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Philosophy Newsletter: January 2021

Hello Alumni and Friends!

 It has been slightly more than a year since I produced that last departmental newsletter.  I’d like to say I was just waiting to see if we’d make it out of 2020, but in fact I have to admit that I was just overwhelmed.  What a year it has been!  We converted to entirely on-line classes during the time we’d normally have been on Spring Break.  For many of us that meant learning how to Zoom, how to use Powerpoint, how to splice together videos and import subtitles, how to administer exams online, and a thousand other technological feats that at least the older among us thought we’d be able to avoid all the way until retirement.

Luckily, it all turned out surprisingly well in the Spring.  That was good news, since most of us had to do it again in the Fall, and most of us will start doing it again at the end of the month!  We did have some in-person classes, though – recorded for those who couldn’t attend in person, or who were living twelve time-zones away.  Those worked out very well too – providing a taste of what we are all looking forward to getting back to.  Throughout the whole quarantine our students have been amazingly responsible.  While many schools had to send student home almost as soon as classes started, we made it through the whole semester.  Fingers crossed and masks on this Spring!

One major piece of good news is that in March we managed to hire an excellent philosopher away from her job in Utah; Laura Guerrero began as an assistant professor in the department in the Fall.  Professor Guerrero specializes in Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology, which is to say that she explores the distinctive approaches various Buddhist thinkers take to questions concerning what is real, what is true, and how we come to know whatever it is that we do know. She explains Buddhist ideas on these matters in ways that bring them into conversation with thinkers from other traditions who are interested in the same sorts of questions.  Professor Guerrero will be teaching a seminar for majors on Buddhist Metaphysics this Spring, and will be introducing a new course in Philosophy across Cultures next year.

As always, thank you for your contributions to the department!  It is really your support that allow the department to function as well as it does.  Donations from alumni and friends are more important than ever these days, with the financial stress that the pandemic has produced for all institutions for higher education.  We cannot thank you enough!

 ~Student News~

Having set a record of thirty-seven graduates in May of 2019, this past May the Department graduated a new record of thirty-nine! Alas, this time we could not gather in Blow 201 as we normally would have done.  Instead, I recorded a short bit of philosophy so that parents could get a little idea of what their children were learning, and twelve brave students recorded their own brief messages, all of which is now preserved forever on YouTube.

This October Yuan Dong and Neal Going were the two recipients of the Jennifer Bosanko Memorial Scholarships. The Bosanko scholarships are awarded each fall to one or two Philosophy majors who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, industriousness, and a well-rounded approach to the world: the sort of virtues that characterized Jen Bosanko. The first of this year’s recipients, Yuan, is currently working on an honors thesis on Neopragmatism and Philosophy of Mathematics.  She is also interested in linguistics, history, sociology, computer science, economics, psychology, and mathematics.  Outside academics, she also volunteers for the W&M dining sustainability program, and sings.  The second recipient, Neal, is a double major in philosophy and gender, sexuality, and women's studies.  Neal has acted in four mainstage productions, as well as doing some choreography, and he volunteers for the Haven at the College.  When he has free time he also plays piano and bakes.  We received many contributions to the Bosanko Fund this past year and are very grateful to everyone who continues to help us celebrate the memory of Jen.

The Jerry Miller Essay Prize was awarded in May to Carl Huber, for his essay “Innocent Threats and the Falling Man”.  Carl’s essay concerned the moral permissibility of harming someone who, because of circumstances out of their control, presents a moral agent with the threat of grave harm.  The department is very grateful to Bill and Mary Richardson, whose generosity was instrumental in establishing the prize fund, and who renew the memory of Jerry Miller every year at our graduation ceremony.

The Diverse Philosophies Club is being led this year by Jake Beardsley and Jared Jones.  It held weekly meetings in which students discussed a huge range of topics, and hosted the 10th annual undergraduate conference, originally scheduled for March, in October – online.  Jared’s paper on the foundations of negation won first prize in a blind-reviewed competition among the papers submitted.  You can find the conference program here along with more information about the club.

~Faculty News~

We are very sorry to have to report that Alan Fuchs, who taught in the department from 1969 to 2011, passed away at home on December 28th, 2020 after a lengthy illness. He was 79 years old.  He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Janet Rose Fuchs; his sister Cynthia Fuchs Epstein; his beloved children: Daniel Fuchs and his wife, Debbie, and Karen Block and her husband, Ben; and his five cherished granddaughters: Amanda, Eliza, Lauren, Kate, and Caroline.

An internationally-recognized expert on ethics and social and political philosophy, Alan’s educational journey initially began with a focus on physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He soon found himself engrossed in his philosophy classes, and he graduated with a degree in both disciplines. He and Janet were high school sweethearts and married after college, with Alan pursuing his dedication to philosophy at Harvard University where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. under the tutelage of his mentor, Professor John Rawls.

Alan and Janet moved to Williamsburg in 1969 for Alan’s first teaching job. This introductory position led to an esteemed career that spanned four decades, and was marked by numerous achievements and recognitions including chairmanship of the Philosophy department, the Thomas Jefferson teaching award, and in 2007, the prestigious Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching. He served as President of the Virginia Philosophical Association, and was a Fellow of the National Humanities Institute at Yale University.

