Department of Philosophy

See the Fall 2021 course brochure here!

Richard Nunan, 1952-2021

Richard Nunan

Our friend and colleague Richard Nunan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, died on Monday, April 12. He had been ill with brain cancer since early last summer, and retired from the College in December 2020. 

Richard came to the College in 1984, and taught here for 36 years. Though his parents were Irish, he grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his B.A. in mathematics from Vassar College and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He specialized in political philosophy and especially philosophy of law, and he served as the editor of the American Philosophical Association’s newsletter on philosophy of law for many years. But his scholarship was wide-ranging: his more than 35 published articles also included significant essays in gender studies and in film studies.

His teaching was equally versatile. Though he was happy to teach philosophy of law, he was just as happy to teach classes on such topics as symbolic and modal logic, the representation of LGBT individuals in film, medieval philosophy, and time travel in philosophy, physics, and film. He taught for many years in the Honors Western Civilization colloquium, and there lectured frequently not just on moral and political philosophy but also on the history and philosophy of science.

Richard’s record of service was extensive. He served as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, as interim chair of the Department of Religious Studies, as pre-law advisor, and as chair of seven different faculty committees. On all of these committees, as a faculty senator, and as the AAUP representative, he was a tireless advocate for the quality of our institution and the importance of shared governance.

In everything he talked and wrote about, Richard combined a skeptical realism about how institutions actually work with an unstinting idealism about how they ought to work. It was an unsettling combination, and Richard was unsparing when things fell short of moral standards, as they so often do. But for all of that, Richard was an especially gentle and kind man. His contributions to our program and our institution were extraordinary, and he will be very badly missed.

Richard is survived by his wife, Victoria West, his two daughters, Rebecca and Alix, and Rebecca’s husband and children. Given the ongoing pandemic, there are no immediate plans for a memorial service. Contributions in Richard’s memory should be sent to the Scholarship Enrichment Fund here at the College. Notes to Victoria should be sent to 612 McCants Drive, Mt. Pleasant SC 29464.

Larry Krasnoff
Professor and Chair


Philosophy is an exciting and challenging discipline because it focuses on some of the deepest and most intractable questions humans face:  Is there any objective standard of moral rightness?  Does God exist?  Do humans have free will?  The methods philosophers use to tackle these questions – imaginative “thought experiments” and rigorous analysis of arguments – help students to build skills that are essential to a liberal arts education.  The department has an accomplished faculty that is dedicated to undergraduate teaching.  We offer a comprehensive major as well as wide range of introductory courses that allow non-majors to explore philosophy.