A Retrospective on 26 Years at UCSD
By Paul Churchland
David (Brink) suggested that Pat and I pen something brief, for the Newsletter, given our upcoming retirement later this Spring. In truth, much the same giddy amazement attends our leaving our two positions as characterized our original arrival to them. The doors then opened to us, both by the department and by the campus academic community at large, transformed our personal and intellectual lives forever. The accumulated legacy of the intervening years leaves us stunned, even now, by the many marvelous things that have happened. Allow us a brief summary of why we are still smiling from ear to ear. The dept. that wooed us, in 1984, was already well‐balanced in its ideological profile and decidedly gifted in its membership. We were proud, even chuffed, to be welcomed into it. It was also a profound pleasure to finally be back on the West Coast, after 20 years of purgatory Back East, in England, and on the snow‐driven Great Plains. But change came quickly. Mark Wilson, a gifted philosopher of science, was pirated away by Chicago, and we soon acquired Pat and Philip Kitcher from Minnesota, Stephen Stich from Maryland, and eventually, Sandy Mitchell from Pittsburgh. Francis Crick had made Pat an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute, and we quickly made friends with the neurocomputationalist Terry Sejnowski, the psychologist V.S. Ramachandran, and many other local scholars. Those early years were a time of heady expansion on the campus as a whole, and we were lucky to participate in the formation of the interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Ph.D. Program, and indeed, in the founding of the current Cognitive Science Department itself. Inspired by that success, Jerry (Doppelt), Sandy, Philip, and I subsequently teamed up with our distinguished colleagues in History and Sociology to found the interdisciplinary Science Studies Ph.D. Program, a program that continues to thrive today. Being Chair of the dept. during that formative period was, for me, an (almost) unalloyed pleasure.
As the 90s dawned, however, financial woes gripped the campus, retirements took many departmental icons from us (Zeno Vendler, Ed Lee, Fred Olafson, Avrum Stroll, Henry Allison), Chicago lured Bob Pippen away, and Stich and the Kitchers were also lured back to their eastern roots. Later in that period, we even lost Nick Jolley to Syracuse. Fortunately, the people who remained, and the high quality of our philosophy graduate students, made being here a reliable pleasure; our own philosophical research was flourishing as never before (we’ll spare you a summary); and in that period we did manage to convince David (Brink), Gila (Sher), Rick (Grush), and Michael (Hardimon) to join us. As well, the Administration wisely determined to help the department replace its many losses and regain its former glory. On the strength of such promises, Pat agreed to be Chair, and the following years saw a second great burst of hiring. Clark Glymour, Nancy (Cartwright), Bill (Bechtel), Jonathan (Cohen), Don (Rutherford), Eric (Watkins), Craig (Callender), Sam (Rickless), Dana (Nelkin), and Chris (Wuthrich) came in a steady rush, and the department’s reputation shot back up again. With the recent arrivals of Monte (Johnson), Clinton (Tolley), and now Saba (Bazargan), we are once again made whole. We wouldn’t trade this dept. for any other in the world.
And we won’t. Except for summer holidays, Pat and I will remain in San Diego and continue our research and writing in your extended and uniquely valuable company. David has kindly promised us a joint office in the dept., as long as resources permit, and we will continue to haunt the dept.’s Friday colloquiums. There is too much here to ever walk away from. May your own time here at UCSD be as rewarding to you as ours has been to us.