In 1979, the full professors were Paul Benacerraf, Michael Frede, Gil Harman, Dick Jeffrey, Walter Kaufmann, Saul Kripke, Thomas Kuhn, David Lewis, Tom Nagel, George Pitcher, Richard Rorty, Tim Scanlon, James Ward Smith, Arthur Szathmary, and Margaret Wilson; and the assistant professors were John Burgess, Raymond Geuss, Calvin Normore and Nathan Salmon. David Wiggins gave the Three Lecture Series (later the Carl G. Hempel Lectures).
At this time, the Department boasted two of the most influential philosophers working in metaphysics and philosophical logic. Kripke was already something of a public figure, having been the subject of a New York Times Magazine article written by Taylor Branch two years earlier. Lewis wasn't a public figure, but his contributions were equally well-known and admired within the profession. As Scott Soames puts it:
...there can be no scanting [Lewis's] many large and lasting contributions to a variety of areas, including, but not restricted to, philosophical logic, the philosophy of language, and linguistic semantics. Nor was his influence limited to the dazzling corpus of his published work. For thirty years he was, during the era of its greatness, a pillar of the Princeton philosophy department. A cooperative and influential colleague, as well as a dedicated and conscientious teacher, his impact on the PhD program there was profound. Always one of the chief draws in recruiting graduate students and one of the strongest influences on their education, he was, for nine years, a model Director of Graduate Studies. His dissertation students are spread far and wide across the profession, and his personal influence on individual philosophers in the United States, "down under," and throughout the English-speaking world (and beyond) was simply unmatched during his far too short a time on Earth. (Scott Soames, "David Lewis’s Place in Analytic Philosophy" in Barry Loewer and Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), David Lewis (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming))
Since 2006, the Department has honored Lewis with a bienniel lecture in his name.
Richard Rorty, who joined the department in 1962, published Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979. Rorty's attack on the central tenets of analytic philosophy set him apart from many of his colleagues, though notably not Raymond Geuss. He resigned in 1981 to take up a position at the University of Virginia where he became a high-profile public intellectual. In a subsequent interview with Lingua Franca he remarked, "Princeton's got the best philosophy students in the country, so I missed that. I had to teach in a way that didn't allude to Quine's criticism of the analytic-synthetic distinction. But it didn't matter much. By that time, I wasn't teaching in a way that required students to keep up with philosophical journals."
In 1971, two of the department's younger faculty members, Tom Nagel, then an associate professor, and Tim Scanlon, then an assistant professor, along with Marshall Cohen, who at the time was professor of philosophy at CUNY Graduate Center, were primarily responsible for starting, and for the next ten years editing, a new philosophy journal with an explicit focus on issues of practical significance. The first few issues of Philosophy and Public Affairs included several papers that would become modern classics. These include Judith Jarvis Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion", Tom Nagel's "War and Massacre", Tim Scanlon's "A Theory of Freedom of Expression", and Peter Singer's "Famine, Affluence, and Morality". Philosophy and Public Affairs is currently edited by Alan Patten, one of the department's associated faculty members.