MIT professor’s book digs into the eclectic, textually linked reading choices of people in medieval London.
Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities and Social Science has announced the appointments of three new department heads. Starting July 1, Professor Joshua Cohen will head the Department of Political Science and Professor James G. Paradis will head the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Professor Robert Stalnaker will head the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, beginning August 1.
Professor Cohen holds a joint appointment as professor of philosophy and Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science. He succeeds Dr. Richard J. Samuels, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Japan Program, who has served as head of the department since 1992.
"Josh Cohen is an extraordinary political philosopher with broad interests in the social sciences. He is a natural leader who has made substantive contributions to teaching and research across several disciplines," Dean Khoury said.
Professor Cohen's scholarship is widely known in the fields of philosophy and political science. His 1983 book, On Democracy, co-authored with Professor Joel Rogers of the University of Wisconsin, is highly regarded as an important work on the nature of democracy in a capitalist society. He has co-authored three other books with Professor Rogers: Inequity and Intervention: The Federal Budget and Central America (1986), Rules of the Game (1986), and Associations and Democracy (1995). Professor Cohen has edited two collections and has written essays and articles for a number of journals and other publications. He is editor-in-chief of the magazine Boston Review and serves on the advisory board of several other publications.
Professor Cohen received both the BA and MA degrees in philosophy from Yale University, and the PhD from Harvard University. He came to MIT as an instructor in philosophy and political science in 1977, and in 1979 became an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of Linguistics and Philosophy and Political Science. He was promoted to professor of philosophy and political science in 1990.
Professor Cohen has been honored several times for his educational contributions, receiving the Teaching Award given by the Department of Political Science in 1982, 1985 and 1989, and the Harold E. Edgerton Award for outstanding research, teaching and creativity in 1984.
Dr. Paradis, professor of science and technical communication, succeeds Dr. Alan P. Lightman, John E. Burchard Professor of Science and Writing, who has served as head of the Program since 1991. Professor Paradis formerly served as head of the Writing Program from 1982-85.
"Jim Paradis is an outstanding scholar of the Victorian era working at the intersections of literature, history and science studies," Dean Khoury said. "He has also made significant contributions to the emerging field of technical writing and is the obvious faculty member in the School of Humanities and Social Science to help steer the School's ongoing efforts to strengthen the communication skills of MIT
Professor Paradis is a noted scholar of literary and cultural perspectives on scientific rhetoric in the 19th century. He is also a developer, with Senior Lecturer Dr. Edward Barrett, of MIT's electronic classroom, which has become a model for similar classrooms around the country.
Professor Paradis' critical scholarship in Victorian Studies is highlighted by his book, T. H. Huxley: Man's Place in Nature (1978). He co-edited Textual Dynamics of the Professions: Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities (1991), and Evolution and Ethics: T. H. Huxley's Evolutions and Ethics, With New Essays on its Victorian and Sociobiological Context (1989). He is now working on a critical biography of Samuel Butler.
A graduate of St. John's University, Professor Paradis earned the MA from New York University and the PhD in English literature from the University of Washington. He came to MIT in 1977 as an assistant professor of technical communication and was promoted to full professor in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies in 1990.
Dr. Stalnaker, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy, will become head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy following the eight-year tenure in that role of Professor Wayne O'Neil of the linguistics section.
"Bob Stalnak-er is one of the world's most accomplished philosophers of language and mind and has made significant intellectual contributions to his profession," said Dean Khoury. He is the author of Inquiry (1984) and a series of papers on the logic and semantics of conditional statements, many of which are included in Ifs, an anthology on conditionals, of which he is one of three editors.
Professor Stalnaker has also written extensively on the problem of intentionality and the relation between language and thought. His recent work on the foundations of formal semantic theories for modal and conditional logics helps to clarify the relations between concepts of necessity and possibility; causation and counterfactual dependence; probability, knowledge and common knowledge; and inductive reasoning and rational decision-making. Much of his work is interdisciplinary; he has written about the role of context in the semantics for natural language and the foundations of game theory.
Professor Stalnaker was appointed as a professor of philosophy at MIT in 1988 after 16 years as a professor of philosophy at Cornell University. He received the BA from Wesleyan University and the PhD from Princeton University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Executive Committee of the American Philosophical Association.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 1997.