Student Profile: Nicholas Vallone

Where are you from?

Pittsfield, Massachusetts 


What inspired you to study philosophy?

I started reading philosophy in high school. I've always found certain kinds of questions interesting, such as "How do we know that the world wasn't created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age?" or "Do any objective moral values exist?" I find questions about the nature of human beings and our place in the world interesting. 


What have been your favorite classes at UMass?

I've enjoyed most of my classes so far! Among the philosophy courses I've taken, I've found History of Modern Philosophy, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and 20th Century Analytic Philosophy the most interesting and challenging ones. This semester, I'm very much enjoying "Topics on Causation in Early Modern Philosophy" taught by Professor Eileen O'Neill and "Metaethics" taught by Professor Ernesto Garcia. 

Tell us about your experience attending the United Kingdom Kant Society (UKKS) conference this past summer.

It was my first conference ever, so it was very daunting, especially since there were many famous Kant scholars there, including Paul Guyer who I had read in my Kant seminar. Despite this, I really enjoyed myself. There were a lot of good scholarly papers. I learned a great deal, both from the talks and from conversations with fellow conference participants.

In addition, it was my very first time abroad. It was exciting to be in London, England, and I hope to go there again in the near future. 

You had the opportunity to read your paper "Kant and the Problem of Other Minds" at the conference, and were the only undergraduate invited to do so. Tell us about your paper and the experience of sharing it with the UKKS.

My paper "Kant and the Problem of Other Minds" was a project I started last semester in Professor Garcia's seminar on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In this paper, I explore four different ways Kant can address the problem of other minds, that is, the skeptical worry about whether I'm justified in believing that other people have minds like my own. I gave my talk on the second day of the conference. The talk itself was well attended, and I was grateful for all of the positive feedback I received. In general, it was a friendly atmosphere and I'm really glad that I was able to attend.

I also presented this paper at the 1st Annual National Undergraduate Conference at Montana State University the week after the UKKS conference. My paper was selected as one of the top papers at the conference, and I won a prize of $100, all of which I was really happy about.

What are your goals upon graduation?

I plan on pursuing graduate studies in philosophy, hopefully focusing on history of modern philosophy and epistemology. 


October 2013