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UC Davis Department of Philosophy

History to 1999

Philosophy Department

1240 Social Sciences and Humanities
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

Phone: (530) 752-0607

Fax: (530) 752-8964

Lifetime faculty members

Jim Griesemer, John Malcolm, Michael Wedin, G. J. Mattey, Joel Friedman, Neal Gilbert

The following is a history of the UC Davis Philosophy Department, written in the fall of 1999 by Emeritus Professor John Malcolm.

The Story

In 1952 Arthur Child came to Davis to take charge of the newly formed Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts. He was the only philosopher and began with 31 undergraduate students. The next phase of the department saw the addition of William Bossart in 1957 and the establishment of a separate Department of Philosophy in 1958 with a major program in 1959. Neal Gilbert and Ronald Arbini joined the department in the early 1960's. It is chiefly due to the dedicated efforts of Professors Child and Gilbert that we have an outstanding collection of philosophy books and journals in both the Shields and the Departmental libraries.

In 1965 Marjorie Grene and John Malcolm were added. In that year graduate students were first accepted. The main emphasis in both undergraduate and graduate teaching was on the history of philosophy, a concentration that was useful in placing a good number of our first graduate students in Junior Colleges. Indeed, all members of the department were qualified to teach advanced courses in either Ancient or Modern (17th-18th century) Philosophy. This focus was maintained in the late 1960's and the early 1970's when Fred Berger, Joel Friedman, G. J. Mattey and Michael Wedin came to Davis. Virtually all members of the department, however, had interests other than history of philosophy. Marjorie Grene, for example, was internationally known in an impressive number of fields, notably continental (European) philosophy and Philosophy of Biology, in addition to her work on historical figures such as Aristotle and Descartes.

In more recent years the predominant focus of the department can no longer be said to be on the major figures of the past. A History and Philosophy of Science program was started in 1983 under the supervision of James Griesemer. Until 1990 it was primarily a lecture series, but in that year it became an interdepartmental program with an undergraduate minor. Though originally concentrated on Philosophy of Biology, it came to include Philosophy of Physics (Paul Teller). Several people have replaced Fred Berger in Ethics and Philosophy of Law (currently Gerald Dworkin and Connie Rosati) and at present the majority of our graduate students are working in that field.

Today the prevailing direction of the department may be characterized as analytic rather than continental. Central areas of philosophy are strongly represented with Metaphysics (Michael Jubien), Philosophy of Language (Jeff King) and Philosophy of Mind (Robert Cummins). Recently Richard Wollheim held a joint appointment (with Berkeley) and taught Esthetics.

At the time of this report (Fall 1999) the department has 10 faculty teaching 700 students. There are 71 majors and 22 graduate students.

In the last decade Arbini, Bossart, Friedman, Gilbert and Malcolm retired. This fall the department rose to a tie for 20th place in the nation (Philosophical Gourmet Report).