The GW Department of Philosophy is a research-active, congenial group, with over 20 full- and part-time faculty members who are pluralistic in training. Our departmental expertise spans both continental and analytic traditions, with courses exploring the many facets of philosophy, from ethics to legal applications; environmental philosophy to the philosophy of race, gender and disability. Our faculty have served on the President's Council on Bioethics, researched with the National Institute for Health and offered advisory support at the Census Bureau.

We pride ourselves on giving our philosophy majors and minors the personal attention usually associated with smaller, liberal arts colleges. Faculty regularly share research opportunities with students and exchange ideas at department brown bag presentations. And our endowed lecture series offers networking opportunities with renowned professionals in the field. 

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Our History

George Washington statue overlooking University Yard

Philosophy, broadly conceived, has played a prominent role in GW's history since even before there was a formal Philosophy Department. Among the first Columbian College faculty members in philosophy was Alva Woods, professor of mathematical and natural philosophy in the mid-19th century. In the 1860s, Romeo Elton, a distinguished professor of classics at Brown University and close friend of former University President George Whitefield Samson, left the college a generous bequest. That gift endowed the first professorship in philosophy, known today as the Elton Professorship, and made possible the Elton Lectureship.

The Philosophy Department in its present form was organized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Charles Gauss, who is commemorated by a student award. In the 1970s the department debuted its Master of Arts in Philosophy and Social Policy, one of the first programs of its kind in the country. 


"I was drawn to GW because of a notion of what I wanted to do with a degree, but I stayed at GW because the Philosophy Department lived up to the ideals of how education is supposed to change a person."

Jenna McAllister
BA '19