Rutgers Junior Second Beinecke Scholar in School History

Triple major Nate Serio to pursue PhD in philosophy, linguistics and cognitive science

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Nate Serio arrived at Rutgers three years ago with lofty goals: publish a paper as an undergrad, graduate summa cum laude and earn a scholarship to help him pursue his PhD.

His plan was to shoot for the stars and if he landed on the moon, that wasn’t half bad either.

Today Serio’s star is still rising. A triple major in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick, he is on track to graduate with high honors, has a paper being published this summer in the Journal of Philosophy of Life, and has the distinction of becoming the second student in university history to earn the Beinecke Scholarship.

This prestigious scholarship accepts one nomination per accredited school annually, granting only 18 juniors nationwide $34,000 each to further their academic pursuits. Serio, 20, of Edison, who majors in philosophy, linguistics and cognitive science, had his sights set specifically on the Beinecke since his first year at Rutgers.

“I would post little Post-It notes in my freshman dorm room, things like: ‘Before you leave today, remember why you started,’” said Serio, who credits his tenacity and discipline to his mom, Kristi, who worked two and three jobs at a time while he was growing up to support her three sons. “I always had to work harder for what I wanted because it wasn’t going to be given to me.”

 

2020 Beinecke Scholar Nate Serio with his mom Kristi.

Edison's Nate Serio, right, and his mom, Kristi.

Courtesy of Nate Serio

His love of academics, in particular, philosophy was fostered by a high school history teacher with a PhD in the subject. He was the first to encourage Serio to revel in life’s deepest questions rather than regurgitate lessons. His teacher, Gene Nasser, introduced him to Larry Temkin, a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers and one of the world’s leading philosophers of ethics and morality. With assistance from Nasser, Serio and his peers formed a philosophy club and during his junior year organized a trip to Rutgers to sit in on one of Temkin’s lectures. He was hooked.

“Philosophy makes you approach your beliefs in a logical and rational way, sometimes questioning the very nature of things they are about,” said Serio. “The more I did that, the more I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Shortly after starting at Rutgers, his interest gravitated toward the intersection of philosophy and language while taking several courses on the subject with professor Paul Pietroski. He joined Kristen Syrett’s Laboratory for Developmental Language Studies in the spring of 2018, followed by a research position at the University of Pennsylvania’s Child Language Lab this past summer. He is currently studying how socio-economic disparities affect language acquisition in children as a Lloyd C. Gardner Fellow at Rutgers.

“As an aspiring philosopher and cognitive scientist, I hope to continue to develop a research program centered around these interests and, in doing so, contribute to our understanding of the mind, brain, and human nature,” he wrote in his Beinecke application 

Rutgers philosophy professor Larry Temkin leads Edison High School philosophy club in discussion.

Nate Serio wanted to study philosophy at Rutgers after his high school philosophy club sat in on one of professor Larry Temkin’s lectures.

Courtesy of Nate Serio

It’s Serio’s hope that the scholarship’s cachet will go a long way when he starts courting the schools of his choice – Yale and Stanford. And the cash that comes with the scholarship certainly will make life as an academic less stressful.

“No matter how highly ranked, the graduate school Nate Serio chooses will be getting a young man of high character and rare determination,” said Arthur D. Casciato, director of Rutgers’ Office of Distinguished Fellowships. “The word ‘journey’ is overworked these days, but in Nate’s case it is clearly earned.”

Serio said $4,000 from the grant can be used immediately to cover travel expenses when visiting schools. He plans to put the second $30,000 grant toward living expenses once he starts a graduate program: “PhDs are usually fully funded at the top tier philosophy programs, but this takes a huge weight off my shoulders.”

By Lisa Intrabartola

Rutgers Students Learn the Art of Argument

Students in Justin Kalef’s “Logic, Reason, and Persuasion” class at Rutgers University take a deep dive into some divisive issues.

And they can expect, over the course of the semester, to have their positions challenged—perhaps by the person sitting next to them.

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Kalef, a teaching professor in the Department of Philosophy, School of Arts and Sciences, gets this undergraduate course underway by surveying students on such topical hot buttons as abortion, gun control, and tax policy. “Then I put them on teams for the rest of the semester with people who disagree,” Kalef says. “They have to sit with, make alliances with, and do collaborative work throughout the course with people whose positions they oppose.”

He’s not out to provoke a collegiate version of Crossfire. His goal is for students to develop the skills that a good philosopher—and engaged citizen—should have: the ability to master a complex issue, construct an argument, and meticulously evaluate how well it holds up against those of their peers.

“It’s really easy to criticize others, so I put an emphasis on finding flaws in your own reasoning,” Kalef explains. “That’s the advantage of having teams with diverse views. There’s always going to be somebody who says: ‘Wait, how do you know you’re right?”’

