Nicholas Rescher Biography

Nicholas Rescher was born in Hagen, Germany, in 1928 and came to the USA at the age of ten. He is Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at be University of Pittsburgh where he has also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department and a Director (and currently Chairman) of the Center for Philosophy of Science. In a productive research career extending over six decades has established himself as a systematic philosopher of the old style with over one hundred books to this credit, ranging over all areas of philosophy with sixteen of them translated from English into eight other languages. 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. And apart from this larger program Rescher has made various specific contributions to logic including the “Rescher quantifier” and the conception autodescriptive systems of many-valued logic, the history of logic (the medieval Arabic theory of modal syllogistic), to the theory of knowledge (epistemetrics as a quantitative approach in theoretical epistemology), and to the philosophy of science (the theory of a logarithmic retardation of scientific progress). Rescher has also worked in the area of futuristics, and along with Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey is co-inaugurator of the so-called Delphi method of forecasting. The Encyclopedia of Bioethics credits Rescher with writing one of the very first articles in the field. Twelve books about Rescher’s philosophy have been published in four languages.

Rescher earned his doctorate at Princeton in 1951 while still at the age of twenty-two—a record for Princeton’s Department of Philosophy. He has served as a President of the American Philosophical Association, of the American Catholic Philosophy Association, of the American G. W. Leibniz Society, of the C. S. Peirce Society, and of the American Metaphysical Society as well as Secretary General of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Sciences. He was the founding editor of the American Philosophical Quarterly. 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, the European Academy of Arts and Sciences (Academia Europaea), the Royal Society of Canada, the Institut International de Philosophie, and several other learned academies. Having held visiting lectureships at Oxford, Constance, Salamanca, Munich, and Marburg, he has been awarded fellowships by the Ford, Guggenheim, and National Science Foundations. Author of some hundred books ranging over many areas of philosophy, he is the recipient of eight honorary degrees from universities on three continents. He was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt prize for Humanistic Scholarship in 1984, the Belgian Prix Mercier in 2005, and the Aquinas Medal of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in 2007. In 2011 he was awarded the premier cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesdienstkreuz Erster Klasse) of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of contributions to philosophy and to German-American cooperation in this domain.