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Department History

The following is a history of the UC Davis Philosophy Department.

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 the 80's and 90's the predominant focus of the department could 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 had replaced Fred Berger in Ethics and Philosophy of Law (including Gerald Dworkin and Connie Rosati) and at that time the majority of our graduate students were working in that field.

(*This history was written in the fall of 1999 by Emeritus Professor John Malcolm.)


Today the department consists of a small collegial and supportive program with a largely analytic orientation. The faculty specialize in a variety of areas, including metaphysics, formal epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science (especially biology and physics), philosophy of mathematics, philosophical logic, ethics, meta-ethics, political philosophy, history of analytic philosophy, and ancient philosophy. The Department offers the Bachelor of Arts degree and a minor for undergraduates and the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees for graduate students.

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1240 Social Science and Humanities
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Phone: (530) 752-0703
Fax: (530) 752-8964


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