The novel approach reflects Kalef’s passion for teaching. He is the first-ever director of teaching innovation in the philosophy department at Rutgers—a department routinely ranked among the top three philosophy programs in the world.

Dean Zimmerman, the department Chair, says Kalef is one of just several teachers worldwide who are applying a team-based learning approach to philosophy. And the results are revelatory.

“Rather than lecturing to students and debating with the more ambitious ones, Justin’s goal has been to ensure that every student does some original philosophical work every day,” Zimmerman says. “In addition to creating challenging, engaging activities that push students to excel at doing philosophy, his approach has the benefit of making students responsible for their learning — not just to themselves, but to one another.”

Kalef's job also includes working with doctoral students and part-time lecturers, helping them grow and develop into effective teachers. He also creates innovative new undergraduate courses, including a series of “Rutgers Philosophy All Stars” online courses in which students study the work of the department’s great scholars.

For the “All Stars” courses, which will later be released as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Kalef worked with James Chun of the Cyberlearning Innovation and Research Center (CIRC) to create a tightly structured course that—even in the online format—offers ways for students to collaborate with one another and with Kalef.

Senior Daniel Cappell said the combination of online work and then an in-person meeting of the entire class on the last day were effective, and even inspirational. “In the online forums you get to know other students through their writing style and their positions,” he notes. “Then when you see them in person, the personal element comes through and you feel like you really know them.” He adds that the course inspired him to become a philosophy major.

Meanwhile, students in the “Logic, Reason, and Persuasion” course—most of whom are not philosophy majors—said they emerged from the experience with a new depth to their thinking.

“The course takes you a step backward so you can observe the way you argue,” says sophomore Ying Zhang. “It forces you to ask yourself: ‘Am I arguing my feelings or arguing the facts?’”

Each group must complete weekly collaborative assignments and a final project in which they take a position on an issue and demonstrate expertise down to the smallest details. Students must also show a command of the techniques of argument—claims and counter-claims, objections and responses. On the final day, the groups present physical tables of supporting and opposing arguments.

“A lot of work went into these,” Kalef says. “I can see from looking at the tables whether they have done a good job or not.”

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Luke McCarty, whose group focused on whether sex work should be legalized, started out strongly supporting legalization. “But over the course of the project I changed my mind,” says McCarty, a microbiology major. “I found many statistics showing that legalizing prostitution doesn’t mitigate sex trafficking, and in many cases can increase it.”

Lily Black, an environmental sciences major, said the course has had a lasting impact. “I wanted to learn how to argue without emotion,” she states. “Now, in my everyday life, I analyze arguments like I have been taught in this class.”

For Kalef, the job of teaching has long been a personal mission. His mother and her parents were teachers. And Kalef says he struggled as a student.

“I was more aware than most people of the difficulties of learning from others,” he says. “When I found someone who could teach me, I asked myself how it had happened. It’s a question my evolving work still seeks to answer today.”

Howard McGary Presented 2019 Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award

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We're happy to announce that Howard McGary, Professor of Philosophy, received a 2019 Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award for outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion through his work with the annual Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy for 25 years. The Institute provides outreach to undergraduates on a nationwide basis to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in philosophy graduate programs and faculty positions. Meeting every summer for the last two decades, the institute has had an impact on the field. About 60 percent of past participants have gone on to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. The institute received the 2004 Award for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs sponsored by the American Philosophical Association and the Philosophy Documentation Center. And the institute has become the model for schools starting similar programs (for the full article, please refer to the link below).

Congratulations Professor McGary! 

https://sas.rutgers.edu/news-a-events/news/newsroom/student-news/1575-aspiring-philosophers-shatter-white-male-image-and-find-support-at-rutgers

 

 

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Rutgers Class of 1970 Annual Lecture presents Gideon Rosen 

Managing Moral Outrage: How Philosophy Can Change Your (Emotional) Life (click for flyer)

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This year's undergraduate committee: Rivky Brandwein, Aysenur Guc, Matthew Rotolo and Andreas Kauderer. 

Professor Rosen is a professor of metaphysics, ethics, metaethics, and philosophy of  mathematics at Princeton University. He currently serves as Chair of Princeton’s Philosophy Department in addition to holding the position of Stuart Professor of Philosophy. Since joining the department at Princeton in 1993, Rosen has proved to be a prolific scholar in his various specializations. He is most noted for proposing the idea of modal fictionalism in metaphysics. Perhaps his most recognized work is A Subject with No Object: Strategies for Nominalist Reconstrual in Mathematics (1997), coauthored with John Burgess.

