Agnieszka Jaworska Joins UCR’s Department of Philosophy

By Ailsa Zheng, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing
February 6, 2009

Professor Agnieszka Jaworska comes to UCR from Stanford University, where she had been an Assistant Professor of Philosophy from 1999 until 2008.

But Professor Jaworska didn't always plan to go into philosophy; in fact her B.S.E. from Princeton in 1987 was from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Jaworska was raised in Poland and had received a scholarship to study in Wales for her last two years of high school. It was the early 1980s and Poland was subjected to political unrest. National borders were sealed and Jaworska couldn't return to her country. Instead she found herself arriving at Princeton University, where she studied computer science.

"I was here, by myself, I was seventeen," she explained to me as I asked her what led her to study in the US, "My parents were in Poland under Martial Law and I had three hundred dollars in my pocket, so there was no way I was going to study philosophy."

She then gave a little laugh, "I loved Philosophy but I never thought-"

"That you could make money off of it," I said.

"Yeah," she agreed, "I spent four years at Princeton and then I thought, 'Okay, I can go on to grad school [in philosophy]; I have this degree [in computer science] and I can always support myself that way.'"

The grad school she went to was Harvard University, where she received her Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1997.

Professor Jaworska is working on a large project, Ethical Dilemmas at the Margins of Agency, which explores the treatment of individuals whose full mental capacity is thought to be compromised, including psychopaths, addicts, young children, and patients with Alzheimer's disease. In one of her earlier articles she argues that an Alzheimer's patient's living will from the early stages of dementia should not necessarily overrule their current interests and that it is up to the caregivers of Alzheimer's patients in the middle-stages of their disease to reconstruct what is currently in the best interest of the patient, even when this contradicts the living will. She tells me that the answer may be different for patients in later stages of Alzheimer's.

While Professor Jaworska was an assistant professor at Stanford University, she worked both in the Philosophy Department and the Ethics in Society Program. She wrote a paper, "Caring and Full Moral Standing," where she argues that the capacity to care (as distinguished from both simple desiring and from making an evaluation) is essential to being a human with full moral standing and what separates us from newborn babies, animals, or others who are not autonomous.

Jaworska has taught classes on Ethical Theory, Moral Psychology, and Medical Ethics. She studies Ethical Theory and Applied Ethics in tandem. "It's not how it's normally done," she admits, and says she studies both, side by side, to gain insights from each into the other.

Jaworska was trained in clinical bioethics at the National Institutes of Health's Department of Bioethics. She returned to Princeton in 2003-2004 as a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Human Values. Just last year she received an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship from the European Commission. She now joins UCR faculty on a tenured offer along with professors John Perry and Maudemarie Clark.

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