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During the 1980s, Professors in the UCSD Philosophy Department made seminal contributions to the history of philosophy, in particular to the study of German idealism. In 1982 Bob Pippin published an important study on Kant's Theory of Form: An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason (New Haven). In the following year Henry Allison published a modern masterpiece of Kantian scholarship, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism (New Haven, 1983). This work has instigated a major revival in the study of Kant in Anglo-American philosophy and is a widely considered a classic interpretation; it has later been revised and expanded in a second edition. For the advanced student of the history of philosophy, it offers the most sensible and accessible inroads to Kant’s critical philosophy. Also, in 1984, Nicholas Jolley published Leibniz and Locke: a study of the New Essays on Human Understanding (Oxford). In 1989 Bob Pippin rounded off an extraordinarily productive decade of publication in the area of German idealism with his Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Cambridge).
In the area of social and political philosophy, Bob Pippin also edited, in collaboration with UCSD Philosophy Doctor Andrew Feenberg, a collection of critical essays on the by then deceased but still widely influential Marcuse: Critical Theory and The Promise of Utopia (1988). Richard Arneson and Jerry Doppelt also wrote numerous important articles on topics and figures including but also beyond the New Left and Marxism, in areas more of the mainstream of contemporary ethics, including essays on equality and welfare.
In the area of contemporary philosophy of language, metaphysics, and epistemology, the department enjoyed the affiliation of the influential Professor of Linguistics Sige-Yuki Kuroda as an active Adjunct Professor in the Philosophy Department at UCSD throughout the decade and until 1994. In this area Zeno Vendler also published in 1984 his The Matter of Minds (Oxford).
The biggest development in the UCSD Philosophy department, arguably since the founding, was the ambitious effort in the 1980s to develop core strength in the philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. To this end, the Department hired the dynamic duo Professors Patricia Smith Churchland and Paul M. Churchland in the middle of the decade. Pat was later appointed Presidential Professor of Philosophy in 2000; Paul was appointed to the Valtz Family Chair in Philosophy 2005. Both took their turn as Chairs of the department, Paul from 1987-1990, and Pat from 2000-2007. As stated in their recent profile in the New Yorker and in their message in the departmental newsletter upon being appointed Professors Emeriti (in 2010), the work of Pat and Paul has been a largely collaborative effort. Their contributions to the philosophy of cognitive neuroscience have spearheaded the advancement of the new field of “neurophilosophy” (including “neuroethics”). Their robust defense of the thesis of eliminative materialism (which ironically came around the same time the department was winning renown for new researches into German idealism) has kept the department famous for hard-core materialism, which seamlessly replaced the department’s earlier fame for the advocacy of historical materialism, which had been taught, researched, and defended at UCSD by Marcuse, Moore, and others. Although there is no direct philosophical connection between historical and eliminative materialism, from the longer-range historical perspective it seems to be no accident that the proponents of such a radical materialist theses found their intellectual home in the same UCSD Philosophy department.
The second major development in the department’s effort to develop strength in philosophy of science came in 1986, when the Department of Philosophy, along with History and Sociology, established the Science Studies Program, an interdisciplinary program. The same year the Department of Philosophy also hired Professors Philip S. Kitcher (later appointed Presidential Professor of Philosophy, 1997), Stephen P. Stich, and Associate Professor Patricia W. Kitcher. These developments did in fact establish UCSD as a major center for research and teaching in the History and Philosophy of Science, despite the departure of Stitch and the Kitchers in the early to mid 1990s.