 

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"We were thrilled with the turn out (a full house!) and I think it made it for a fantastic dialogue between students and the larger community. It was great to meet Professor Rosen and get a chance to talk with him over dinner as well -- I'm very grateful for the Rutgers Philosophy department's active, consistent commitment and support towards undergraduates!" - Aysenur Guc, Committee member 

Thanks to everyone who attended this lecture and supported our undergraduate community. This was one of the largest turnouts in years. A special thank you is owed to Professor Rosen for agreeing to speak! 

 

 

 Photos by Aysenur Guc 


 

Alex Guerrero --featured in Rutgers Today--Are Politics Broken?

 

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Rutgers Today talks with Guerrero about how ending elections would free us from the tyranny of  false campaign promises and wealthy special interests, and make government look more like a cross section of American society. He also proposes a smaller-scale version to solve intractable issues like climate change. 

Please read the Q&A  here.

 

 

 

 


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 A Conference in Memory of Peter Kivy (1934-2017) 

Over the course of his 49 year career (48 years of which were spent at Rutgers), Peter established himself as a giant in the field of aesthetics, especially in the philosophy of music. Sadly, Peter passed away in 2017.  To honor his memory, the Rutgers Philosophy Department is hosting a one-day conference on October 26, 2018, celebrating his life's philosophical work.

The Conference will include talks by Christy Mag Uidhir (Houston), Jenefer Robinson (Cincinnati), Jerrold Levinson  (Maryland), and David Davies (McGill).  In addition, Aaron Meskin (Leeds) will introduce and read Peter Kivy's unpublished 'The Case of (Digital) Wagner.' Finally, there will be a time set aside for remembrances from Peter's friends and colleagues.

All are welcome to attend the conference. There is no registration fee; however, attendees are encouraged to pre-register (so that we have an accurate headcount for the lunch and reception). To pre-register, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 


Marcos Dees 0040064703 4ac23 Remembering Marco Dees 

It is with profound sadness that we report the death of Marco Dees on July 22 in a climbing accident in Grand Teton National Park.  Marco came to Rutgers after studying philosophy at Saint Andrews.  He wrote a dissertation on the metaphysics of quantities, space, and time, receiving his Ph.D. in 2015.  Dean Zimmerman and Jonathan Schaffer were his co-advisors.  He had begun to publish papers based on his thesis (in Thought and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly), and to teach, first at Bard College and then Vassar.

Marco was a beloved member of our community.  He brought a kind, encouraging spirit to every conversation — philosophical or otherwise.  His passing is an incalculable loss for all who knew him.  

For information about memorial services, or to leave remembrances and pictures, visit https://marco-dees.muchloved.com

 


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Rutgers Alumnus Wins Lakatos Award!

 Craig Callender has been announced as one of the recipients of the 2018 Lakatos Award for his book What Makes Time Special? (Oxford University Press, 2017).

 Craig Callender is a Professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego. Prior to that he worked in the  Department of   Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. He obtained his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1997. Congratulations Craig!


   

 The Philosophy Department hosted public lectures by Patrick Byrne (CEO Overstock.com and  Stanford Philosophy P.h.D.) in Spring 2016:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78vZtoVui7I

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kALNSFPe5lQ

 


Faculty. Ernest Sosa

  Ernest Sosa will give the 18th annual Muenster Lecture in Philosophy at the University of Muenster on   November 4th.  The lecture, entitled “Judgment and Knowledge as Forms of Action,” is part of a two-day   workshop where Professor Sosa will respond to critics. Details here.

 

 

 


 

With sadness the department announces the untimely passing of our colleague Mark Colby, beloved teacher of many of our students since his initial appointment at Rutgers in 2002. He will be greatly missed. More information here.

 


 

Ruth Chang's Ted talk on Hard Choices 

 


 

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association (APA), has awarded the 2014 Lebowitz Prizes to Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers) and Jessica Wilson (The University of Toronto) for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution for their symposium titled "Grounding in Metaphysics." The symposium will take place this winter, December 27-30, at the APA's Eastern Division meeting. The Lebowitz award recognizes the work of celebrated philosophers for their excellence in thought, in addition to awarding an honorarium of $30,000 to each recipient. See here for more details.

 


 

There will be a memorial conference and celebration in memory of our late colleague Brian Loar on October 9, 2014 at 1 pm in the Philosophy Department seminar room. Speakers will be Stephen Schiffer (NYU), Katalin Balog (Rutgers), and David Chalmers (NYU/ANU). There will also be time for remembrances and discussion of Brian's contributions to philosophy. All are invited. For more information contact Barry Loewer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 


 

Peter Kivy at 3:AM Magazine.

 


 

The Mellon Foundation endows the first Philosophy Chair at Rutgers.  More details here.

