Melden Chair in Philosophy Filled

Professor Margaret Gilbert will bring nearly four decades of teaching experience to the UC Irvine philosophy department, the school announced on Oct. 23. She will fill the Abraham I. Melden Chair in Moral Philosophy.
Gilbert has been considered a pioneer in the field of moral philosophy ever since her first book, ‘On Social Facts,’ hit bookshelves in 1989. She has followed with four additional books, the most recent of which came out earlier this year.
After receiving her doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University, Gilbert went on to teach at Manchester University. In 1983, she began her 23-year stay at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she was a professor of philosophy until earlier this year.
Gilbert’s career in philosophy began to surface after she obtained a degree in classics and philosophy from Cambridge and was deciding on the route her post-graduate education would take.
‘I think I’d always been interested in the idea of the social sciences, and understanding human relationships, and what it [meant] for people to get together and be in a relationship,’ Gilbert said.
Gilbert’s exploration of these social and philosophical questions was the topic of her book ‘On Social Facts.’ In the course of writing this book, Gilbert realized that she was raising questions as she answered them.
‘My answers to the question of what a social group is led me to some questions in moral philosophy,’ Gilbert said. ‘It began to seem as if people in groups regard each other as having obligations towards one another and having rights against one another, so that if you could understand what a group was, you might be able to understand something about rights and obligations. … So you could say I moved into moral philosophy from social philosophy.’
Gilbert plans to bring a non-authoritarian teaching style to the classroom, specifically encouraging students to ‘think for themselves about the subjects that we study.’ She emphasizes that philosophy is not a matter of memorizing, but a subject that requires learning to ruminate on the material and develop unique ideas.
Gilbert will begin teaching courses in winter quarter 2007.