Sharon Ryan – Associate Professor


Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy for Children

Research Interests

I am especially interested in the following questions: What is forgiveness and when is forgiveness appropriate or wise? Is there something problematic about forgiving a wrongdoer who feels no remorse and/or fails to communicate a sincere apology? Do we have direct control over our doxastic attitudes (belief, disbelief, suspension of judgment)? Do we have any obligations about the doxastic attitudes we hold if belief is, in a sense, out of our control? What kind of control, if any, is required for moral and epistemic responsibility? Is human free will compatible with a future that is determined by the laws of nature and past events? Are there any epistemic abilities that are required for personhood? Is death bad for the one who is dead? Can a person be harmed if she does not, or cannot, experience the harm? Is it rational to fear death? What is wisdom? What are the differences between knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom?

I am the creator of The Question This online project is an attempt to share my love of philosophy with everyone. My goal is to spark careful thought and discussion on philosophical questions with people all over the world. THE QUESTION has received a lot of positive attention from the media, including a full-page story in Sports Illustrated! Although THE QUESTION has been resting for a few years, it is getting ready to return, bigger and better!


I teach Introduction to Problems of Philosophy, Theory of Knowledge, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Critical Thinking, and Logic.

Administrative Goals

During my time as Chair of the West Virginia University Philosophy Department (2004 – 2010) my primary goals were to:

(1) Create one of the best undergraduate philosophy programs in the United States. Although we have always had a strong philosophy department, in the past five years, WVU Philosophy has been transformed into a vibrant, student-centered, department. At the same time, our professors are publishing more exciting research than ever.

(2) Build a lively academic community of philosophy students, faculty, and alumni. Our philosophy club meets once a week and is as lively as it has ever been. We regularly have a group of about twenty students, between three to five professors, and a few philosophy alums, who are currently students at the WVU College of Law or Wave’s Medical School. For the past three years we have hosted a National Undergraduate Conference, which has brought students from all over the country to WV to present their research. We have had a competitive Ethics Bowl team for the past four years. We have a few famous philosophers visit our campus every year to discuss their work with us. And, every year we have a special day, dedicated to showcasing research in applied ethics with a scholar recognized nationally for his or her work. This year, we will have Professor David Luban, from Georgetown University, visiting our campus.

(3) Have fun doing philosophy. When I was a little kid growing up in Lindenhurst, NY, my Mom and Dad would take my four brothers and me to Shea Stadium for a New York Mets game once or twice every summer. One day, I finally realized that Bud Harrelson, Jerry Kooseman, Rusty Staub, and Tom Seaver were adults and that playing baseball was their JOB. (It may seem crazy that it took so long for me to figure this out, but Shea is big and our seats were always in the nosebleed section!) The moment I made this realization, I vowed secretly to have a similar future. I did it. I play philosophy for a living.

  • Eberly Magazine
  • WVU Alumni Magazine
  • Eberly Strategic Plan
  • WVU Young Alumni
  • A State of Minds