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History of the Department of Philosophy


King’s College London was founded in 1831. In its early years the study of philosophy was largely restricted to courses within the Department of Theology and the Department of English Literature, but from 1912 onwards it housed a separate Department of Philosophy.

The early twentieth century...

In the first half of the twentieth century, under the leadership of Hilda Diana Oakeley and Herbert Wilson Carr, the Department combined traditional philosophical concerns with an interest in developments in psychology and the natural sciences. The Department admitted its first postgraduate students in 1923, a PhD programme began in 1925, and an MSc in the History and Methods of Science was introduced in 1926.  

The latter twentieth century...

After the Second World War, John Findlay became the Chair of Philosophy and soon built up a strong Department, appointing Godfrey Vesey, David Pole, Ron Ashby and Peter Winch. When Findlay retired in 1966, Peter Winch took over as Head of Department. Richard Sorabji joined the Department in 1970, and Jim Hopkins and Rai Gaita soon after. These appointments, together with a continuing association with Norman Malcolm from Cornell, meant that King’s became a world leader in the philosophy of Wittgenstein.

In the 1980s the Philosophy Department from Bedford College was merged with King’s and Mark Sainsbury, Anthony Savile, Alan Lacey, Brian O’Shaughnessy and David Lloyd Thomas came to join the King’s Philosophers on the Strand. To mark the merger, a new Chair of Philosophy was endowed in the joint Department, and named in memory of Susan Stebbing, who had been a highly influential member of the Bedford Department in the inter-war years. Christopher Peacocke was appointed the inaugural Susan Stebbing Professor of Philosophy in 1985. 

Soon afterwards the Department of History and Philosophy of Science from Chelsea College also merged into the King’s, which meant the further acquisition of Donald Gillies, Moshe Machover, John Milton and David Papineau.

In 1989 Mark Sainsbury succeeded Peacocke as the Susan Stebbing Professor. Under Sainsbury’s stewardship, the department enjoyed a sustained period of consolidation and growth, continued by the subsequent Headships of David Papineau, MM McCabe and Gabriel Segal. 


The Department is now one of the largest and most distinguished in the UK. Under the current leadership of Maria Rosa Antognazza, the Department made six new appointments at the beginning of 2012, including Bill Brewer as the new Susan Stebbing Professor. This means that the Department currently houses twenty-six permanent teaching staff, together with nine postdoctoral fellows.

Read more!

pdfRead more about the history of philosophy at King's in 'Philosophy at King's College London - a history' (full version - pdf)

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