Faculty Deans

Faculty Deans

Sean Kelly, Faculty Dean,

I was born in Ohio, but spent most of my childhood in two different towns in Connecticut. Until I was 12, I lived in Danbury, just a mile or two from the Great Danbury State Fair. (It is now the Great Danbury State Fair Mall.) After that, I lived on a dirt road in West Redding, a rural town outside of Danbury. I managed to get lost in the woods a lot. I liked all kinds of sports growing up, but spent most of my time in the pool, swimming for the Wilton Y Wahoos. At Brown University I continued to swim, while majoring in math and computer science, and doing a master’s degree in computational neuroscience. Finally, after a circuitous route (ask me about it sometime!), I found my way to philosophy. Once I graduated from UC Berkeley I taught at Stanford for a year, Princeton for seven years, and moved with Cheryl to Harvard in 2006.

In Emerson Hall my office is across the corridor from Cheryl’s. I love teaching and thinking about philosophy there! I was chair of the department for six years, and at the end of that time I led the committee to review the General Education program at the College. I used to teach a lot of philosophy of mind and cognitive science, but have lately started to focus my teaching on 19th and 20th century European philosophy. My research is in what might broadly be called “philosophical anthropology.” In short, I’m interested in what it means to be human. What makes our lives significant and worthwhile? What grounds the meaning in a life? What distinguishes us from God or the beasts? I love the history of philosophy and always wish I knew more about it.

Cheryl will say something about our two boys, Ben (13) and Nathaniel (7), so I’ll just add that in my spare time I like writing, music, travel, and sports.

My family and I are so excited to join Dunster House, and we can’t wait to get to know each of you. I hope you’ll introduce yourself in the Dining Hall or at the foosball table!

Cheryl Chen, Faculty Dean

I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and spent my high school years in New Hope, PA, along the Delaware River. After graduating from New Hope-Solebury High School, I enrolled at Amherst College in western Massachusetts. I immediately fell in love with philosophy after taking my first course in the subject my freshmen fall. Because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life, I went on to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy at UC Berkeley. After many happy years in the Bay Area, Sean and I returned to the East Coast. While Sean was at Princeton, I worked as an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College. We moved to Harvard in 2006, where we’ve been ever since.

When I’m not at Dunster, you will likely find me in Emerson Hall, where I teach courses in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of religion, and serve as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies. My research, very broadly, concerns the contrast between the world seen from a God’s-eye point of view and the world seen from our perspective embedded within it. This has led me to dabble in a variety of topics, such as the relation between perception and cognition, first-person thought, bodily awareness, and the passage of time.

We have two young and energetic boys, Ben (13) and Nathaniel (7). Ben loves sports (especially soccer, but also baseball and basketball) and plays the cello. Nathaniel also plays the cello, and enjoys reading, drawing, Minecraft, and Legos. I enjoy running, hiking, and traveling, when I can.

The four of us are thrilled to join the Dunster community, and we look forward to meeting everyone in the House!

Contact Information:
Sean Kelly, sdkelly@fas.harvard.edu
Cheryl Chen, ckchen@fas.harvard.edu