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Nicholas Rescher

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Title: Nicholas Rescher  
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Subject: Alfred North Whitehead, Center for Philosophy of Science, Process philosophy, Metaphilosophy, Process and Reality
Collection: 1928 Births, 20Th-Century Philosophers, 21St-Century Philosophers, American Philosophers, Analytic Philosophers, Christian Philosophers, Converts to Roman Catholicism, Epistemologists, German Emigrants to the United States, German Roman Catholics, Living People, Officers Crosses of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, People from the Province of Westphalia, Presidents of the Metaphysical Society of America, Process Philosophy, Roman Catholic Philosophers, University of Pittsburgh Faculty
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Nicholas Rescher

Nicholas Rescher
Born (1928-07-15) 15 July 1928
Hagen, Germany
Religion Roman Catholicism
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Process philosophy
Pragmatic idealism
Main interests
Philosophy of subjectivity, history of philosophy, epistemology
Notable ideas
the price of an ultimate theory

Nicholas Rescher (; German: ; born 1928) is a German-American philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science and has formerly served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department.[1] He has served as president for the American Catholic Philosophical Association, American G.W. Leibniz Society, American Metaphysical Society, American Philosophical Association, and C.S. Peirce Society.[2] He is the founder of American Philosophical Quarterly.[3]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Philosophy 3
  • Honors 4
  • The Nicholas Rescher Prize 5
  • Eponymous concepts 6
  • Selected works 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10

Early life and education

Nicholas Rescher was born in the city of Hagen in the Westphalia region of Germany.[2] He relocated to the United States when he was 10. He obtained a degree in mathematics at Queens College, New York.[4] Thereafter, he attended Princeton University, graduating with his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1951 at the age of 22, the youngest person ever to have obtained a Ph.D. in that department.[1][2] From 1952 to 1954, he served a term in the United States Marine Corps, following which from 1954 to 1957 he worked for the Rand Corporation's mathematics division.[4]


Rescher began his career as an academic at Princeton University in 1951.[4][5] He joined the philosophy department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961, becoming chair first associate director of its new Center for Philosophy of Science the following year.[6] In 1964, he founded the American Philosophical Journal.[7] From 1980 to 1981, Rescher served as the chairman of the philosophy department.[4] In July 1988, Rescher changed roles at the Center for Philosophy of Science, resigning as its director and becoming its first vice chairman.[8] In 2010, he donated his philosophy collection to the Hillman Library.[4]

An honorary member of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, Academia Europaea, the Royal Society of Canada, and the Institut International de Philosophie, among others.[1]

Rescher is a prolific writer, with over 100 books and 400 articles, generating the jest that Rescher is not a single person, but a committee sharing the name.[2][3][9] Philosopher Michele Marsonet, who has published extensively on Rescher's philosophy, writes that his prolific publication is in itself the most common objection against Rescher, adding "it is, indeed, a leitmotiv of all those unwilling to discuss his ideas".[9] Rescher has described his own approach to philosophy as synthesizing the idealism of Germany and Great Britain with the pragmatism of the U.S.[10]


Rescher's university biography describes his philosophical work thus:[1]

His work envisions a dialectical tension between our synoptic aspirations for useful knowledge and our human limitations as finite inquirers. The elaboration of this project represents a many-sided approach to fundamental philosophical issues that weaves together threads of thought from the philosophy of science, and from continental idealism and American pragmatism.

In the mid and late 1960s, his studies were focused on medieval Arabic logic, but he soon broadened his areas of inquiry in metaphysics and epistemology, moving towards the methodological pragmatism he would define.[11] In the 1970s, he began working more extensively with American pragmatism with a focus on the writings of C.S. Peirce, who was to number among his major influences.[12]

He has contributed to futuristics, and with Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey, invented the Delphi method of forecasting.[1] A lifelong aficionado of the philosophy of G. W. Leibniz, Rescher has been instrumental in the reconstruction of Leibniz’s machina deciphratoria, an ancestor of the famous Enigma cipher machine. Rescher is also responsible for two further items of historical rediscovery and reconstruction: the model of cosmic evolution in Anaximander,[13] and the medieval theory of modal syllogistic.[14]


Rescher has been honored many times for his work. In 1984, he received the Humboldt Prize for Humanistic Scholarship.[2] In 2005, he received the Cardinal Mercier Prize, and in 2007 the American Catholic Philosophical Society's Aquinas Medal. In 2011, his contributions as a German-American to philosophy were recognized with the premier cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.[1] He holds eight honorary degrees.