 


 

Ruth Chang was interviewed by 3:AM Magazine.  For other faculty interviews in this series see here, here, here, here, and here.

 


 

We are sad to report that our colleague Brian Loar passed away on March 31 after a long illness.  Brian taught at the University of Michigan and USC before coming to Rutgers in 1994.  He retired in 2009.  Brian was a subtle and elegant philosophical thinker who influenced generations of students and colleagues and a great friend to many in the profession.  He made major contributions to the philosophy of mind and metaphysics and is especially known for developing a novel account of phenomenal states and phenomenal concepts.  There will be a memorial that will be announced in this space.

 


 

Elisabeth Camp was interviewed by 3:AM Magazine.  For other faculty interviews in this series see here, here, here, and here

 


 

Rutgers is co-sponsoring a Networking and Mentoring Workshop for graduate student women in philosophy, to be held at Princeton University in August 2014.  Submissions are due March 1st.  See here for details.

 


 

Jeffrey King published New Thinking About Structured Propositions, (co-authored with Scott Soames and Jeff Speaks), Oxford University Press, New York, 2013.

 


 

Jeff McMahan's op-ed piece, "Why Gun 'Control' is Not Enough," in the New York Times Opinionator blog was awarded an American Philosophical Association Committee on Public Philosophy Op-ed Essay Award.

 


 

Alec Walen received a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellowship at the Princeton University Center for Human Values in 2014-2015. He will work on his book Detention in a Liberal State.

 


 

Larry S. Temkin presented the distinguished Annual Lecture for the Society for Applied Philosophy at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, in October, 2013.

 


 

Susanna Schellenberg was interviewed by 3:AM Magazine.  For other faculty interviews in this series see here, here, and here.

 


 

Virtuous Thoughts: the Philosophy of Ernest Sosa, edited by John Turri, was published by Springer, with twelve chapters on respective topics in Sosa's philosophical output.

 


 With sadness the department announces the death of our colleague Allan Gotthelf on August 30th, 2013. A tribute by Alan Code here .

The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce the founding of the Rutgers Center for the Philosophy of Religion, and the appointment of Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams as Distinguished Research Professors. More information here .

Jeff McMahan has teamed up with Major Ian Fishback (West Point Military Academy) to teach a seminar on the ethics of war.

Ernie Lepore wrote a piece for The New York Times on the seminal Donald Davdison conference in 1984.

Holly Smith has won a fellowship at the National Humanities Center (NHC) for the 2013-2014 academic year, turning down fellowship offers from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and the Princeton University Center for Human Values. The NHC will award individual fellowship grants to enable scholars to take leave from their regular academic duties and pursue research at the center. The NHC receives grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other sources. Holly's plans are to complete a book for Oxford University Press in which she develops "a new approach to show how to configure moral theories so they serve both as standards to evaluate conduct and as decision-making guides when we wish to act as morality demands.”

Anthony Gillies has been named Associate Editor of Semantics & Pragmatics: A Journal of the Linguistic Society of America.

In November, 2012, Martha Bolton was an invited speaker at the international conference, 'Harmony and Reality in the Philosophy of the Late Leibniz', held at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Muenster, Germany.

Alvin Goldman delivered "Toward a More Fruitful Conception of Embodied Cognition" at the Institute for Cognitive Science, Lyon, France, at a symposium in honor of Marc Jeannerod, October 30, 2012.

Barry Loewer gave an invited talk "The Objective Probability Structure of the World," at a conference in Taiyuan, China on September 28, 2012 and another talk at Beijing University.

In August 2012 Jeff McMahan was one of two keynote speakers at a conference on “Mortality, Death, and Dying” at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki.

Jonathan Schaffer presented "Monistic Structural Realism" at The Metaphysics of Relations, Oxford on 10/1/12.

At the final conference of Phenomenal Qualities Project, University of Hertfordshire in March 2012, Susanna Schellenberg presented “Phenomenal Qualities and Perceptual Content.”

In October of 2012 Ernest Sosa presented "Epistemic Agency" at the University of Leipzig and at the University of Barcelona, and "Descartes and Virtue Epistemology" at the University of Barcelona.

Larry S. Temkin presented "Rethinking the Good:  Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning," as the Fifth Annual Law, Ethics, and Philosophy (LEAP) Lecture at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona in October 2012.  This year's LEAP Lecture was the keynote address of a special conference on Temkin's recent book Rethinking the Good. The same lecture was also delivered as part of the Legatum Book Forum Series at the Legatum Institute, London, October, 2012. 

The summer 2012 issue of Utilitas, a journal of moral philosophy, contained a symposium on Professor Jeff McMahan’s 2009 book, Killing in War.

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