Beyond the accolades, the true joy of philosophy for Alan was the discussions, the debates, and the Socratic method of questioning (both in the classroom and at home at the dinner table). Even after an all-night review of exam blue books, he eagerly went to campus the next day, inspired by the interaction he would have with his students, teaching them a subject he believed would arm them with important skills and knowledge they would utilize throughout their adult lives. His classes were challenging, yet he was a widely adored professor with many alumni reaching out to him after graduation to offer thanks for his guidance and inspiration.

Outside of work, Alan was a passionate consumer of fine arts. He and Janet had an extensive classical music collection (which was listened to nearly nightly in the “conservatory”), and they traveled to numerous international destinations, enjoying concerts, operas, galleries, wineries (Alan was quite the oenophile) and always a spectacular dinner. Alan had a gusto for life, and even in his challenging later years he always found joy in sharing a tasty meal with family and friends.

Alan was a dedicated tennis player with a powerful serve and a competitive nature, but always a big grin and a firm handshake for his opponent, regardless of the outcome. He loved the game for its combination of strength and strategy, and he enjoyed playing with Janet and with friends and colleagues.

He was fiercely proud of his children, and he greatly enjoyed family holiday dinners (again, wine!) and annual family trips to the Outer Banks. His granddaughters delighted him, and his smile and spirit live on in all of them.

A devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a dear friend, Alan Fuchs led a rich life of intellectual curiosity and joie de vivre. May his memory be a blessing for us all.  In lieu of flowers, Alan’s family request that donations be made to the Philosophy Department at William & Mary. Please make checks payable to the William & Mary Foundation and mail to William & Mary, Gift Accounting, P.O. Box 1693, Williamsburg, VA  23187. To make an online gift, please go to

A less sad piece of faculty news – though still sad for us – is that our wonderful colleague Elizabeth Radcliffe will be retiring at the end of the Spring.  Professor Radcliffe earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cornell University in 1985, and joined the faculty of William & Mary in 2009 as a Full Professor of Philosophy. Prior to that she had been at Santa Clara University, where she began teaching in 1989.  Her service contributions to the College are too numerous to mention in detail, but highlights include three years on the A&S Faculty Affairs Committee, two years on the Dean’s council on Diversity and Inclusion, and many stints on various Charles Center committees and term professorship selection committees. She also spent four years as department chair. 

Professor Radcliffe is an internationally renowned figure in scholarship on the 18th-century philosopher David Hume, and in 2018 she published a book at Oxford University Press: Hume, Passion and Action. Her work not only constitutes an original interpretation of Hume, but also makes contributions to current debates in normative ethics, metaethics, and moral psychology. Along with this book and a number of edited volumes, Professor Radcliffe has also been consistently writing papers and book chapters, having published nearly thirty of them in top-tier venues. Among the most impressive of these is a 2015 paper entitled “Hume’s Psychology of the Passions: The Literature and Future Directions” which appeared in the Journal of the History of Philosophy. This is one of the very best journals in the history of philosophy.

Professor Radcliffe has often been described by her students as ‘fantastic’ ‘wonderful’, ‘amazing’ and ‘incredible’, and they say that her courses have been among the best they have taken at the college.  She is a perfect example of William & Mary’s teacher/scholar model.

~Department Events~

Just before the pandemic struck, on March 6th and 7th, the department hosted a wonderful Mini-Conference on the intersection of Ethics & Metaphysics.  This conference – like the conferences and workshops the department hosted in previous years, and will host again when the world returns to something more recognizable, were made possible Teresa Thompson and Michael Foradas. Their very generous gifts, along with gifts from so many of you, have contributed a great deal to the intellectual vibrancy of the department, and have helped raise the profile of William & Mary, and the Philosophy department.

~Alumni News~

Alex Patico (1968) is currently a member of the advisory board of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which he co-founded in 2002.  Alex served in the U. S. Peace Corps in Iran in the late 1960’s, and was an advisor to Iranians for International Cooperation.  Prior to co-founding the NIAC, he had worked for over thirty years in international education and international development, most of it with the Institute of International Education (IIE), and served on the boards of the National Religious Coalition against Torture and Churches for Middle East Peace.  He was also a 2006 peace delegate to Iran with the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  He and his wife now live in Columbia, MD.

David Rutledge (1968) retired as the Pitts Professor of Religion at Furman University, where he had taught for thirty-four years.  He has now moved to Chapel Hill, NC – closer to Williamsburg!

William Harpine (1973) retired after a long career teaching communication at William and Mary, University of Akron, and University of South Carolina Aiken. William earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and published four articles about informal logic and the philosophy of communication in major philosophy journals. He is married to psychologist Elaine Clanton Harpine, and lives in south Texas near the beach.

Rubén Rosario Rodríguez (1991) has been a professor at St. Louis University since 2004, and recently edited the T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology, a 300,000-word, 36-chapter, 39-author collection that delivers a complex mosaic of the current scene in political theology in the three major Abrahamic religions.

Erin Bennett (2013) completed her law degree and Masters in public health from UNC Law and UNC Gillings School of Public Health this past May. Her research, heavily influenced by ethics and philosophy, explores the concept of an international right to health and political obstacles to meaningful and equitable health reform.

Please let us know what and how you are doing; submit your updates online using this form, or send them to me via email, and we’ll post them on our website.

Best wishes in the new year!

Joshua Gert
Philosophy Department Chair