A History of Carleton’s Philosophy Department

Carleton’s Philosophy department dates back to a time when Carleton was a small college in the Glebe. The earliest fulltime appointees were Hans Jonas and Stewart McEown. Neither remained at Carleton long. Jonas, already famous, moved to the New School for Social Research at the end of 1954. McEown resigned in 1955 and eventually became a lawyer.

In September 1954, James Wernham, who had been on faculty at the University of Toronto, was appointed by Carleton. As implied by what was just said, after a year he found himself the sole member of the department. He was also the first member of what (thanks in no small part to his appointment decisions) was to grow into one of the most stable departments anywhere. In 1956, Bernard Wand, who had been a colleague of Wernham’s at the University of Toronto, joined the department, to be followed by James Thompson in 1958. In 1959, Carleton moved to its present location on Colonel By Drive. In that year, Stephen Talmage joined the department, soon to be followed by Andrew Jeffrey (1961) and John Leyden (1963). In 1966, Randal Marlin was added and Marvin Glass followed in 1967.

In 1968, Carleton acquired St. Patrick’s college, then located on Main Street. Four new members joined the department, partly to staff the new college: Diane Dubrule (1968), Stanley Clarke (1968), Julian Wolfe, former Carleton student (1968), and Bela Egyed (1968). Andrew Brook, the final member of what is now called the ‘old department’, joined in 1969 .

These thirteen people were the philosophy department at Carleton for almost the next twenty years. None of them left and the next enduring appointment was not until 1987. The only additional people who had tenured or tenure-track jobs in the 33 years from 1954 to 1987 were John Hems (1965-6) who left after a year, Daniel Goldstick (1965-1967) who moved to the U of T, John O’Manique, who transferred to the department when Carleton took over St. Patrick’s College and transferred again after a couple of years to International Affairs, and Will Kymlicka (1994-98), who had a half-time appointment in Philosophy at Carleton and a half-time appointment as Research Director, Canadian Centre for Philosophy and Public Policy, at the University of Ottawa. He left to take up a Canada Research Chair at Queen’s University.

After 1969, the next permanent addition to the department was Jay Drydyk (1987), who was appointed upon James Wernham’s retirement. He was followed by Wendy Donner (1991), a joint philosophy/social science appointment, in part to teach environmental ethics for new environment studies and environmental science programmes, and Robert Stainton (1993, moved to UWO in 2003), appointed upon Bernard Wand’s retirement, in part to teach and supervise in a new cognitive science doctoral programme.

Starting in the mid-1990s, members of the ‘old’ department began to retire one after another and the department entered a period of rebuilding. The following were appointed in quick succession: Rebecca Kukla (1999, moved to USF in 2007), Richard Manning (1999, moved to USF in 2007), Heidi Maibom (2003), Eros Corazza (2004), Gordon Davis (2005), Annie Larivée (2007), Gabriele Contessa (2007), Christine Koggel (2007, moved back to Bryn Mawr 2009), David Matheson (2008), and Melissa Frankel (2009). In the middle of all this activity, Geraldine Finn, cross-appointed for many years but serving mainly in the School for Studies in Art and Culture, became chair and had most of her responsibilities moved to Philosophy. Thanks to strong support from successive senior administrations, the department has been able to maintain itself at about a dozen tenured or tenure-stream faculty throughout this period,

Professor James Wernham, whose vision shaped the department throughout the early decades, aimed to build a department that provided a well-rounded education in the discipline, with courses offered in all the areas of philosophy, including the important periods in the history of the discipline. The department prides itself on the strength of its undergraduate programmes. Its graduates have been readily admissible to top PhD programmes including Oxford, Columbia, Cornell, Sussex, UWO, U of T, U of Calgary, UCSD, Queen’s, Dalhousie, McGill, York, Brown, Wisconsin, Boston University, and Berkeley.

In 1965, Carleton introduced a Master’s programme. Between this programme and the honours BA programme, over 40 graduates in philosophy at Carleton are now members of faculty, or are in PhD programmes aiming to become members of faculty, in a wide range of universities, including at various times two V.P Academics and the chairs of a number of excellent departments. Among graduates who went on to non-academic careers, John Manley, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, a graduate of the Honours BA programme, and early graduates of the MA programme Susan D’Aquino, Associate Deputy Minister of Heritage, and Russel Zinn, justice of the Federal Court of Canada, stand out.

It might be asked why Carleton’s department has never sought to offer a PhD in philosophy. The department did discuss the matter at length in the early 1970s. At that time it was decided that it would be better to offer a distinctive, excellent Master’s programme than another second-tier PhD programme. Among other things, there were few new jobs in philosophy at the time – a condition that persisted for the next two decades. When a PhD programme in Cognitive Science began at Carleton in the mid-1990s, the Department of Philosophy was one of the sponsoring departments. The programme serves one group of philosophy graduates. Since 2007-8 the department has been discussing the creation of a companion interdisciplinary PhD in ethics and public affairs with colleagues in other units. If it comes to pass, it would serve another group of philosophy graduates.

In line with changes taking place throughout the university system, the governance of the Department changed in the late 1960s. Until then, though called Chair, the person leading the department was in effect the head of the department. (The university had stopped using the term ‘Head’ some years before.) James Wernham was the incumbent for nearly fifteen years, from 1955 to 1969. He had no fixed term and did everything, including making recommendations for appointments and tenure and promotion. In 1969, the department voted to make the leadership of the department an elected position. Wernham was promptly elected! After a year, he stepped down. Since then, Stephen Talmage (two terms at different times), John Leyden (three terms at different times), Stanley Clarke, Bernard Wand, Julian Wolfe, Andrew Jeffrey (two terms), Jay Drydyk (in his third term), Marvin Glass, and Geraldine Finn have served.

The department’s administrative staff has also been stable. Aside from a few short-service appointments, the administrators since the department first had an administrator of its own in the 1960s have been: Phyllis Putt, Christine Wirta, Maggie Lodge, Carole Baker, Lianne Dubreuil, May Hyde, and the incumbent, Sandra Kirkpatrick.

– by Julian Wolfe and Andrew Brook, with contributions from James Wernham, Stephen Talmage, and Sandra Kirkpatrick

Summer 2009