Department News

Welcome back!

Welcome to a new year of philosophy at Berkeley! We’re looking forward to another year packed with philosophical activity.

In faculty news, we’re delighted to report that Wes Holliday is now a tenured member of the department, and we’re also very happy to welcome John MacFarlane back from his leave in Paris, and Jay Wallace and Katharina Kaiser back from their respective leaves in Berlin. Welcome also to David Lieberman (Law), who has joined our Affiliated Faculty, and to affiliated faculty member Tania Lombrozo (Psychology), who will be spending this year based in our department as she works on her sabbatical research projects.

As you may know, last semester our community was shaken by disturbing allegations of sexual assault and harassment made about one of our emeritus faculty. This was very distressing to our department, but it has also given us an opportunity to identify and address important questions about the climate in the Department for women and other groups who are underrepresented in philosophy. Since the formation of our equity task force in 2014 we have been working actively to promote an inclusive environment in the Department, and the discussions that we had last semester as a result of the allegations have given an extra impetus to our efforts. This year we will have a number of events focussed on equity and inclusion, including workshops on inclusive teaching strategies and on more general climate issues. We have updated the equity and inclusion section of our website , and we have also been taking steps to make sure that our students are fully aware of the resources available to them in cases of sexual harassment and related behaviour. I’ve been very heartened by last semester’s discussions, which have made clear to me how deeply our faculty and graduate students are committed to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, one in which behaviour of the kind alleged simply has no place. I look forward to continuing our discussions on this in the coming year.

It’s a pleasure each year to welcome our new entering class of graduate students. This year, seven new students will be joining the philosophy Ph.D. program. These are: Scott Castleton (B.A., Yale), Monika Chao (M.A., San Francisco State), Jessica Heppler (B.A., SUNY Geneseo), Luke Jensen (B.A., Haverford), Elek Lane (B.A., Chicago), Madeleine Levac (B.A., University of Toronto) and Emily Podhorcer (B.A., Rutgers). We also welcome three new students to the Program in Logic and the Methodology of Science: Zahra (“Raha”) Ahmadianhosseini (M.A., University of Calgary), David Casey (B.A., University of Chicago) and Jacopo di Bonito (M.S., University of Trento). Congratulations to all our new students. We’re looking forward to getting to know you.

Congratulations also to our 2017 Ph.D. graduates. Austin Andrews, who completed a dissertation on “Transparency in Perceptual Experience,” will be staying at Berkeley for the coming year as a Berkeley Connect Fellow. Jeremy Carey, who wrote on “Reason, Desire, and the Will: In Defense of a Tripartite Moral Psychology,” is going on to a visiting position at Siena College. Peter Epstein, who wrote on “Sensible Concepts: Experience and the A Priori,” will be taking up a Randall Dillard Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. Quinn Gibson, “Dual-Process Theory, Responsibility, Self-Deception, and Addiction,” is going to NYU Shanghai to take up a postdoctoral teaching fellowship. Julian Jonker, “In Defense of Directed Duties,” will be taking up a tenured position at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Richard Lawrence, who wrote on “Nominalization, Specification and Investigation” is staying on at Berkeley as a Berkeley Connect Fellow. Dylan Murray, “Hijacking Reason: Implicit Attitudes and Moral Responsibility”, is going on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Umrao Sethi, who wrote on “Perception and the Dual Nature of Appearances,” is starting a tenure-track position at CUNY’s Lehman College. And Justin Vlasits, “Platonic Division and the Origins of Aristotelian Logic,” is going to University of Tübingen for a two-year postdoc. We’ll miss those of you who are leaving, and we hope you keep in touch!

We’re very pleased to welcome this year’s new visiting scholars and visiting student researchers. This year’s visiting scholars include Daniel Attas (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Alvin Goldman (Rutgers University), Douglas Marshall (Carleton College), Bengt Molander (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Milos Petrovic (UC Berkeley Department of Rhetoric), Laura Schroeter (University of Melbourne), Francois Schroeter (University of Melbourne), and Holly Smith (Rutgers University). Our visiting student researchers include Jixin Liu (Beijing University), Thomas Saad (University of Texas at Austin), Yuetong Xi (Renmin University of China), and Lin Yu (Beihang University). The list of visiting scholars and student researchers is updated over the year, so do check our visiting scholars web page for the latest information.

Our undergraduate program has been attracting record numbers of students. Last year, the philosophy course-enrollment count for fall and spring hit the three thousand mark, and our classes have been filled up to capacity and beyond. As always we are enormously grateful to our extraordinarily dedicated GSIs whose assistance in teaching our undergraduates is invaluable. We are aware that over-filled classes place an extra burden on our GSIs and we are very appreciative of how hard they work to help our students succeed.

In the coming year we will be continuing some recently instituted initiatives aimed at offering our undergraduates additional support. Our Berkeley Connect program continues for the coming academic year, as does our peer tutoring program, staffed entirely by current and recent majors. The Urban Scholars program, initiated and organized by philosophy B.A. alumnus Ray Banks, also continues for this year, enabling nearby community college students to enroll in a lower-division course with special guidance and academic support.

New initiatives for undergraduates are also planned for the coming year. One of our graduate students, Adam Paris, just received a grant, with the help of undergraduate advisor Niko Kolodny, to develop an optional online basic philosophy skills course for incoming transfer students. And, again with the help of Niko and Adam, we’re taking steps to ensure that the writing course for our new majors, Philosophy 100, emphasizes the skills which our transfer students in particular need to succeed in our demanding upper-division courses.

As usual we will have a lively program of events, including conferences, Department colloquia, working group talks, our recently instituted series of work-in-progress lunches, and a week of talks and seminars with our Townsend Visitor, Tim Maudlin (NYU), who will be here during the whole week of October 9 to present his work about space and time. You can find out about our events by going to our listing of upcoming events. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find instructions for adding our events calendar to your bCal or other online calendar. If you are a faculty member or graduate student you will automatically receive announcements of events in your email. For everyone else, instructions on how to get informed of events by email can be found here. Our colloquia and other department-sponsored talks are an opportunity not only to hear from a wide range of visiting philosophers and discuss their work, but also to get together over refreshments for informal exchanges. We hope you can come to as many as possible.

Best wishes to everyone for a good start to the new academic year, and looking forward to lots of philosophical discussion as the year goes on.

Hannah Ginsborg

August 29, 2017