Bioethics Blogs

In Memoriam: Vivian Weil, PhD (1929-2016)

by John Douard, PhD

I just found out that an old friend of mine, Vivian Weil, died earlier this month. This is very sad news for me personally, but also for the philosophical community because Vivian was one of the most important philosophers in the world, especially for those who believe philosophy can and should have an impact on the way we live our lives. Vivian and Nancy Cartwright were the first two students to receive a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago (then called Chicago Circle) from the philosophy department, which then and now was one of the best philosophy departments in the country.

Chronologically, they were about three years ahead of me, although I had known them as graduate students since I received my BA there about a year before they received their PhDs. Even as graduate students they were remarkable. Vivian wrote her dissertation on action theory, and was supervised, I believe, by Myles Brand. It was a relatively new specialization, but Vivian went further and, after she began working at the Illinois Institute of Technology (where she remained for her entire long and productive career), she invented engineering ethics from an analytic point of view.

Vivian was slightly older than me because, before getting her PhD, she raised a family. She and her husband Irwin Weil, a remarkable scholar of Russian history, were extraordinarily important to the community of philosophers at UIC. Vivian then spent years at IIT developing relationships with engineers there and everywhere to develop the moral commitments to which they were or should be held in light of the fundamental work they do in ordering our built environments.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.