Victoria Davion, 1960-2017

We are sad to report the death of Prof. Victoria Davion on November 5, 2017, at the age of 57. Vicky Davion was the founder and editor in chief of Ethics & the Environment. She was a member of the faculty of Philosophy at University of Georgia, the first woman in the department to attain the rank of Full Professor, and the first woman to chair the department, which she did for twelve years. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and specialized in feminist and environmental ethics.

I can’t do justice to Vicky’s dynamism here. She was the daughter of actors and had a flair for reciting a poem, presenting a paper, or relaying a joke. She was a regular by Claudia Card’s bedside in hospice when Claudia was dying of cancer, and I’ve never laughed so much in hospice as I did when my visit coincided with one of Vicky’s. She was also a keen philosopher of feminism and in some ways, my role model for a variety of healthy competition, which she would love, as one of her earliest articles was the Hypatia article, “Competition, Recognition, and Approval-Seeking.” I was barely cognizant of the professional world when I started graduate school in the mid-1990s, and met Vicky at a time when she was already tenure-track at UGA. She observed with a laugh that she was told to publish articles in journals that weren’t Hypatia, and she responded with alacrity, publishing on action-guides and moral intentions (Public Affairs Quarterly), self-corruption and feminist jurisprudence (Journal of Social Philosophy), integrity and care ethics (Social Theory and Practice), then demanded tenure early (and succeeded). She set, for me, a bar for achievement, at a time when it wouldn’t have occurred to me to demand anything.

It is a tradition at FP to share a bit of the scholarship of the author whose loss we are noting. I have a wealth of choices, and debated sharing Vicky’s gutsy form of feminism in her account of her own experience with violence, or her most formative influence on me, the “How Feminist is Ecofeminism” contribution to an environmental ethics textbook I used early on, in which she first raised my awareness of the need to critically examine femininity and masculinity. But as the USA faces the persistent efforts to repeal even a semblance of an attempt at wide access to health care, I thought I’d go with Vicky’s pugnacious article, “Health Care in the United States: Evil Intentions and Collective Responsibility” (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2006). It’s the sort of article she would write, to have subheads like, THE LACK OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA AS EVIL. But this is from a later section of the paper:

If it is true that America’s failure to provide adequate health care to everyone is evil, is even arguably an atrocity given its scale, the obvious question is that of why fixing the problem is not high on America’s political agenda. I shall argue that part of the problem may be a flip side to the sexist socialization into femininity that harms many women caregivers. Socialization into the masculine identity of “autonomous agent,” concretely understood in neoliberal terms, allows many privileged Americans, especially white men, to blame those lacking adequate health care. The idea that those lacking health care are blameworthy allows the privileged to regard the redistribution of resources that would make national health care possible as unfair. I shall argue that this conception of autonomy is a myth that results in evil, and that it is the collective responsibility of American citizens to attempt to undermine it.

Always with the feminism. Thanks, Vicky.