Having held visiting lectureships at Oxford, Konstanz, Salamanca, Munich, and Marburg, he has been awarded fellowships by the Ford, Guggenheim, and National Science Foundations.[1]

The Nicholas Rescher Prize

In 2010, the University of Pittsburgh created the Dr. Nicholas Rescher Fund for the Advancement of the Department of Philosophy which bestows the Nicholas Rescher Prize for Contributions to Systematic Philosophy.[4] The first recipient of the prize was Rescher's former student, Ernest Sosa. As of 2012, the prize included a medal and $25,000.00.[15]

Eponymous concepts

Selected works

For a more complete list of publications (books) from 1960-2006, see

OUP = Oxford University Press. PUP = Princeton University Press. SUNY Press = State University of New York Press. UPA = University Press of America. UPP = University of Pittsburgh Press.

  • 1964. The Development of Arabic Logic. UPP.
  • 1966. Galen and the Syllogism. UPP.
  • 1966. The Logic of Commands. Dover Publications, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
  • 1967. Studies in Arabic Philosophy. UPP.
  • 1969. Introduction to Value Theory. (Reissued 1982) UPA.
  • 1973. The Coherence Theory of Truth. (Reissued 1982) UPA.
  • 1977. Methodological Pragmatism: A Systems-Theoretic Approach to the Theory of Knowledge. Basil Blackwell; New York University Press.
  • 1978. Scientific Progress: A Philosophical Essay on the Economics of Research in Natural Science. UPP
  • 1983. Risk: A Philosophical Introduction to the Theory of Risk Evaluation and Management. UPA.
  • 1984. The Limits of Science. (Reissued 1999) UPP.
  • 1985. The Strife of Systems: An Essay on the Grounds and Implications of Philosophical Diversity. UPP.
  • 1988. Rationality. OUP.
  • 1989. Cognitive Economy: Economic Perspectives in the Theory of Knowledge. UPP.
  • 1989. A Useful Inheritance: Evolutionary Epistemology in Philosophical Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • 1990. Human Interests: Reflections on Philosophical Anthropology. Stanford University Press.
  • A System of Pragmatic Idealism
    • 1991. Volume I: Human Knowledge in Idealistic Perspective. PUP.
    • 1992. Volume II: The Validity of Values: Human Values in Pragmatic Perspective. PUP.
    • 1994. Volume III: Metaphilosophical Inquiries. PUP.
  • 1993. Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus. OUP.
  • 1995. Luck. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  • 1995. Essays in the History of Philosophy. UK: Aldershot.
  • 1995. Process Metaphysics. SUNY Press.
  • 1996. Instructive Journey: An Autobiographical Essay. UPA.
  • 1997. Predicting The Future: An Introduction To The Theory Of Forecasting. SUNY Press
  • 1998. Complexity: A Philosophical Overview. Transaction Publishers.
  • 1999. Kant and the Reach of Reason. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1999. Realistic Pragmatism: An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy. SUNY Press.
  • 2000. Nature and Understanding: A Study of the Metaphysics of Science. OUP.
  • 2001. Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution. Open Court Publishing.
  • 2001. Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues. UPP.
  • 2003. Epistemology: On the Scope and Limits of Knowledge. SUNY Press.
  • 2003. On Leibniz. UPP.
  • 2005. Epistemic Logic. UPP.
  • 2005. Reason and Reality: Realism and Idealism in Pragmatic Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • 2005-2006. Collected Papers in 10 vols. Ontos Verlag.
  • 2006. Metaphysics: The Key Issues from a Realist Perspective. Prometheus Books.
  • 2006. Epistemetrics. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2006. Error: On Our Predicament When Things Go Wrong. UPP.
  • 2007. Conditionals. MIT Press.
  • 2009. Aporetics. UPP.
  • 2009. Free Will. Transaction Books.
  • 2009. Ignorance: On the Wider Implications of Deficient Knowledge. UPP.
  • 2009. Unknowability. Lexington Books.
  • 2009. Wishful Thinking and Other Philosophical Reflections. Ontos.
  • 2009. Epistemological Studies. Ontos.
  • 2010. Ideas in Process: A Study of the development of Philosophical Concepts. Ontos Verlag.
  • 2010. Studies in Quantitative Philosophy. Ontos Verlag.
  • 2010. Reality and Its Appearance. Continuum.
  • 2010. A Free Will Bibliography. Ontos. With Estelle Burris
  • 2010. Philosophical Inquiries. UPP.
  • 2010. Infinite Regress. Transaction Books
  • 2010. Axiogenesis: An Essay in Metaphysical Optimalism. Lexington Books.
  • 2010. Philosophical Textuality: Studies on Issues of Discourses in Philosophy. Ontos.
  • 2010. On Rules and Principles: A Philosophical Study of their Nature and Function. Ontos.
  • 2010. Finitude: A Study of Cognitive Limits and Limitations. Ontos.
  • 2010. Beyond Sets: A Venture in Collection-Theoretico Revisionism. Ontos. With Patrick Grim.
  • 2011. On Certainty: And Other Philosophical Essays. Ontos.
  • 2011. Philosophical Explorations. Ontos.
  • 2011. Philosophical Episodes. Ontos.
  • 2011. Productive Evolution. Ontos.
  • 2012. Pragmatism. Transaction Books.
  • 2012. Reflexivity. (With Patrick Grim) Ontos.
  • 2012. On Explaining Existence. Ontos.
  • 2012. Philosophische Vorsellungen. Ontos.
  • 2012. Philosophical Deliberations. Ontos.
  • 2012. On Leibniz. UPP.
  • 2012. Epistemic Merit: And Other Essays in Epistemology. Ontos.

