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Striker Gives Final Philosophy Lecture

By Abby Y. Fung

More than 100 students and Faculty members attended a farewell lecture by Lane Professor of Philosophy and of the Classics Gisela Striker yesterday afternoon in Emerson 304.

After eight years as a senior faculty member in the philosophy department, Striker will be going from one Cambridge to another next fall when she leaves to teach at England's Cambridge University.

Upon taking the podium, Striker thanked the Women in Philosophy group for sponsoring the lecture and envisioned a day when women in philosophy would become the norm.

"One day, there will be no need for this group," she said. "I don't think I'll live to see that day, but hopefully, there will be one."

The lecture, entitled "Academics Fighting Academics," focused upon Striker's special field of ancient philosophy and centered on the debate between the stoics and the academic skeptics--also known as the academics.

"Although everyone knows the word 'skeptic,' very few people have any idea who these people were because they were never published," Striker said.

The lecture was well received by the audience, which consisted of roughly equal numbers of men and women.

A discussion section and a reception in Emerson's Becutel Room followed the talk.

"I was really pleased to be able to listen to her talk because she is [the foremost] ancient philosophy professor, [and] especially since it would be my last opportunity before she goes to Cambridge," said Rebecca J. K. Gelfond '97.

Striker lamented the low ratio of women to men in Harvard's undergraduate philosophy department during a cigarette break in her large corner office.

"No longer are people trying to keep them down, but many women grow up with the view that philosophy, like mathematics, is not for them," she said.

Striker herself developed an interest in philosophy "by accident" when she attended a lecture given "by a brother of a friend of mine."

She grew up in Germany, attended Gottingen University in that country and said she considers herself thoroughly European.

In fact, Striker said identification with her home continent was one of the main reasons she chose to leave Harvard for Cambridge.

"I couldn't have better students and I couldn't have better colleagues," she said.

Striker said there were scarcely any women in the department when she first came but that improvement has been made. In 1989, she and Department Chair Christine M. Korsgaard were the only two senior women in the department, she said.

Now there are more women than men in the graduate philosophy department, according to Striker. However, she said she believes more improvements still need to be made in the undergraduate department.

Gelfond and Sharon L. Wing '97 began the Women in Philosophy group last September precisely to combat this problem.

The organization periodically sponsors dinners with graduate students and Faculty members, including Korsgaard and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons, the group's advisers.

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