Homepage Of Wayne A. Borody
Department of Religions and Cultures and Philosophy

 

THE PHILOSOPHY PROGRAMME " MISSION "AT NIPISSING UNIVERSITY

 

The mission of the Philosophy program at Nipissing is to provide students with a foundation in the sources, concepts and problems that have characterized and inspired the philosophical tradition. The Socratic exemplar of a questing and questioned life is grounded in sustained engagement with the thinkers, texts and ideas that constitute the fabric of inherited values and contemporary assumptions. Through exposure to and guided interpretation of major texts in the philosophical tradition, students will acquire an informed and far-sighted perspective on the questions that have perennially opened complex dimensions of human life and thought.

...a major in Philosophy will have an appreciation of the breadth and depth of the tradition, specific knowledge of major philosophers, and well-developed reasoning skills...

 

 

 

 

OUR CURRENT PROGRAM

 

The Philosophy program at Nipissing shares general features of the Philosophy degrees offered at other Ontario and Canadian universities, each of which has certain unique features, while still ensuring coverage of traditional areas. In our case, there is emphasis on the history of philosophy, with required area coverage in ancient, early modern, modern and contemporary philosophy. As a consequence of both the historical emphasis of our program and the research strengths of the two full-time faculty members (W. Borody and D. Jowett), the program also highlights eastern and recent continental philosophy.

Courses in "Contemporary Moral Issues," "Existentialism," and "Philosophy of Sex and Love" are regularly cycled, along with cross-listed courses in Political Science, Religions and Cultures, Classics and Gender. Through co-operation and cross-listing with other disciplines, Philosophy is able to offer a range of electives that are both topical and relevant to students.

Philosophy, especially in third and fourth year, is a demanding program. The required reading load is heavy and students are faced with difficult primary texts. Since Philosophy is not a "teachable," does not lead to any obvious immediate employment (except when combined with other skills), and is intellectually challenging, our program has remained small in the upper years. While we would like to see modest growth in the numbers of our majors, there are certain advantages in the current situation. To a large extent, only those students with strong ability and interest in Philosophy choose to major in it. This, along with small class size, facilitates close engagement with philosophical texts. The level of interaction between students and between professor and student is unusually lively and personal. In many respects, this constitutes and ideal environment for the serious study of philosophy.

In the recent past, a number of our students have met with considerable success in winning OGS scholarships/generous entrance scholarships to the graduate programs of their choice.

 

THE HISTORY OF "PHILOSOPHY" AT NIPISSING UNIVERSITY

 

When "Nipissing College" became an affiliate of Laurentian University in 1967, Nipissing University College adopted the program in Philosophy in place at Laurentian, thus insuring the establishment of a philosophy program that would be consistent with the standards of philosophy programs in the rest of Ontario and Canada. "Philosophy" was one of the seven, first-year courses offered in 1967 at Nipissing University College . The founding member of the Philosophy program at this time was Dr. Norbert Shuldes, who went on to teach philosophy at Nipissing University College for another twenty years, until 1987-and if mandatory retirement had not been in place in 1987, Dr. Shuldes would have continued his distinguished teaching career in Philosophy at Nipissing for many more years-as all those who knew him after he retired would testify.

By 1988, after almost twenty years of offering courses in Philosophy, Nipissing University College could still only offer Philosophy as a major on an "unofficial" basis. Students were able to attain a major in Philosophy (as well as in some other disciplines), "from time to time," through a selection of courses from Spring and Summer Sessions, transfer of credits from Laurentian University and/or other universities, or by a selection of cycled courses. Under this arrangement, the Philosophy program was described as a "Continuation Discipline," or "Part-time Major."

