Regents' Proceedings 16
William K. Frankena, Roy Wood Sellars Professor of Philosophy and Distinguished Scholar/College Professor, retired from active faculty status on July 1, 1978, after a highly productive career as a teacher and scholar.
He was born in Manhattan, Montana, in 1908. He received the B.A. from Calvin College in 1930, the M.A. from The University of Michigan in 1933, a second M.A. from Harvard University in 1935, and the Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1937.
Professor Frankena began his teaching career at The University of Michigan as an instructor in philosophy in 1937, and, apart from visiting appointments at Harvard, Columbia, Tokyo, the University of Washington, and Princeton, has been at this University ever since. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1940, associate professor in 1946, and professor in 1947. He served as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy from 1947 to 1961.
Professor Frankena was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1948-49, Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 1968-69, Chairman of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association from 1962-65, President of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1965-66, member of the President's Commission on the Humanities, 1963-65, Chairman of the Council for Philosophical Studies from 1965-72, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, member of the National Academy of Education from 1965, and was the Carus Foundation Lecturer in 1974.
He is renowned for his learning in the history of ethics, a subject about which he is generally believed in the profession to know more than anyone else in the world. His scholarly knowledge in the philosophy of education is of nearly equal scope. His major contribution, however, has been his original work in moral philosophy. He has published several definitive articles on the "naturalistic fallacy" in ethics, and on the senses of "can" and their relation to various senses of "ought." He has written many papers on the meaning of the ethical terms, particularly on whether they can be given a "naturalistic" or an "emotivist" analysis. And he has written influential papers on distributive justice, on the concept of human rights, on the relation between an ethics of "duty" and one of "virtue," and on the relation of religion to ethics. His book Ethics has been enormously influential, and is properly greatly admired for its care and judiciousness.
Professor Frankena especially served the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts not only as a dedicated Chairman for thirteen years, but as a member of the Executive Committee for three terms.
In view of all these accomplishments, the Regents now salute this distinguished teacher and philosopher for his dedicated service by naming him Professor Emeritus of Philosophy.