Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

History of the Department

Philosophy courses have been part of the curriculum at Emory dating back to its founding in 1836 as Emory College in Oxford, Georgia.  Those early courses were largely on moral philosophy and logic.  In 1915, Emory was chartered as a university and established its now main campus in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta. 

The first catalog of Emory University, dated 1918–19, offers a full list of philosophy courses.  In 1929 with the arrival of the Leibniz scholar, Leroy E. Loemker, the University created the Department of Philosophy.  One of the department’s first majors, Lewis White Beck, who got his bachelor’s in 1934 and then went to Duke for his PhD in philosophy at Duke, joined the Emory philosophy faculty in 1938.   In the later part of his career Beck would become one of the world’s most distinguished Kant scholars.  Another member of the Department was the German philosopher of culture, Helmut Kuhn. 

The department inaugurated its doctoral program in philosophy in 1956.  In the early period of the doctoral program the senior members of the Department were Loemker, the Chair, who published his classic two-volume edition of Leibniz's Philosophical Papers and Letters; Richard Hocking, who collaborated with his father, William Ernest Hocking, to bring out the third edition of his famous Types of Philosophy; and Charles Hartshorne, one of the truly original minds in American philosophy, who wrote his major work on metaphysics, The Logic of Perfection.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century to the present, the graduate and undergraduate programs in philosophy have broadened enormously.  Building on its strengths in the history of philosophy and thanks to generous funding, from 2006-2018 the department ran a speaker series and an array of summer workshops through its Institute for the History of Philosophy.  Since then the department continues to hold a vibrant colloquium series and has cultivated more interdisciplinary connections across the university, building on strengths in race, gender, psychoanalysis, culture, and ethics.  At the undergraduate level, in 2018 the department added a second major — Philosophy, Politics, and Law — nearly doubling the reach of its undergraduate offerings.