Ph.D., Princeton University (1974)
Before coming to Columbia, I taught at the University of California, San Diego, and before that at the University of Minnesota. Early in my career, I was primarily interested in philosophy of mathematics and general philosophy of science. During the late 1970s, I became very concerned with the philosophy of biology. That concern led me 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, my 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 I take to be Deweyan in spirit). I have also developed a program of research in philosophical themes in literature and music, focusing so far on Joyce and Wagner, and, in unpublished work, on Thomas Mann.
Currently most of my teaching is in undergraduate classes. I have taught in Columbia’s Core Curriculum, serving as Chair of Contemporary Civilization from 2004 to 2007, and, more recently, teaching Literature Humanities. I teach courses on Dewey, Science and Religion, Darwin, and (in the Department of English and Comparative Literature) on Joyce and on Finnegans Wake.
My graduate teaching usually takes the form of directed studies, either with individuals or with small groups. Following Dewey, I believe in the need for a reconstruction of philosophy (so that it will not be a “sentimental indulgence for the few”), and I worry about the increasing narrowness and professionalization of academic philosophy. In working with graduate students, I hope to instill a capacity for clarity and rigor without sacrificing the sense of why philosophy matters.
Recent and forthcoming books
The Ethical Project (Harvard University Press, October 2011)
Science in a Democratic Society (Prometheus Books, September 2011)
Joyce’s Kaleidoscope: An Invitation to Finnegans Wake (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Living with Darwin (Oxford University Press, 2007)
“Militant Modern Atheism”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 28, 2011, 1-13
“Philosophy Inside Out”, Metaphilosophy
“Varieties of Altruism”, Economics and Philosophy, 2010
“Challenges for Secularism”, in George Levine (ed) The Joy of Secularism, Princeton University Press, 2010
“Mill’s Consequentialism”, in Dean Moyar (ed) The Routledge Companion to 19th Century Thought, 2010
“The Importance of Dewey for Philosophy (and much else besides)”, in John Shook (ed) Dewey at 150, Prometheus Books, 2010
Work in Progress
Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach (forthcoming from Columbia University Press)
Preludes to Pragmatism (a collection of articles, to be published by Oxford University Press)
My major project during the next few years will be to articulate the version of pragmatism to which the essays in the forthcoming collection are preludes. Part of that work will be presented as Terry Lectures at Yale in the Spring of 2013.
Philip Kitcher's CV
Pragmatism; Science and Social Issues; Philosophy in Literature