Weekly colloquiums

A day in the life

Weekly colloquiums


You could feel the mental energy in the room, there was so much of it. It was a great social gathering, but so much more than that... It felt like people really cared about it.

We talk philosophy 42 Fridays per year

Every Friday, just before 4 p.m., a classroom next to the department fills with faculty, students and visitors. Someone, either a local or a visiting scholar, stands and delivers a lecture. After a quick break for coffee, an intense debate ensues.

No other department at Dalhousie gets together to talk shop as often we do.

Kirstin Borgerson, an assistant professor of philosophy, says that Dal's culture of positive debate stands out compared to other philosophy departments across Canada.

"There’s an incredible community here," Dr. Borgerson says. "Nobody gets a free ride, but at the same time, everything is framed really constructively."

The colloquiums started back in 1968, and since then, many debates have continued into the night at the campus pub.

"We all go for drinks at the Grad House afterwards and discuss things further in the fine tradition—going back to Plato—of discussing philosophy over drinks."

Students are encouraged to participate

Alyssa Robichaud, in her 5th year of a philosophy degree, likes to listen to the papers, but she loves to watch the debates.

“You get to see professors ask questions and start debates and discussions and stuff you don’t normally get to see in a classroom,” she says.

All faculty are expected to attend the colloquiums and make positive contributions to the discussion, but priority is given to graduate and undergraduate students who want to speak.

Alyssa remembers asking her first question. It was intimidating, but it felt good joining in. Philosophy is an activity you must engage in, she says, that’s the first thing teachers tell you in philosophy courses. 

“So it makes sense that, in addition to reading and writing, there would be this element of discussion and debate that is ongoing. It sets a really good example for the students that they are so diligent in putting on these colloquiums.” 

You can feel the energy in the room

Many alumni remember the electricity in the room during a good debate. Troy Jollimore (BA’93), now a philosophy professor, misses that charged atmosphere.

"You could feel the mental energy in the room, there was so much of it. It was a great social gathering, but so much more than that. It had that community that came together every week. It felt like people really cared about it. I loved it at the time and I took it for granted because I came to the naive assumption that that happened everywhere. Now I know that it doesn’t. It’s a very special thing about the Dalhousie Philosophy Department."