Brown University ~ Department of Philosophy

Departmental History

Among the earliest distinguished faculty at Brown are E. B. Andrews, who was also President of Brown University and who taught all the philosophy courses at Brown in 1890-91. In 1894, W. G. Everett was appointed Professor and attained high distinction before retiring in 1930. But perhaps the most influential early figure was Alexander Meiklejohn, for whom the Meiklejohn peer advising program is named. He taught philosophy at Brown from 1897 to 1912. He was also one of the earliest and most important advocates of the concept of a "liberal education". and his ideas inspired the special sort of program still offered today at institutions such as St. John's College.

Curt Ducasse
Curt Ducasse
The new age of Brown philosophy arrived in 1926 with Curt Ducasse, who, for a quarter century was the most important philosopher at Brown. He was influential not only in the department, but also in the University, and in the highest councils of the profession. Around him gathered a steadily larger and more impressive department, including Arthur Murphy, Ralph Blake, and Charles Baylis.

Roderick Chisholm
Roderick Chisholm
Soon after World War II, Brown renewed its ascent through Vincent Tomas, John Ladd, Richard Taylor, Richard Cartwright, Joel Feinberg, Wesley Salmon, Richard Schmitt, and John W. Lenz. but the most central figure of that period, from the last 1950s into the early 1980s, was Roderick Chisholm. In the mid-sixties Herbert Heidelberger, Jaegwon Kim, and Ernest Sosa formed a faculty core in Chisholm's seminar every semester, drawing inspiration, along with an excellent group of graduate students. The rise of Sosa and Kim to prominence made Brown one of the very finest places to study epistemology and philosophy of mind, even after Chisolm's retirement.

In the years since, Brown has continued to be one of top handful of philosophy departments in the world, renewing itself on a regular basis with new faculty who are now making their own unique, individual contributions to the history of the department.