Letter from the Chair - Autumn 2018

Andrea Woody

Greetings from the UW Department of Philosophy! As classes for the Autumn term begin, the hallways of Savery are brimming with energy after the quiet of summer.  Faculty members are preparing their classes while students arrive with enthusiasm, renewed energy, and sometimes a little confusion. 

Autumn is a time of transition. We are especially happy to welcome five new PhD students into our community. At the same time, with sadness we acknowledge the passing of Professor Robert Coburn, whose gentleness, warm smile, and subtle intellect enriched this department immeasurably for many years. A memorial service is scheduled for October 13.

Autumn is also a time of bounty and harvest. This term our course offerings include Plato’s Republic, Spinoza’s Ethics, and Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. We have a course in the philosophy of language and a seminar to train students to lead philosophical inquiry in elementary and middle school settings. If you want to think about the environment, science, or human rights, we have you covered. And if you want to dig down to consider the very foundations of knowledge or ethics, we’ve got courses for that, too.

During the past year, Stephen Gardiner’s work on geo-engineering and Carole Lee’s work on peer-review practices in science have been supported by the National Science Foundation. Sara Goering, working with Erin Klein on the Neuroethics Thrust, recently secured a major grant from the National Institutes of Health. Colin Marshall ran a workshop in August exploring “lost voices” in the history of ethics, helping to reshape our discipline through more inclusive scholarship. And Michael Blake just sent his most recent book, tentatively titled Migration, Justice, and Mercy, off to the press!

Our public mission includes two important public events this autumn. First, on October 8, our Program on Ethics will hold the first annual Ethics Lecture, with a talk titled “Why Worry about Future Generations?”. This event will also celebrate the newly renamed Program on Ethics (formerly the Program on Values in Society), under the directorship of Stephen Gardiner, which has contributed to ethics engagement and education across the UW campus for many years. Then on November 7 we will hold the next O’Hara Lecture in the Philosophy of Physics examining the explanatory potential of quantum gravity.

There is much more going on in the department, so please explore this newsletter and our website. If you are able, join us for an event in the coming months. I wish you all a wonderful autumn!

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