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The University of Iowa Department of Philosophy is deeply committed to making meaningful contributions to the intellectual life of our university and city community.

The faculty in the department commonly give talks in the community on issues ranging from neuroscience and philosophy to war and terrorism. Our graduate students have developed the Iowa Lyceum–a summer philosophy camp for high school students which they run every summer free of charge. We regularly teach a course at the Johnson County Senior Center. The department administers a service-learning course–PHIL 1920: Philosophy in Public–in which students do a community, volunteer, or campus internship and write about its relationship to their larger philosophical and career interests. We sponsor a movie series on issues of pressing concern–the Owl of Minerva Theater. We also host a philosophy club that meets to discuss topics and figures from Plato to today. One of our faculty, Professor Carrie Figdor, conducts regular interviews with prominent philosophers as part of the New Books in Philosophy series. Our faculty also participate in on-campus programs with the Obermann Center, Human Rights Center, POROI, the Bioethics initiative, and others.


Iowa Lyceum

The Iowa Lyceum promotes philosophy and critical thinking by offering a free week-long summer camp to high school students.  The program introduces participants to philosophy interactively by integrating activities, discussion, games, and lecture, presenting philosophical concepts often neglected in standard K-12 education.  The Lyceum’s organizers believe philosophy is essential to a well-rounded education and that the intellectual habits cultivated by philosophical education are paramount to a civil society.  We are also working to expand Lyceum offerings to area junior high and high school philosophy clubs and other K-12 units.

Learn more about Iowa Lyceum

The program is free to participants thanks to the generous support of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Division of Continuing Education, the Office of the Provost Better Futures for Iowans initiative, and the Department of Philosophy.

The UI Department of Philosophy regularly teaches a course at the Johnson County Senior Center. Recent course titles include Freedom and AuthorityThe Meaning of Life, and Descartes on God and human freedom.

Our work at the Senior Center would not be possible without the help of our undergraduate philosophy interns.

In this course, students will participate in a community internship, volunteer activity, or UI student club and write short weekly reflections that connect the activity with their larger personal, professional, and/or community aims.  Each week there will be a single text -- an article from a newspaper or blog, a video podcast, or an excerpt from a piece of philosophy -- and then the write-ups will be a matter of weighing in on these.  

A student's internship or volunteer activity can be with any of the groups listed here–including UI Health Care, the Iowa City K-12 school district, Girls on the Run, the VA Medical Center, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Oaknoll Retirement Community, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, the Crisis Center, Shelter House, and many other community entities. Students can also take the course by participating in any UI authorized organization or club. Note that if you are taking the course and reside outside the Johnson County area, you will be able to find an internship or activity that is in your local community.

Assignments will include the weekly write-ups and also a final web or video or blog project to be done with the assistance of the UI Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio. Students may opt to write a five-page paper in place of the web/video/blog project.

Students can take the course for 2 or 3 credit hours, depending on the number of hours that they do for their internship / volunteer / student club activity. To take the course for 3 credit hours, students need to complete 30 hours total; to take the course for 2 credit hours, students need to complete 20 hours.  

For students who enroll in the course for 3 hours of credit, there will be 12 weekly write-ups. For students who enroll for 2 hours of credit, there will be 9 weekly write-ups.

Students will be able to meet with philosophy faculty on a regular drop-in basis to discuss their weekly write-ups in advance and to plan for their web/video/blog/writing project.

Please contact Professor Cunning at with any questions at all.

This semester’s film series is organized around the theme Crime and Punishment and explores the philosophical implications of capital punishment, genocide and justice, responsibility, premeditation and compulsion in the commission of crime, vengeance vs. justice, the prison-industrial complex in America, the war on drugs in America and its devastating consequences for the poor, and the apparent indifference of God in the face of murder and genocide.

Films screened will include the following:

Please contact Professor Carrie Swanson with any questions.

Professor Figdor has done over sixty interviews as co-host of the podcast channel New Books in Philosophy since she began podcasting in June 2011. The first few dozen interviews are listed below, but please go to the New Books in Philosophy website for all her interviews.

The UI Department of Philosophy also invites all campus and community members to participate in our regular colloquium series.  

We host a number of talks every year, including the Bergmann Lecture, the Hall Lecture, and the Sievert Lecture, each followed by a departmental reception. Recent speakers include Timothy Williamson (Oxford), Elizabeth Anderson (Michigan), Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers), Louise Antony (UMass Amherst), Larry May (Vanderbilt), Laurie Paul (North Carolina Chapel Hill), Sally Haslanger (MIT), Earl Conee (Rochester), Sanford Goldberg (Northwestern), Tim Scanlon (Harvard), Don Garrett (NYU), and Barry Stroud (Berkeley). The department also holds pre-colloquium meetings to explore each paper topic in advance.

We also host a number of impromptu talks and events sponsored by UI philosophy faculty. 

For a list of upcoming events, please see here.

Public engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The University of Iowa’s core mission extends beyond the classrooms, laboratories, studios, and libraries where we educate students, conduct our research, and create new artistic work. Equally important is our engagement with communities throughout Iowa, across the nation, and around the world. 

Our faculty, students, and staff work to solve problems, imagine new approaches to challenges, and improve quality of life, often through service-learning courses in which students earn academic credit. 

It’s a virtuous circle: When UI expertise is harnessed to help a community or region improve the lives of its residents, the experience adds unique educational value to students’ academic journeys, and advances the research and creative production of our faculty. In turn, that new knowledge empowers us to help more communities, solve more problems, and improve more lives. 

The UI is not just the University of Iowa, we're the University for Iowa—and throughout the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we are proud to serve.