Graham McFee 1951 - 2023

On October 10, 2023, our colleague, Graham James McFee, passed away at home in the company of his family. He is greatly missed as a scholar, a teacher, a philosophical conversationalist, a mentor, and a dear friend.

Several of us were in the habit of joining Graham on a regular basis for free-ranging and open-ended philosophical conversation over pints of beer at pubs in Fullerton. We looked up to him for his depth of scholastic experience and knowledge of philosophy, and relied on him as a sounding board when we had ideas to test and explore. Graham was a dyed-in-the-wool philosopher whose interest in his field was both tireless and entirely devoid of ego. Socializing with Graham necessarily included talking philosophy, and inevitably included learning more than one knew at the outset of the evening.

Graham was British. He was of Scots descent but lived and worked in England and, later, California. His philosophical education began at Keele University where he earned a BA with Honors and wrote a thesis in Philosophy of Mind, and continued at University College, London, where, supervised by Richard Wollheim, he earned a PhD and wrote a dissertation in Aesthetics.

He taught from 1974 through 2012 at the University of Brighton, England, achieving the rank of Professor in 1995, and from 2005 through 2022 as an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Fullerton.

Graham was known as a gentle, caring and challenging teacher, willing and able to teach almost any topic within the Anglo-American philosophical tradition, the history of western philosophy, logic and critical thinking, and research ethics, among other areas. Graham was a mentor to younger faculty, who often sought his advice when designing new courses and preparing course syllabi. In all his years of teaching he never became cynical about undergraduate education, nor lost his commitment to the value of studying philosophy.

Graham was particularly known for being one of the leading authorities on the Philosophy of Dance and the Philosophy of Sport, as well as aesthetics generally. He also had substantial interests in Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Metaphysics, and Descartes.

He was one of the more interdisciplinary philosophers any of us have known. In his work on philosophy of dance and philosophy of sport, he engaged with dancers, choreographers, coaches, and scientists. When teaching research ethics, Graham had a knack for bringing into focus what practicing researchers (especially in sport) would need to consider to put “ethics” into practice. His first book on dance is similarly practice-focused. Indeed, his commitment to relevance for practitioners is a hallmark of much of his work.

Some of the books Graham authored

Graham’s publication record was beyond impressive. He published 15 single-authored book-length monographs in his career—over half of them within the last ten years. His breadth of interests is reflected in his three most recent books, which were about the Philosophy of Science, Wittgenstein, and the Philosophy of Dance respectively. He also edited five books, published 88 refereed philosophy papers, 26 interdisciplinary refereed papers, 136 presentations and unrefereed publications, and numerous review articles. It’s safe to say that he published enough to justify tenure for at least couple of dozen faculty members, and had by far the most impressive record of scholarship of any philosopher at California State University.

Graham was active in service as well. He supervised or served as an Examiner on numerous Master’s and Doctoral-level dissertations and theses at multiple universities in Britain, including Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, and at universities in other countries. Graham was Vice President of the British Society of Aesthetics from 1999 through 2004, a referee and member of the Executive Committee of the British Journal of Aesthetics, Editorial Consultant for Res Publica, Idealistic Studies, the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, and a Referee for Routledge Press, Harvester Press, and Oxford University Press.

Graham left us too soon, and will always be missed.