Department of Philosophy / About Us
The Department of Philosophy at Florida State University was organized in September 1965, following the dissolution of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies into two distinct academic programs, the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Religion. Effective that same year, the Department of Philosophy implemented its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and instituted for the first time in the state of Florida a doctoral degree program in Philosophy.
The Department of Philosophy at Florida State University, with its wide assortment of courses and variety of scholarly activities, provides a thorough and rigorous graduate training in philosophy. In addition, teaching assistantships available for graduate students provide valuable experience to assist their passage into the professional community.
Each year the department hosts the Werkmeister Conference (recent topics include Cosmopolitanism, Form & Function in Biology, and Folk Concepts), the Conference of the Society for Women's Advancement in Philosophy, the Florida State University Graduate Student Philosophy Conference, and a Colloquium Series. In addition, the department features the Bayles Ethics Lectures and various Departmental Workshops. It also publishes Social Theory and Practice, a leading journal in social and political philosophy founded by the department in 1970. And the department's members serve the university and the wider community. For example, Maria Morales volunteers as a state-certified domestic and sexual violence advocate, and David McNaughton is a member of both the Patient and Family Cancer Advisory Council and the Pastoral Care Advisory Council at a local hospital.
The department is committed to maintaining an exceptionally strong faculty, and new appointments are made regularly. The faculty has a diverse set of interests, with special strengths in ancient and modern philosophy, ethics, logic, action theory, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of biology.
Alfred R. Mele (Ph.D., Michigan), the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, is internationally recognized in the areas of metaphysics and philosophy of mind and action - particularly for his contributions on free will, motivation, weakness of will, and self-deception. He has authored six significant books (most recently Free Will and Luck), edited or co-edited four others, received numerous fellowships, and given invited lectures in seventeen countries. Randolph Clarke (Ph.D., Princeton) specializes in intentional action, free will, and moral responsibility. He has published a book (Libertarian Accounts of Free Will) and many articles on these topics.
In his Noam Chomsky: A Philosophic Overview and several papers, Justin Leiber (Ph.D., Chicago; B. Phil., Oxford) gives a definitive assessment of Chomsky's work in linguistics and its implications for cognitive science and philosophy. In further books (including a series of novels) and some fifty papers, Leiber probes these same and related issues about mind and its place in the natural world. Piers Rawling (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is an authority on decision theory and the philosophy of Donald Davidson (a key figure in contemporary philosophy of mind and action). Rawling has published several articles on these topics; and Mele and he are co-editors of The Oxford Handbook of Rationality.
Randolph Clarke has written on the relation between free will and moral responsibility. David McNaughton's (B.Phil., Oxford) book, Moral Vision, is a classic in the field. It is still in print twenty years after publication, and extracts have been anthologized in several collections. He is the author, with Piers Rawling, of a lengthy series of articles articulating and defending a novel form of one of the standard ethical views (deontology). They are developing these ideas into a book. McNaughton is the founder of the British Society for Ethical Theory, and Vice-President of the Florida Philosophical Association. He also has interests in aesthetics.
Marie Fleming (Ph.D., London School of Economics) has published extensively on German Critical Theory, particularly the work of Habermas and its intersection with feminist critique – as in her Emancipation and Illusion: Rationality and Gender in Habermas's Theory of Modernity. She is the recipient of numerous major research grants. Maria H. Morales (Ph.D., Pennsylvania) specializes in the thought of John Stuart Mill. She has authored a book on Mill (Perfect Equality: John Stuart Mill on Well-Constituted Communities), edited another, and written a series of articles on his feminism. She is now writing a book that ties Mill’s thought to contemporary feminist philosophy. Her other interests include philosophy of law, critical race theory, and Latin American philosophy.
Michael Ruse (Ph.D., Bristol, U.K.), the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, is a leading international authority on the history and philosophy of biology. He has authored numerous books in this area (most recently Darwinism and its Discontents), and has edited many others. He founded the journal Biology and Philosophy, and is the editor of the Cambridge University Series in the Philosophy of Biology. He lectures globally on evolutionary issues and is a renowned debater of Creationists. James Justus (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) has authored and edited many articles in the areas of philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and environmental philosophy. He has a special interest in environmental ethics, and his other interests include the areas of logic, formal epistemology, and the history of analytic philosophy. Justus has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and participated in several workshops and panels. Michael Bishop's (Ph.D., U.C. San Diego) research (which has been cited in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times) focuses on the nature of good reasoning in science and in everyday life. In addition to writing on observation and theory in science, Bishop has explored (in Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment with J.D. Trout) how we might improve our reasoning. Bishop is the recipient of a NSF Research grant and six teaching awards. Piers Rawling has wide-ranging interests in the philosophy of science. He has written on quantum logic, probability theory, and the philosophy of psychology.
Russell Dancy (Ph.D., Harvard) is an authority on ancient philosophy. His most recent book, Plato's Introduction of Forms, has been characterized as a study from which future scholarship in the area must take its start. Dancy's interest in the history of philosophy ranges up through the twentieth century. And he teaches a unique course in the philosophy of music. Alfred Mele has written several articles on Aristotle. John Roberts (Ph.D., U.N.C. Chapel Hill) is the author of A Metaphysics for the Mob: The Philosophy of George Berkeley, and is a specialist in seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy. He is currently exploring theories from this period concerning the relationship between agency and causation. He has also written on psychopathology. David McNaughton rounds out the department's strength in seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy, as an authority on Shaftesbury, Butler, Hume, and Price. Maria Morales, as we have seen, is an expert on John Stuart Mill – particularly his feminism. Marie Fleming's historical interests range from ancient philosophy through Kant to the twentieth century. Her particular specialty is twentieth century continental philosophy. She also has an interest in aesthetics.