University of Michigan. Department of Philosophy

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The origin of the study of Philosophy at the University of Michigan can be traced back to the Catholepisterniad project in 1817, although the department was officially formed in 1837 with the founding of the University of Michigan. The curriculum was closely tied with religious principles as the first chairs and professors of the Philosophy Department hailed from the ranks of the clergy. Later, however, the curriculum and philosophical slant of the department was determined by the professors comprising the department's faculty.'

Consisting of fewer than six faculty up until the 1940's the Philosophy Department catered to a small number of students and was considered a distinguished program based upon the caliber of the faculty who sought to teach at the University of Michigan. Among outstanding philosophers who taught for the department are George Sylvester Morris, John Dewey, Robert Mark Wenley, Roy Wood Sellars, DeWitt H. Parker, C.H. Langford, Paul Henle, William Frankena, Charles Stevenson and Arthur Burks. These faculty members published various works in their respective fields of interests and were active in professional and academic circles.

In 197 1, the department had increased its faculty size to 20 and served approximately 60 students. Numerous searches took place to raise the ranks. Budget fluctuations called for the creation of visiting lecturer positions where professors from other institutions would serve one to two year stints at the University of Michigan. William Frankena observed this process from the other side as he took a sabbatical leave to serve as a visiting professor at Harvard University. Teaching fellowships, granted to graduate students were also another way of staffing lower level courses and providing assistance to the professors.

Enrollment in the Department of Philosophy's courses and program dropped during the 1970's encouraging the department to revise its offerings making them more accessible to non-Philosophy students and to develop alliances with other departments forming interdepartmental offerings.

Faculty members were active in campus affairs as well as in their own departmental activities. Department members frequently served on various University committees while also fulfilling their obligations to the department and the students. Great effort was expended in the placing of doctoral students in teaching positions across the United States resulting in or from outstanding relationships with colleagues at other universities.

For further information regarding the Department of Philosophy and its faculty, consult the papers of Arthur Burks, John Dewey, Arnold Kaufman, Alfred Lloyd, George Morris, Roy Wood Sellars, Charles Stevenson, Charles Bruce Vibbert, Robert Mark Wenley, and William Frankena, also located at the Bentley Historical Library.

  • 1837 - 1837 ? : Rev. John Monteith and Father Gabriel Richard
  • 1869 - 1883 : Rev. B.J. Cocker
  • 1884 - 1889 : George Sylvester Morris
  • 1889 - 1894 : John Dewey
  • 1894 - 1996 : Alfred Henry Lloyd
  • 1926 - 1929 : Robert Mark Wenley
  • 1929 - 1947 : DeWitt Parker
  • 1947 - 1951 : William Frankena
  • 1961 - 1964 : William Alston
  • 1964 - 1977 : Richard Brandt
  • 1977 - 1979 : Alvin Goldman
  • 1979 - 1987 : Jeqwon Kim
  • 1987 - 1988 : Allan F. Gibbard
  • 1988 - 1993 : Stephen Darwall
  • 1993 - : Louis E. Loeb
  • 1949: 1971 - 1972 : Charles Stevenson
  • 1954: Irving Copi
  • 1956 - 1957 : 1962 - 1963 : Paul Henle
  • 1975 - 1976 : Jaeqwon Kim



Shaw, Wilfred B. The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, Vol. IV Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1944. Brinkman, Ferol, Editor. The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, Vol. VI (1940-1975). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1981.

From the guide to the Department of Philosophy (University of Michigan) records, 1907-1987, 1907-1987, 1947-1961, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

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creatorOf Department of Philosophy (University of Michigan) records, 1907-1987, 1907-1987, 1947-1961 Bentley Historical Library
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