Samuel C. Rickless

Professor of Philosophy

Personal Information

I am a professor of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. Before moving to San Diego, I was an assistant professor of philosophy at Florida State University (1996-2001).

I was born in Paris, France, where I lived for eight years before moving to London, England. My secondary school was the Lycée Français de Londres (now called the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle), where I studied from 1972 until 1981.  After a gap year spent working at various odd jobs (e.g., gold prospecting near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, cleaning stables at the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois), I went to college at Harvard (1982-1986).  I thought I would become a mathematician, but after taking a logic class with Warren Goldfarb, I was drawn into the world of philosophy.  My senior thesis was on Gottlob Frege's philosophy of language.  In my senior year, I won a Marshall Scholarship, and spent two years (1986-1988) at Balliol College, Oxford, earning a B. Phil. under the mentorship of Michael Dummett, Ronald Dworkin, and David Pears.  I spent the next seven years (1988-1995) working on a Ph.D. in philosophy at UCLA.  My dissertation, Sinn Without Guilt: A Theory of Content for Singular Terms, was supervised by David Kaplan and Kit Fine.  The wonderful thing about intellectual life in the UCLA philosophy department at that time was that there were no boundaries.  Students were encouraged and expected to delve into all philosophical subfields with equal intensity.  I took this emphasis on the importance of both depth and breadth very seriously, and it is an approach to the discipline that continues to inform everything I do.

Although every aspect of philosophy fascinates me, my work tends to cluster around issues and problems in the history of early modern European philosophy (particularly John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Mary Shepherd), the history of ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Plato), normative ethics (approached deontologically), the philosophy of law (particularly privacy and legal interpretation), and the philosophy of language.

I enjoy writing limericks about philosophers.  If you're interested, click on the Limericks link on the left.  It's always fun to think up a new poem, so if you have any special requests, please let me know.

My greatest joy in life comes from spending time with my wife and colleague, Dana Kay Nelkin, and our children, Sophie and Alice.