fellowship. This fellowship allowed me to travel to conferences, visit Ph.D. programs, and perform philosophical research. One of the conferences that I was able to attend because of the fellowship was at the University of Notre Dame. I presented a paper at the To What End? conference titled Truth, Irony, and Practical Wisdom that advances a position that irony is a key conceptual tool for moral cultivation. The faculty at SFSU have been incredibly supportive of all of my academic endeavors. My thesis committee members: Carlos Montemayor, Justin Tiwald, and Wendy Salkin provided exceptional feedback on all of my philosophical projects throughout my tenure as a student at state. Other faculty who were incredibly helpful and shaped my philosophical perspective are Ásta and David Landy. I sincerely enjoyed the pluralistic nature of the department at SFSU. I was able to take classes in Neo-Confucianism, Public Philosophy, Du Bois & Democracy, and Philosophy of A.I. just to name a few. Another great feature of the philosophy program at San Francisco State is the opportunity to teach your own class. I was able to teach Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Critical Thinking, and Great Thinkers: East and West, wherein I crafted my own syllabus and curated lessons plans and lectures to my liking. Likewise, this past semester, I was elected to serve as the lead graduate teaching associate (GTA) for the philosophy department. Shelley Wilcox, who is the faculty advisor for all of the GTA’s, was always available to answer any questions that may arise and provide pedagogical insight on teaching first year students. Likewise, Jen Waller, the Academic Office Coordinator for the department was a reservoir of knowledge and wisdom for any questions or problems that come up during the semester. In sum, I cannot recommend SFSU enough. You are given all of the resources and opportunities to be successful and the department is filled with faculty and graduate student who genuinely care about your wellbeing.
My M.A. thesis is titled “A Narrative Account of Gender Identity.” The process of writing it was both intellectually and emotionally challenging, but I am proud of the work I produced. I would like to thank the Philosophy Department faculty for helping me grow as a student and as a person. I learned so much during my time at SFSU.
The Department of Philosophy continues with its congratulations...
Ofri Oren is a graduating M.A. student at San Francisco State University. Her thesis is about "The Role for Practice (askesis) in Plato's Meno." She is primarily interested in Ancient Greek philosophy and looks forward to continuing her studies at UC Davis. It was a pleasure to work with students as a TA for Bioethics in Medicine, Philosophy of Language, and Metaphysics, as well as to teach Philosophy 111, the Art of Quantitative Reasoning. She looks forward to doing more research and teaching as she continues her practice of philosophy. She is thankful for all of the institutional support from faculty and staff at SF State.
Studying philosophy at SFSU in the past two years has been very enjoyable and eye-opening. Being a part of the Philosophy Department has allowed me to explore various philosophical areas with depth. I was also offered the opportunity of teaching several undergraduate classes in philosophy and logic. My thesis project on Wittgenstein received great help from many professors. I would like to thank my family as well as the staff in the Philosophy Department for being supportive throughout my journey.
Being in college for almost 9 years, transferring from CCSF, not knowing what path to take with philosophy in mind after an awesome road trip in the summer of 2017. I am thankful for SFSU’s Philosophy program for making learning fun and pushing me beyond with a lot of thinking in the process for these past 2 years. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m finally done with my bachelors because I’ve always dreamed of this. I’m very thankful for my loved ones and everyone who helped me. I wish nothing but success to the Class of 2020. Always aim for what you want to do in your life despite uncertainties that may come along the way.
Minor, Race and Resistance
Queer NB Korean/Laos outdoor Gemini who cares and centers collective liberation of QTPOC community and loves eating in class. Enjoys debating, reading, and running.
I came to SFSU as an undeclared student, excited and nervous for the multitude of opportunities and experiences that I would come to enjoy over the next four years. The first two years were difficult, considering I switched majors over four times; I just couldn’t pin point the reason as to why I never felt that “wow” factor so many of my peers felt in their majors. It wasn’t until I took Modern Philosophy with Dr. Sowaal when I finally felt a sense of peace, a sense of home, and a sense of belonging.
As I began to move forward in my academic career, I began to notice less and less women and BI & POC peers in my classes. Because my practice is dominated by white, straight, cisgendered men- it wasn’t a surprise that I (and many others) began to forget the sense of home and belonging I once felt when I first declared Philosophy as my major. Now, myself along with my peers who shared this feeling, have done something incredible for expanding inclusion and diversity within the Philosophy department at SF state. Being a part of the implementation of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) at SFSU will always be one of my proudest moments, something I will hold dear to my heart for my remaining years on Earth.
It is important to me that all participants in Philosophy feel as though they are welcomed and safe to share their important and crucial views that typically stem from outside of the philosophical cannon, to share their new discoveries, and to share their opinions without the constant need to overcome institutional, structural and cultural racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homoantagonism or transantagonism. As a proud Queer, Chicana and Japanese-American student, I feel it is my duty to ensure that Philosophy at SF State facilitates and produces a safe space for students of all identities and backgrounds; to the point where it doesn’t feel like conscious decisions regarding inclusion and diversity are needed, but rather, until such inclusion and diversity becomes inherent within the practice of Philosophy here at SF State, and Philosophy as a practice.
Thank you to my family, friends, colleagues, professors, and everyone in between who has helped me succeed thus far in my academic career. Without all of your constant support, I know I would not have made it this far. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Mom, Dad, and Nico- this is for you.
