In Memory of Dallas Willard

May 10, 2013

Dear all,

For those of you who do not yet know, our dear friend, colleague, and teacher, Dallas Willard died this morning of cancer. He was 77. Dallas graduated from Baylor in 1957, and received his PhD in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dallas taught at Wisconsin from 1960 until 1965 when he came to USC, where he taught until the Fall of 2012.

Beloved by decades of undergraduates, Dallas was one of the most popular, versatile, and dedicated teachers the School of Philosophy has ever known. He was a pillar of our undergraduate program during his time here, winning the Blue Key National Honor Fraternity "Outstanding Faculty Member" Award for his contributions to student life in 1976, the USC Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1976-77, and the USC Student Senate Award for Outstanding Faculty of the Year in 1984. He was, for many years, the teacher with the greatest range in the School of Philosophy, regularly teaching courses in logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, history of ethics, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy from the 17th through the 20th centuries, including both sides of the 20th century split between analytic philosophy and phenomenology. Two of his most recent courses, designed and introduced by him in the last decade, have become cornerstones of our interdisciplinary major Philosophy, Politics, and Law. One, Reasoning and Logic, introduces students to symbolic logic while stressing the importance of the intellectual virtues of accuracy, objectivity, and disciplined reasoning for their daily lives. The other, The Professions and the Public Interest in American Life, studies the roles of professionals of various sorts in our society, the forces that shape them, and the foundations of professional ethics. Dallas regularly volunteered to teach overloads when the department needed extra courses, including extra GE courses and ARLT seminars. When looked at from the perspective of his 47 years at USC, his graduate teaching was also exemplary. A frequent member of Dissertation Committees for PhD candidates in other departments, he chaired 31 successful USC dissertations in philosophy, the latest in 2007. One of his recent students Walter Hoop (PhD 2005), was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at Boston University. Dallas also served as Director of the School of Philosophy from 1982 to 1985.

In scholarship, Dallas was an expert on Husserl, publishing two books of translations — A Translation of Edmund Husserl, Early Writings in the Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics, and A Translation of Edmund Husserl's Philosophie der Arithmetik — while also translating a large number of shorter pieces. Author of nearly 50 published articles and 19 critical reviews, his monograph Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge was published in 1984, after which it was reviewed in Philosophical Review, Husserl Studies, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Review of Metaphysics, and Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. In the last few years of his life he was working on an ambitious new book, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, in which he argues that a striking change in the conception of morality and its role in universities and other leading social institutions took place in the 20th century.

Like so many of you, I will miss him greatly. Since my arrival at USC, his kindness, his sincerely, his generosity, and his dedication to our common life as teachers and scholars has been a powerful inspiration to me. He made the people around him better. As I once told him, I have never in my career encountered his like. We won't forget him.

Scott Soames


Memorial Service

Memorial Service Celebrating the Life and Work of Dallas Willard
Saturday, May 25
10:30 a.m.
Church on the Way
14300 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA 91405

There will be a webcast of the service, and details will be posted on The Willard Center has setup a page for tributes and messages to the family at

The philosophy department is happy to forward any letters and cards to the family. Our address is:

USC Department of Philosophy
3709 Trousdale Parkway, MHP 113
Los Angeles, CA 90089.

We hope to have an on campus celebration of life in the fall. Please check back for details.

  • School of Philosophy
  • 3709 Trousdale Parkway
  • Mudd Hall of Philosophy, MHP 113