Philosophy hires rising Oxford star

When Philosophy Department chair Robert Adams opened his e-mail account last Monday, he discovered his yearlong recruitment efforts were, in fact, worthwhile. The department had just secured a new senior appointment in Susanne Bobzien, a renowned ancient philosophy scholar, luring her away from Oxford University.

A specialist in ancient logic and Hellenistic philosophy, Bobzien will continue to concentrate on ancient philosophy at Yale, but will teach some contemporary courses in philosophy as well. In addition to the Bobzien hire, the department just nabbed two new junior professors as part of its rebuilding efforts.

Bobzien, who will teach at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, will not arrive in New Haven until the fall of 2002 because she is in the first year of a two-year research fellowship at Oxford. Currently, she is researching for a book on the history of ancient Greek logic.

“She adds a lot of strength in ancient philosophy,” philosophy department Director of Undergraduate Studies Michael Della Rocca said. “It’s very important to have a senior professor in ancient philosophy, and I think she’ll play a very instrumental role in the department. And she’ll be a great teacher too.”

After earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Bonn in Germany and a doctorate at Oxford, Bobzien has been tenured as a senior professor at Oxford since 1990.

She has published two books, including the major 1999 work, “Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy.”

Adams said Bobzien’s hiring will fill a void in Yale’s philosophy offerings.

“We’ve been trying for several years to make a senior appointment in ancient Greek philosophy,” Adams said. “I would describe her as a rising star in the field. I think it’s a superb appointment.”

Bobzien said her decision to come to Yale was not difficult. After a decade of teaching at Oxford, she said it is time for her to move on.

“I very much enjoyed the warm and open atmosphere in the department when I visited” Bobzien wrote in an e-mail. “And I like the fact that the department takes history of philosophy very seriously, but equally values the achievements and methods of contemporary analytical philosophy.”

Bobzien said she is not only excited about teaching graduate students, but undergraduates as well.

“Yale is known for its bright and well-motivated undergraduates, and this is naturally something I am looking forward to,” Bobzien said.

Since becoming department chair in 1993, Adams has tried to transform the philosophy department into a happier, more cooperative group of faculty. The Bobzien hire is a reflection of these efforts.

“It’s part of the package that appeals to her,” Adams said. “She’s coming to a department that’s developing in certain areas, and one with good morale and momentum.”

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said Bobzien mixes expertise in her field with a lively and interesting personality.

“It just gives assurance that the project of rebuilding [the department] is coming very well and continues to build momentum.” Brodhead said.

In addition to Bobzien’s appointment, the department has also made two new junior hires.

Currently completing his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Branden Fitelson will come to Yale this fall. His primary areas of research include the logic of probability and the theory of hypothesis conformation in science.

Joining Fitelson next year will be James Kreines, who is completing his dissertation at the University of Chicago. He will teach courses in Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy.

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