Philip Kitcher

Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Columbia University. He received his B.A. from Cambridge University and his Ph.D. from Princeton. Before coming to Columbia, he has taught at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Minnesota. Prof. Kitcher is the author of books on topics ranging from the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of biology, the growth of science, the role of science in society, naturalistic ethics, pragmatism, Wagner’s Ring, Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and Mann’s Death in Venice. He has been President of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division) and Editor-in-Chief of Philosophy of Science. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Prof. Kitcher was also the first recipient of the Prometheus Prize, awarded by the American Philosophical Association for work in expanding the frontiers of Science and Philosophy. He has been named a “Friend of Darwin” by the National Committee on Science Education and received a Lannan Foundation Notable Book Award for Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith. He has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, where he was partially supported by a prize from the Humboldt Foundation, and in the autumn of 2015 he was the Daimler Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Prof. Kitcher’s most recent books are Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism (Yale University Press, 2014), and The Seasons Alter: How to Save our Planet in Six Acts, co-authored with Evelyn Fox Keller (W.W. Norton, 2017). He is currently at work on a systematic version of Deweyan pragmatism, tentatively entitled Progress, Truth, and Values, and is a member of the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience Advisory Committee.

Early in his career, Prof. Kitcher was primarily interested in philosophy of mathematics and general philosophy of science. During the late 1970s, he became very concerned with the philosophy of biology. That concern led him to investigate not only conceptual and methodological issues in biology, but also questions about the relations of biological research to society and politics. During the 1990s, Prof. Kitcher’s interests broadened further to embrace the role of scientific inquiry in democratic societies. Since coming to Columbia, that line of investigation has been further elaborated in relation to pragmatism (especially William James and John Dewey). Part of this work advances a program for naturalistic ethics (one he takes to be Deweyan in spirit). He has also developed a program of research in philosophical themes in literature and music, focusing so far on Joyce and Wagner, and, in a recent book, on Thomas Mann and Mahler. Following Dewey, Prof. Kitcher believes in the need for a reconstruction of philosophy (so that it will not be a “sentimental indulgence for the few”), and he worries about the increasing narrowness and professionalization of academic philosophy.

  • Ph.D., Princeton University (1974)
  • Honorary Doctorate from the Erasmus University, Rotterdam (2013)

Last updated December 23, 2022