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The UC Davis Department of Philosophy is home to a group of nationally prominent faculty members whose students benefit from their robust scholarship activities and their dedication to teaching subject matter that ponders the questions of human existence.


Academic Chair: Professor James Griesemer 
Graduate Advisor: Professor Cody Gilmore
Undergraduate Advisor: Professor G.J. Mattey 

The study of philosophy provides a framework through which students can develop and sharpen their ability to analyze information, giving them the tools to think and write clearly, critically, and logically, within a contextual framework of ethics.


Most of the teaching and research in the Department of Philosophy focuses on analytic philosophy. The department has strengths in philosophy of science, metaphysics, meta-ethics, normative ethics, bioethics, political philosophy, formal epistemology, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of biology, ancient philosophy, the philosophy of physics, and the history of analytic philosophy. The Department of Philosophy upholds a deeply held commitment to diversity; six of our 15 full-time faculty members are women.

Degrees offered

The Department of Philosophy is an academic unit within the College of Letters and Science, Division of Social Sciences. It offers the bachelor of arts degree (A.B., from the Latin "atrium baccalaureus") and a minor for undergraduates, as well as master of arts (M.A.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees for graduate students.

Student Support

The Department of Philosophy has two recently bestowed endowments: the Barrall Family Philosophy Scholarship and the Templeton Endowment for the Arts and Letters (TEAL). Both already are growing in value and supporting our highly deserving students.

Letter from the department chair

In the latest edition of the Department of Philosophy Newsletter, Department Chair James Griesemer discusses the surging number of applicants for the new Cognitive Science major, and extends a welcome to four new members of the faculty. The newsletter also enumerates the honors and awards recently accorded to numerous Department of Philosophy faculty members, and discusses the welcome response to new Philosophical Ideas courses and the introduction of Pre-Law and Pre-Medicine emphases as undergraduate major options. 

Our six-decade legacy

Philosophy teaching at Davis took root in 1952, while the campus was still known as College of Agriculture at Davis. Appointed to lead the newly formed Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, Arthur Child was the only philosopher for 31 undergraduate students. Five years later William Bossart became the second faculty member, leading to separate status as the Department of Philosophy in 1958, and establishment of a major program in 1959, when the campus was designated the University of California, Davis. The faculty grew further with the addition of Neal Gilbert, Ronald Arbini, Marjorie Grene and John Malcolm in the 1960s. Professors Child and Gilbert established the foundation of an outstanding collection of philosophy books and journals in both the Shields and the Department of Philosophy libraries, according to a historical account that Malcolm, as a professor emeritus, prepared in 1999.

In 1965 the department enrolled its first graduate students. The main emphasis in undergraduate and graduate teaching was on the history of philosophy, a concentration that enabled many our early graduate students to gain community college teaching positions. 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 1960s and the early 1970s when Fred Berger, Joel Friedman, G. J. Mattey and Michael Wedin joined our faculty. 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 Aristotle, Descartes and other historical figures.

By the 1980s and '90s, the department's academic and scholarly research programs no longer focused predominant on the major figures of the past. The department inaugurated a History and Philosophy of Science program in 1983 under the supervision of James Griesemer. It was primarily a lecture series until 1990, when it became an interdepartmental program with an undergraduate minor. The program, which originally concentrated on philosophy of biology, came to include philosophy of physics, under Paul Teller. Several people, including Gerald Dworkin and Connie Rosati, had replaced Fred Berger in ethics and philosophy of law, a field in which the majority of our graduate students were working by then.

Recognition of student achievement

At the end of spring quarter each year, the Department of Philosophy holds an awards ceremony, in which Departmental Citations are awarded to undergraduate students for outstanding work, and the Michael V. Wedin Teaching Award is presented to graduate students who have distinguished themselves as teaching assistants.