See also


As of this edit, this article uses content from "Dr. Nicholas Rescher", which is licensed in a way that permits reuse under the , but not under the . All relevant terms must be followed.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g University of Pittsburgh 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e Marsonet 2014
  3. ^ a b Sosa & Cohen 1979, p. ix
  4. ^ a b c d e f University of Pittsburgh 2011
  5. ^
  6. ^ Center for Philosophy of Science 2001, pp. 2–3
  7. ^ University of Illinois Press 2014
  8. ^ Center for Philosophy of Science 2001, p. 4
  9. ^ a b Marsonet 2008, p. iv-v
  10. ^ Jacquette 2009, p. 1
  11. ^ Jacquette 2009, p. 2
  12. ^ Jacquette 2009, pp. 3–4
  13. ^ 2001, Robert Hahn, Anaximander and the Architects (Albany: SUNY Press).
  14. ^ 2000, Tony Street, "Toward a History of Syllogistic after Avicenna: A Note on Rescher's Studies in Arabid Modal Logic," Journal of Islamic Studies, vol. 11, pp. 209-28.
  15. ^ Anderson 2012


  • Michel Weber has worked on the meaning and significance of N. Rescher's process works: Michel Weber (ed.), After Whitehead: Rescher on Process Metaphysics, Frankfurt / Paris / Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, 2004 ; « Rescher on Process », in Robert Almeder (ed.), Rescher Studies. A Collection of Essays on the Philosophical Work of Nicholas Rescher. Presented to Him on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday, Frankfurt / Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, 2008, 429-444 ; « Nicholas Rescher, Autobiography, Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag, Nicholas Rescher Collected Papers. Supplementary Volume, 2007. Critical review », Process Studies 37.2, 2008, pp. 211–213..
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