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Photo: Dr. Kayla Bohannon (PhD 2022)

History and Composition of the University of Kentucky Department of Philosophy

Starting in 1929, the UK Department of Philosophy consisted of a single Professor, Dr. John Kuiper. In 1946, it became a two-person department, and it continued to expand steadily throughout the next two decades. By 1969 the Department of Philosophy had a faculty of seven.

Although the University of Kentucky had been awarding B.A. and M.A. degrees in philosophy since the 1930's, it did not grant its first Ph.D. until 1986. This reflected a decision on the part of the University in the late 1960's to begin a serious and systematic upgrade of the Philosophy faculty, with the explicit goal of eventually instituting a full-fledged Ph.D. program. The first stage of this gradual and deliberate process of expansion began in 1969 with an aggressive new round of faculty hiring.

By the mid-seventies, the Department of Philosophy had grown to eleven full-time faculty and three visiting faculty. Despite difficult economic times in the late 1970's and early 1980's, the department continued to expand and to diversify its faculty, under the able direction of a series of new departmental chairs. By the early 1990's the faculty had grown to fifteen full time members.

This same period saw the official launch of the Ph.D. program that had been in the planning stages since the 1960's and had therefore been the subject of intense and protracted discussion by the faculty and administration for nearly two decades prior to admitting its first Ph.D. student in 1981.

Despite concerns about the relatively tight job market in Philosophy, the Department, the College of Arts and Sciences, the University administration, and the Council of Higher Education (as the state Council on Post-Secondary Education was then called) all arrived at the same conclusions: (1) that offering a Ph.D. in Philosophy would enhance the university's ability to serve the needs of the students on the Lexington Campus -- not merely the needs of Philosophy majors or graduate students, but those of the student body as a whole; (2) that the inauguration of a Ph.D. program in philosophy would help the University of Kentucky better serve the needs of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as well as those of surrounding regions; (3) that the rising aspirations of the University of Kentucky to be recognized as a nationally ranked research institution absolutely demanded that, like our benchmarks and "aspiration models," we too have a Ph.D.-level program in a discipline as central to the teaching and research goals of any university as the Department of Philosophy; (4) that the quality of the new Ph.D. program was more important than the quantity of degrees it might grant; and finally, (5) that the long and deliberate process of assembling a highly professional faculty capable of instituting and running such a program had been fully achieved. It was therefore with a sense of pride and accomplishment that we granted our first Ph.D. in 1986.

By the mid-1990's the graduate program in philosophy had evolved to the point that we no longer accepted students interested in pursing only the M.A. degree. Henceforth, all our graduate students were enrolled in the Ph.D. program, and the M.A. became just a step along the professional path leading to the Ph.D.  Around the same time, we also made a decision to limit the number of students admitted to our Ph.D. program to those for whom we could provide financial support, whether in the form of Fellowships or Teaching Assistantships.

In 2002 the Department of Philosophy had a total of 18 tenured or tenure-track faculty. Because of recent retirements and departures that number has now declined to 15.

Ours is an exceptionally diverse faculty, with an unusually wide variety of research specialties and teaching interests. This reflects our long-standing, collective commitment to being a genuinely pluralistic department and to exposing our undergraduate and graduate students to a broad range of philosophical traditions, approaches, and areas of concentration.

The teaching load of a full time, tenured or tenure-track faculty member of our department is 2 courses per semester, and most of our faculty members divide their efforts evenly between teaching and research, with varying additional individual commitments to service and administrative responsibilities.

All of the current members of our faculty are fully engaged in ongoing and productive research programs. Several of our more senior faculty members enjoy international reputations in their respective fields and our younger faculty includes many exceptionally talented and promising scholars. At present, our faculty consists of six Professors, seven  Associate Professors, two Assistant Professors and 20-23 graduate teaching assistants.