Academic Profile: E. Gabriele Taylor

Senior Research Fellow

Academic Background

Gabriele Taylor is a philosopher and university teacher. St Anne’s College, Oxford, has been her base for most of her academic career: she was Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s until her retirement in 1996. Since then she has continued work as a Senior Research Fellow of the College, pursuing her own particular interests in ethics. During her long career as a teacher of philosophy she has inspired generations of students, many of whom owe their subsequent success in various different walks of life to Gabriele’s ability to help them, as undergraduates and graduates, to learn to think clearly and analytically.

Early Life and Education
Gabriele was born on 11 October 1927 and grew up in Berlin. Her early education was disturbed by the war and at the conclusion of hostilities she and her family found themselves in the British sector of the occupied city. She worked for a while with the Red Cross but ultimately was able to travel to England in 1947 to join a relative already in the country. She then worked part-time whilst also studying and then was successful in gaining a place at St Anne’s in 1952 to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She went on to study for the BPhil in Philosophy, which she completed in 1957.

Academic Career
On completing her BPhil, Gabriele started her teaching career as a lecturer in Philosophy at St Anne’s, working alongside Iris Murdoch, who had been a Fellow of the College since 1948. Following a spell in Australia teaching at the University College at Canberra, on her return to England Gabriele rejoined the College as a lecturer in 1962 and became a Fellow of the College in 1964. During her long and distinguished career as Fellow and Tutor she taught undergraduates reading most of the Honour Schools involving Philosophy as well as supervising graduate students. In the Faculty of Philosophy, Gabriele also examined and lectured on moral philosophy, Kant and the British Empiricists and gave revision classes on the history of philosophy.

Academic Interests
Gabriele’s interests as a philosopher are wide-ranging, as evidenced by the breadth of her teaching. In her role as tutor for the PPE school, for example, she not only taught the general and moral philosophy courses and special papers for PPE final examinations but also taught elementary formal logic to first year undergraduates. This was a course that was not universally popular either with students or teachers but which she was able to use to help her students develop their analytical skills as well as encouraging their interest in philosophical concepts.

Gabriele’s own research has focused on moral psychology, with a particular interest in the ‘ordinary’ vices traditionally seen as death to the soul. Her best-known works are probably ‘Pride, Shame and Guilt’ (Oxford University Press 1985) and ‘Deadly Vices’ (Clarendon Press 2006), which examine the beliefs involved in the experience of these emotions. 'Deadly Vices' was reviewed by Tom Hurka, who describes it as 'deeply illuminating ... she takes the neo-Aristotelian view of virtue further than any other writer I know'.

In her work Gabriele demonstrates the breadth of her knowledge and understanding: she uses wide-ranging examples taken from English literature to support her analysis. Her work demonstrates also a deep acquaintance with and sympathy for the works of two philosophers often thought to be opposed to one another: David Hume and Immanuel Kant. She would, however, doubtless reject being categorized as a member of any particular 'school' of philosophy.'

Dr Nigel Bowles, Director of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, conducted in August 2011 an interview with Gabriele and spoke with her about St Anne’s and her interests in ethics. The interview is available as a podcast.

E. Gabriele Taylor