[FOM] Collected Works of Alonzo Church

William Tait williamtait at mac.com
Tue Sep 19 19:19:21 EDT 2006

On Sep 15, 2006, at 12:26 AM, Michael Zeleny wrote:

> Harry Deutsch asks about the meaning of my statement that Alonzo
> Church was "dismissed". To clarify, U.C.L.A. philosophy faculty voted
> unanimously to relieve Alonzo Church of his tenure in order to offer
> his salary and a professorship in ethics to Christine Korsgaard.
> Korsgaard went to Harvard instead.

I am very surprised by this: Both by the content of Michael Zeleny's  
assertion and by the fact that he felt that he was in a position to  
assert it.

It might be possible for a department to vote on the question of  
whether or not it would recommend revoking someone's tenure, but the  
decision to do so would be a university matter. The grounds for it  
would have to be fairly serious---failure to perform duties, sexual  
harassment, etc. The desire to hire someone else would certainly not  
count as good grounds. The thought that Church would have been guilty  
of anything for which the revoking of tenure would be a remotely  
appropriate response is quite implausible. In any case, it cannot  
have been the department that "dismissed" Church, in the event that  
he was dismissed.

But equally surprising to me is that you would know of a department  
action in which something about a member of the department was up for  
discussion or vote. Such things are generally regarded as strictly  
confidential. It is true that the confidence is all too often  
violated; but my own experience with this (which is all too  
extensive) is that the information illicitly conveyed is generally  
inaccurate---which of course is what one might expect.

Two other remarks: My knowledge of the philosophy department at UCLA  
makes it seem very implausible that it would have wanted to act in  
such a manner to dismiss Church.  It is also very implausible that  
Chris Korsgaard went to Harvard "instead". If she had not gone to  
Harvard, I expect she would have remained at the University of Chicago.

I apologize for a message that has nothing to do with FOM. But I feel  
that someone should at least question a statement that does appear on  
FOM and that is, as I see it, defamatory.

Kind regards,

Bill Tait

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