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Regent Award John Fischer University Professor Promotion


By Sumeera Jattala, Dean’s Office Student Writer
February 8, 2017

John Martin Fischer, a distinguished professor of philosophy here at UC Riverside has been appointed as University Professor by the University of California Board of Regents. This is reserved for scholars of international distinction who are recognized and respected as teachers of exceptional ability. It is extremely important and exciting to recognize Fischer as the first professor of philosophy to make it onto the list -- helping to create more visibility for the department throughout the entire UC system.

“The first thing is that it is very humbling, extremely humbling and to me what was important was to be a part of a very supportive department because philosophy is always done as a conversation It’s not done alone. You learn from your colleagues, and our department has always been extremely collegial and supportive. To me it is something that all of our department deserve,” he said in an interview in his office, tucked into the corner of the Humanities and Social Sciences building.

University Professor was first approved to be given as a title in 1975, and last amended in 2005. This was placed so that the entire system is aware of the achievements and ongoing research of those given the honor. The list is comprised of 41 UC faculty members, with Fischer being the latest addition.

“My main focus throughout my entire career has been free will, and just about all the topics related to free will...and how it relates to moral responsibility...I also have a strong interest in death and immortality. I have written on the meaning of death and whether we could live immortal lives that could be meaningful.”

Professor Fischer received his undergraduate education at Stanford University; he believes that one milestone for him was being around supportive professors in his time as an undergraduate to help motivate him to continue pursuing philosophy. After that, he received his Ph.D from Cornell University in 1982. Before joining the UC Riverside faculty, Fischer taught at Yale University. He has been in various publishing venues such as Oxford Press, Cornell Press, and Stanford Press numerous times through his articles as well as books. He served as the President of the American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division. Fischer was also the Project Leader for The Immortality Project, which studied the science, philosophy, and theology of immortality. He was awarded a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to pursue this project. Along with his strong interest in philosophy, and solving philosophical puzzles that came his way, Fischer always aspired to mentor people which is what lead him to teach philosophy.

“[Cornell] had an excellent philosophy department, and really mentored me closely. So that was a very important step. My first job was at Yale University, and that was important because I had a great group of young colleagues and I learned a lot from them. I still keep in contact with them. I started writing with a colleague at Yale thirty-five years ago, and I have recently written with him as well” Fischer recalls.

Professor Fischer now aims to continue pouring his energy into his work as an undergraduate professor. This is to encourage undergraduate students, especially from those in underrepresented groups, to go into philosophy. “Unfortunately, philosophy tends to be a white male dominated discipline. I want to do some things to encourage women, and people from other underrepresented groups to get involved in philosophy,” he says. This exemplifies how Fischer is a strong fit for the title of University Professor, not only by creating visibility for this discipline throughout the UC system, but also advocating to create visibility for diversity in the department as a whole.

Along with that, Fischer is still writing and is currently working on another book that discusses the material found through The Immortality Project and hopes to write at least one more book on free will. It is important to commemorate his life’s work and passion in the field of philosophy as it helped him achieve one of the most distinguished titles in the University of California, however, there are many projects he is currently working on that will continue to inspire the college and community.


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