Philosophy at UC Merced

UC Merced opened to undergraduates in Fall 2005 (for more on campus history, see here). At the time, there was one philosophy faculty member, Jeff Yoshimi. In that opening first semester, when space was tight, Introduction to Philosophy was taught in an open area of the library. People visiting the library would occasionally stop and listen to the lectures. Halfway through the semester temporary walls were rolled in to create the feeling of an enclosed classroom space.

Since that first semester, UC Merced’s philosophy program has grown to include three ladder-rank faculty members, a full- time lecturer, several part-time lecturers, and a variety of affiliated faculty members throughout the campus. A philosophy minor was launched in 2007 and plans are currently underway for a major and several interdisciplinary graduate tracks.

From its inception, UC Merced emphasized interdisciplinary and applied research programs, and philosophy has developed accordingly, with initial emphases in philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of social and political science. Most of the philosophers at UC Merced draw on mathematical or computational models in their research, as well as on behavioral and experimental data. Most are also engaged in teaching and research in multiple disciplines. For example, philosophy faculty have taught courses listed or cross-listed in Cognitive Science (philosophy of cognitive science, neural networks), Economics (game theory), Mathematics (mathematical logic), and Literature (philosophy and literary theory). One of the explicit Program Learning Outcomes for philosophy minors is to “use philosophy in an interdisciplinary way."

Consistent with this interdisciplinary approach, philosophy at UC Merced is a part of Cognitive and Information Sciences, and several of the faculty are members of UC Merced's world-class cognitive science program. The philosophy faculty have also worked closely with faculty in economics and political science, and plans are underway for expanded offerings in applied ethics, in coordination with UC Merced’s programs in management, environmental engineering, environmental science, and the biological sciences. Undergraduate or graduate students working with our philosophy faculty have the flexibility to study a wide variety of interdisciplinary topics, either as part of our regular course offerings or as part of independent undergraduate or graduate studies.

Beyond this emphasis on interdisciplinary and applied philosophy, UC Merced also supports and maintains traditional approaches to philosophy. Core areas of contemporary philosophy--including ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion--are offered on a regular basis, as are historical courses in ancient and modern philosophy. The philosophy faculty at UC Merced each have specializations in traditional areas of philosophy that inform their research.