Philosophy recruits five new profs

Next fall, the ranks of Yale’s Philosophy Department faculty will grow by five, enabling the department to offer a higher number and broader array of course offerings.

The department announced Monday the appointment of four new senior faculty members — professors Tamar Gendler ’87 and Zoltan Szabo of Cornell University, Verity Harte of King’s College London and Kenneth Winkler of Wellesley College, contingent on Winkler’s acceptance of a full appointment — and one junior faculty member, professor Jill North ’97, who recently completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at New York University.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the new appointments constitute a building up of the department, which has had a rocky history of staff shortages and fluctuating enrollment during the last decade.

“It’s part of a larger rebuilding effort that has been so far quite successful in Philosophy,” Salovey said.

North specializes in philosophy of science and philosophy of physics, and Winkler, an expert in early modern philosophy, will serve as a visiting professor but has an offer to remain permanently, Philosophy Department chair Michael Della Rocca said. Harte, a scholar of ancient philosophy, will have a joint appointment with the Classics and Philosophy departments, and Gendler, who specializes in philosophy of mind, will collaborate with the Psychology Department and serve as the acting director of the Cognitive Science program, Della Rocca said. Szabo, a specialist in philosophy of language who is married to Gendler, will have ties to the Linguistics Department.

Szabo said he is enthusiastic about his teaching appointment at Yale given the strength of the Philosophy Department.

“I’m very much looking forward to the move,” Szabo said. “I am actually quite impressed by some recent things that the department has done. I hope to find my place in it.”

Cognitive Science Director of Undergraduate Studies and psychology professor Paul Bloom said the additions of Gendler and Szabo to the department will be valuable due to the couple’s interdisciplinary strengths.

“The hiring of Tamar and Zoltan is a real coup for our philosophy department,” Bloom said in an e-mail. “They both have superb reputations as creative and innovative scholars, and their work cuts across disciplines. … I’m totally thrilled that they’re coming to Yale.”

Gendler and Szabo accepted their offers last week, Della Rocca said. Hart accepted her offer last summer, he said, and North confirmed her acceptance two years ago before beginning her postdoctoral studies. Winkler decided to serve as a visiting professor recently, Della Rocca said.

The addition of the five new faculty members will lead to the most complete staffing in the department in more than a decade, Della Rocca said.

“This means that the department is better staffed than it has been in a very long time with regular faculty,” Della Rocca said. “It’s been maybe 15 or 20 years since the department has been filled up in this way. We are looking to expand beyond this, but I think the department is in good shape now.”

Current enrollments and course offerings in philosophy are strong, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan said, but the new appointments will enable the department to continue to expand course offerings. Kagan said North will be an especially valuable addition to the department, as Yale lacks courses focusing primarily on the philosophy of science and physics.

“Philosophy does very well for itself compared to some other departments,” Kagan said. “The hope is that by having all these extra appointments to continue that and also offer a wider variety of classes.”

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