The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has appointed Professor Robin Kar as the new Interim Department Head of the Philosophy Department. Professor Kar replaces Interim Head Kelly Ritter, who made significant strides in numerous areas, including the improvement of internal governance practices and protocols.
Professor Kar says he is “excited” to take on this new position. Building on the work of his predecessors, he views his current mandate as having six primary aims:
- Culture and Climate: He will seek to use experience-tested processes to produce an explicit set of guiding principles, with wide buy in and ownership, to produce a resilient and welcoming culture and climate of excellence, which should be a model for the nation among philosophy departments;
- Strengthening University Connections: He will seek to strengthen connections between philosophy and other departments to ensure that philosophy functions — and is well known throughout the University to function — as a critical, constructive hub for foundational thinking that connects many fields, ranging from the humanities to the sciences, thus helping produce ideas vital for the public good;
- Department Building and National Stature: He will seek to build the department through the recruitment and retention of nationally renowned philosophers and scholars, who — through their scholarship, teaching, service, and public engagement — will bring the department to stronger national prominence;
- Undergraduate Outreach: He will work with the department and other stakeholders to engage with more undergraduates to ensure that students from a wide range of backgrounds who can profit from a major in philosophy know that fact and are welcomed into the field;
- Graduate Instruction: He will work with the department to improve graduate students’ experience and professional development, thus helping ensure that philosophical research, insights, and teaching continue to have wide impact, where needed, throughout the state, the nation, and the world;
- Strategic Planning: He will work with the department to engage in strategic planning aimed at clarifying the department’s missions and ensuring impact and shared vision for the next period of the department's development.
Professor Kar works at the intersection of law and philosophy, having made award-winning contributions to the study of evolutionary game theory, moral and legal psychology, legal philosophy, and contract theory. For example, his first full article, The Deep Structure of Law and Morality, won an annual writing prize from the Society for the Evolutionary Analysis of Law, which led to his subsequent contribution to the NOMOS volume on Evolution and Morality. His more recent article, Pseudo-Contract and Shared Meaning Analysis (co-authored with Peggy Radin), was published in the Harvard Law Review. It won awards for best article in jurisprudence published in 2019 and best scholarship produced by the law faculty that year. His work integrates ethics, meta-ethics, social and political philosophy, legal philosophy, philosophy of language, decision and game theory, philosophy of biology, and the law.
Professor Kar received his BA from Harvard College, where he studied philosophy and physics and graduated magna cum laude. His thesis — which was on Wittgenstein and ethics — was advised by Professor Warren Goldfarb, and he defended with Professors Hilary Putnam and Stanley Cavell as his readers. He was especially moved at that time by some aspects of the work of Christine Korsgaard, John Rawls, and Tim Scanlon. He then received his JD from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He later received his PhD from the University of Michigan, where he was a Rackham Merit Fellow, a Rackham Predoctoral Fellow, and a Charlotte Newcombe Fellow, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for significant work in ethics. While at Michigan, Kar studied closely under Professors Elizabeth Anderson, Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, Jim Joyce, and Peter Railton. Kar began his teaching career in 2004. Since then, he has been a Visiting Professor at the USC Law School and the Walter Schaefer Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago Law School.
In addition to his scholarly endeavors, Professor Kar has served in significant leadership roles throughout campus, including Chair and Vice-Chair of the Academic Senate (at the university level) and Chair and Vice-Chair of the University Senates Conference (at the system level). He is a 2022-2023 fellow with the President’s Executive Leadership Program. He clerked for the Honorable Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who remains one of his long-term mentors, and the Honorable John G. Koeltl, in Manhattan. He chaired the Committee on Faculty Sexual Misconduct and the Working Group that produced the System’s Guiding Principles on Fostering Healthy Relationships throughout the System. Professor Kar currently lives in Champaign, where — as a labor of love — he has recently taken on additional caretaking responsibilities for his mother and younger brother.