Philosophy Department

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The Department of Philosophy, at William & Mary, "through a varied and extensive program of courses, presents students with past and present attempts to think critically and reflectively about fundamental questions of knowledge and value in order that they will be led to examine their own views. The study of philosophical problems in the spirit of free inquiry requires the student to develop and exercise the powers of precise discrimination, creative imagination, logical organization and evaluative judgment."[1]

According to 1947 article in The Flat Hat, the Philosophy Department is the oldest department at the College of William and Mary. [2] Whether or not this is the case, the department is one of the six original chairs established at the college. Although Philosophy was one of the original six chairs, it was not taught until 1712, according to Francis Samuel Haserot. "During the colonial period, the college president taught philosophy. There were four different branches of philosophy taught at this time: logic, metaphysics, ethics and psychology." (Haserot) A distinguishing fact about the College is that it was among a select few, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, to teach Philosophy during the eighteenth-century. (Haserot)

The Philosophy Department has an illustrious list of professors which include Thomas R. Dew, Lyon G. Tyler, and Joseph Roy Geiger. Thomas R. Dew became Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1837, a year after his appointment as President of the College. From 1888 to 1898, Dr. Tyler taught and chaired the Philosophy Department, in addition to his duties as President. Joseph Roy Geiger chaired the department for nineteen years, beginning in 1916. Dr. Geiger's primary focus was moral conduct, education, and religion. He wrote extensively about the honor system in higher education and its importance.


  • Francis Samuel Haserot, "Philosophy at William and Mary," Alumni Gazette 7.2 (1939): 8-9, 31-33.
  • “Miller to Read from Royal Grant; Cox to Present 1700 Proclamation,” The Flat Hat, February 4, 1947, 1, accessed 4 March 2009.
  • "Passage of Years Brings Changes to W-M Campus," The Flat Hat, February 4, 1947, 10, accessed 4 March 2009.
  • Joseph Roy Geiger, University Archives Faculty/Alumni File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, William & Mary.
  • Thomas R. Dew, University Archives Faculty/Alumni File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, William & Mary.

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A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.