James Weatherall

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When asked what his time at UCI has meant to him, logic & philosophy doctoral graduate James (Jim) Weatherall has a ready response, "I'm staying." Having been offered high profile offers from the likes of Yale, New York University, and the University of Chicago, Jim turned them all down and has accepted a position as an assistant professor in the department of Logic and Philosophy of Science here at UCI.

"UCI has had a significant impact on me, and I am eager for the chance to pass what I have gained along to the next generation of students," he points out. "I am very proud to be a part of the University of California---the premier institution of public education in the world---and to have the continued opportunity to learn from the distinguished scholars and teachers here at Irvine."

A philosopher at heart, Jim believes that oftentimes it is easy for students of philosophy to come to think that the secrets of the world are locked away in the works of the great philosophers of the past. "Students sometimes think that if one could only master Aristotle or Hegel, that everything will become clear," Jims says. "I don't see it that way. I think that philosophy needs to be outward looking, it needs to engage with science and with the world." 

He is quick to point out that we are all trying to understand how the world really works, as best we can with the limited tools we have as humans.  "This is hard.  And it just might require working during vacation," he chuckles.

Jim was recently recognized as the 2012 Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student, which is the oldest award ceremony tradition on the UC Irvine Campus. The award recognizes an outstanding graduate student for his or her contributions to the advancement of UC Irvine. For Jim, this award has special significance because, "I was nominated by my department in the first place.  The faculty are world-class, internationally heralded scholars - that they thought I should win this award... is mind-boggling, but also deeply satisfying."

Collaboration Inside and Outside the Classroom

Jim came to UCI in 2007 with an undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy and a master's degree in physics from Harvard University.   It is at Harvard where he met his wife, Cailin O' Connor. "We were both Irish step dancing at different freshman talent shows, so I decided I should introduce myself," he says with a grin.

Today, Cailin is a graduate student in the Department Logic and Philosophy of Science at UCI where she is looking at evolutionary game theory and the philosophy of biology. "Almost everything we do is a collaboration of some sort, "Jim notes. "We bring very different backgrounds to bear on related problems in the same discipline."  

Thinking outside the Box

Jim credits his advisor, David Malament with helping him to think big. He points out there are many ways to approach and think about philosophical questions. "I am interested in cases where we can bring scientific methods and knowledge to bear on philosophical problems," he states. "David has taught me how to do this in a remarkable way, by turning philosophical problems into mathematical problems in the context of some physical theory."

He emphasizes that it is possible to successfully bring to bear the methods of other fields such as psychology, economics, or history, to gain new insights into old philosophical quandaries. This way of thinking is extremely important and he stresses that, "David is a master of thinking about the foundations of physics in this way."

Commencement and Beyond

In addition to being a Lauds & Laurels recipient, Jim was also selected as the 2012 Graduate Commencement Speaker. Reminding his graduate cohorts of the intrinsic value of their research and work put forth in earning a doctoral degree is something he wants his colleagues not to take lightly. "Scholarly work has been the bedrock of our culture for a long time; to contribute something entirely new to the body of human knowledge is a remarkable achievement."

And speaking of achievements, Jim will take on yet another new role this later in fall of this year when his wife gives birth to – twins.

menotr and weatherall with advisor David Malament and wife Cailin

famly the Weatherall family

 

Dean Dosher with advisor David Malament and School of Social Sciences Dean Barbara Dosher

speechdelivering the commencement speech