The Nipissing University College Faculty of Arts Academic Plan of 1988 , which was intended as a guideline for the academic development of Nipissing University College for the next five to ten years, recommended that on the basis of strong enrolments, Philosophy should be developed as a major area on a full-time, three-year basis. After all, as it was pointed out, from 1981 to 1988, the total enrolments per year had gone up from 56 students in 1981 to 81 students in 1988, at which time there were already 7 students declaring Philosophy as their part-time major. Providing a full-time major, however, would depend on the hiring of another full-time philosophy professor. As a result, it was recommended that a report be submitted to the Academic Planning Committee in 1990/91 for a possible second, full-time hiring in 1991/92. The establishment of a full-time three year B.A. was recommended for 1991 (contingent on Laurentian University approval).

Dr. Wayne Borody was hired in 1989 as a full-time faculty member, with a mandate to implement the Academic Plan of 1988. At the time of his hiring, the numbers in Philosophy had dropped significantly, to 20 students in the first year class. Five years later, the Philosophy Program could boast of 110 students in the first-year class. In 1991, acting on the recommendations of the Academic Plan of 1988, Dr. Borody submitted a proposal for a second full-time member in Philosophy, even though the Philosophy Program was still only offered on a part-time basis. In 1991, however, a new academic plan was undertaken, and the recommendations of the previous plan were subsumed under the new plan, Growing Together: Nipissing University College, 1991-1994 , which developed in three phases, with the final phase (Report on Phase III: Growing Together) indirectly reaffirming the commitment to developing a full-time program in Philosophy. This had been stated as one of the Goals of the university: "1. To provide a wide range of full-time and part-time programs in Arts and Science disciplines basic to a broad, general education and other professional areas" and "2. To continue to expand its current offerings in the Faculty of Arts and Science."

In 1993, under the aegis of the new plan, Dr. Borody requested that the Philosophy Program be allowed to offer "officially" a "full-time" major in Philosophy, as it had been offering such a degree for some time, but not in an official capacity. The request was granted, and in 1994 a full-time major in Philosophy became "official." In the Fall of 1993, Dr. Borody, once again basing himself on the Academic Plan of 1988, requested the hiring of another faculty member. As a result, Dr. Donna Jowett was appointed in a Cross-Appointment position with Women's Studies. After a number of years, Dr. Jowett received a full-time position in Philosophy, and has since been the driving force responsible for lobbying, and finally gaining approval for a combined major, and then a four-year single major in philosophy. Currently, the Philosophy Program is developing its program within the context of the most recent plan for the university, the Nipissing University Strategic Plan: 2005-2010: Addressing Our Future.

The Philosophy Program at Nipissing University offers four types of degrees: a three-year single-major, a three-year combined-major, a four-year single-major, and a four-year combined-major. These four "streams" are standard for an undergraduate program in Philosophy in Ontario, whether one has more than 60 full-time philosophy professors, such as the University of Toronto, or a mere two, such as Nipissing University. In terms of its curriculum, Nipissing University's Philosophy Program offers a degree in Philosophy that is consistent with such degrees in the rest of the country, insofar as it covers, in a systematic manner, the History of Western Philosophy (except for Medieval Philosophy), and offers some "topic based" courses that are also consistent with such courses at universities across the country.

Given the limited resources of the Philosophy program we believe we have developed a fitting and strong focus through our emphasis on the history of philosophy. The two full-time faculty members are appropriately prepared through their training and on-going research to offer the core courses required by this emphasis, as well as more specialized or extended treatments of individual philosophers, themes and problems. Students who graduate with a major in Philosophy will have an appreciation of the breadth and depth of the tradition, specific knowledge of major philosophers, and well-developed reasoning skills. We have developed our program's emphasis on the history of philosophy as a way of providing cohesion, continuity and substance with the resources available to us. We have opted to do this well, rather than introduce discrete topical or issue-oriented courses that might be popular with students, but leave them with a far more fragmented and partial education in Philosophy. While our small class size in third and fourth year functions against the likelihood of obtaining another full-time position in Philosophy, this same small class size is actually ideal for more advanced studies in Philosophy.

Alumni who have continued on to graduate school report that they have been better prepared for graduate studies than many of their peers from other universities with more developed programs in Philosophy. Alumni who have not attended graduate school report their fond memories of the special intensity of sustained engagement with certain thinkers. In this context, Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger are three of the names that frequently occur.