B.A., American Studies
Minor, Philosophy & Religion
I feel as if I should preface this commentary with something like: "These are the days of our covidity..." or "It's a covid life!" Despite the current global state of affairs, the close of this semester represents my graduation from this wonderful school. I transferred from College of San Mateo in fall 2016, which already felt like something of a miracle. In total, the journey has required one full decade of life: not just my life, but the hearts, minds, patience, time, and gracious goodness of every single person who has supported me throughout the enterprise.
At times it was unimaginable, the hardship. Academia was never something that I wanted or needed. My earliest big dreams were of being a firefighter and a pilot. I have always been the quintessential renaissance person. As a kid, I detested school for at least 11 of the 12 years I spent there. I was an unlikely college student, to say the least. I lucked out in more than a couple of ways, but intrinsic to my disposition are three fundamental elements: (1) I am passionate; (2) I am fueled by inspiration; and (3) I feed on crisis. After going back to school in fall 2011, what remained of me by the end of each semester was a very worn out girl who had turned herself inside out (beyond reason) to produce the work. For a few solid years there, I wanted to quit every single time. I have come to deeply comprehend the essentialness both of having mentors, and of being a mentor. I certainly would never have made it through this undertaking without mine, for I fought so much harder to make it because of him. I have found the "love of wisdom" to be a force to be reckoned with quite unlike any other; and I cannot imagine any sane individual sticking with it, unless the quality, utility, and deeply meaningful content found herein truly are unmatched. Studying philosophy has infinitely changed me; I am a better human being and a better "me" as a result.
Throughout this year's graduation period, my thoughts are with the graduates all over the world: perhaps millions of them (at every level of education), who do not get to put on their caps and gowns and take that well-deserved walk. It is bittersweet. On the one hand, our graduation is just another day in the course of the tiny blip that is this human existence. A diploma is, after all, merely a piece of paper, which may readily be argued away by many as quite meaningless. But on the other, my word, it really is something; and there is nothing whatsoever easy about achieving any of this, if the aim indeed is to truly do it well. If I can do it at 42, and my dad could do it in his late 70s, then it is never too late for any of us: to DO what we "might have done," or to BE what we "might have been." It is my heartfelt wish to all, that nothing stop you. Whatever it is that you are after in this life, may you intimately come to Know it. "May the odds be ever in your favor." And may all beings, wheresoever beings of any variety may be found, be free from suffering.
My return to academia, after having dropped out, was a long-awaited fruition. Feeling perpetually alienated from perceiving myself as a knower, in the house of knowledge, I was unaware of the power paradigms imbedded in the university experience. Echoing Ms. Angelou, now that I know better, I have done better.
After having transferred to SFSU in 2018, I was immediately interested in epistemology, focusing on epistemic injustice. A shallow understanding of the term offered me the initial language to develop a critical analysis of my own situation within systems of higher education. As I worked through the major, I began to investigate the relationship between agency and access, the historic dimensions of modern knowledge production, and ultimately, what implications this all has had on university narratives of objectivity. What I have begun to construct, through the philosophy department at SFSU, is a theoretical framework that I hope will assist me in naming the world around me, in order to do my part in changing it.
I am grateful for the philosophy department, particularly the teaching faculty, for their intellectual rigor, passion, and expertise. They have inspired me to pursue a career in philosophy. For the future, I plan to keep pushing. I plan to start a master’s program in the fall at Erasmus University in The Netherlands, focusing on the intersections between philosophy and economics.
Degree: B.A., Philosophy
Minor in Race and Resistance
B.A., Philosophy and Religion
B.A., Philosophy and Religion
Saying goodbye to my 5 years at San Francisco State University is truly bittersweet. I'm going to miss my friends, my classes, and my city. When I started my college journey, I never would've suspected that I would become a Philosophy major. However, after taking my first philosophy course I fell in love with learning about new and challenging ideas especially religious ideologies. My biggest take-away is understanding that opposing religious viewpoints have more commonalities than differences. I'm excited to continue to explore this phenomenon in my post-grad life. SFSU will always have a special place in my heart! Thank you to all who've supported me through my academic career!
After attending two other universities, I'm glad that I ended up at San Francisco State University. The Philosophy department is filled with a multitude of amazing, caring individuals who truly know how to make students feel like they deserve to be here. I have always second guessed everything that I have turned in for any of my classes on the basis that it's not good enough, or that I have no idea what I'm doing. The faculty at the Philosophy department has truly shown that my "impostor syndrome" shouldn't get in the way of all the work that I want to complete in philosophy. I am so excited to continue to be part of this department as I continue on to completing my M.A. I am excited to continue to decolonize philosophy and hope to make it a much more accessible and equitable field. I want to thank everyone who has believed in me.
B.A., Criminal Justice Studies
Minor in Philosophy
Thank you to Michelle Thomas and Jeanita Lyman in the Department of Philosophy for helping me learn that my perspective as a marginalized woman is valuable and recognizing what I could not initially see within myself. Thank you to Jeffrey Snipes in the Criminal Justice Studies department for supporting me when I felt so alone. And thanks most of all to the Philosophy Club for accepting me as I am and becoming my friends.
B.A., English with an emphasis in Creative Writing
Double Minor in Philosophy and Classics
To my family, the faculty, and most importantly the professors who have continuously encouraged me to search for truth, thank you all for being a part of this amazing experience. To the Ethics Bowl team and Philosophy Club pals, I will never forget all of our dynamic conversations shared in the Phil Lounge, walking to Stonestown for late night dinners, and slamming hot cocoa while cramming for finals. You all have shaped my experience at SFSU, and I am forever grateful for our time together.
For details on SF State’s plans to celebrate the class of 2020, please visit the Commencement website.