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Nicholas Rescher (born July 15, 1928 in Hagen, Germany) is an American philosopher, affiliated for many years with the University of Pittsburgh, where he is currently Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science. He came to the United States at the age of nine. Rescher served in the U.S. Marine Corps during 1952-54.



Rescher obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1951, the youngest person—22 at the time—ever to do so in that department [1] He is among the most prolific of contemporary scholars, having written about 400 articles and 100 books, ranging over many areas of philosophy, over a dozen of which have been translated into other languages.

He was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Humanistic Scholarship in 1984, the Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy in 2005, and the American Catholic Philosophical Society's Aquinas medal in 2007. He has served as a President of the American Philosophical Association, American Catholic Philosophy Association, American G. W. Leibniz Society, C. S. Peirce Society, and the American Metaphysical Society. He has held visiting lectureships at Oxford, Constance, Salamanca, Munich, and Marburg, and his work has been recognized by seven honorary degrees from universities on three continents. Rescher serves on the editorial board of Process Studies, the principal academic journal for both process philosophy and theology.

Rescher arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961 where has been a faculty member ever since. He is a former chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Philosophy and currently co-chairs the Center for Philosophy of Science with the status of Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and is also a member of the Academia Europaea and of the Royal Society of Canada.[1] His life is detailed in an Autobiography (Frankfurt: ONTOS, 2007).


Rescher has written on a wide range of topics, including logic, epistemology, the philosophy of science, metaphysics, and the philosophy of value. He is best known as an advocate of pragmatism and, more recently, of process philosophy.

Over the course of his six decade research career, Rescher has established himself as a systematic philosopher of the old style, and the author of a system of pragmatic idealism that combines elements of continental idealism with American pragmatism. To this end, he:

  • Has developed a system of pragmatic idealism, in which the activity of the human mind makes a positive and constitutive contribution to knowledge, and "valid" knowledge contributes to practical success;
  • Defends a coherence theory of truth in a manner differing somewhat from that of classical idealism; see e.g. his exchange in The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard (in the Library of Living Philosophers series);
  • Advocates [2] an "erotetic propagation" of science, asserting that scientific inquiry will continue without end because each newly answered question adds a presupposition for at least one more open question to the current body of scientific knowledge.
  • Propounds an epistemic law of diminishing returns which holds that actual knowledge merely stands as the logarithm of the available information. This has the corollary that the comparative growth of knowledge is inversely propositional to the volume of information already at hand, so that when information grows exponentially, knowledge will grow at a merely linear rate.

Apart from this larger program, Rescher has made significant contributions to:

One central theme of his thought is the role of unknowing, uncertainty, risk, and luck in human affairs. The resultant need for orientation and support amidst the challenges of life in conditions so largely beyond our control as a prime pillar of religion.

During the 1960s and 70s Rescher worked extensively in symbolic and philosophical logic, contributing various innovations in many-sided logic and temporal logic, including the conception of autodescriptive systems of many-valued logic. He has also contributed to futuristics, and with Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey, invented the Delphi method of forecasting.

Eponymous concepts


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.
  • 1968. Studies in Arabic Philosophy. UPP.
  • 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
  • 1982 (1973). The Coherence Theory of Truth. UPA.
  • 1982 (1969). Introduction to Value Theory. UPA.
  • 1983. Risk: A Philosophical Introduction to the Theory of Risk Evaluation and Management. UPA.
  • 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.
  • 1993. Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus. OUP.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 1998. Complexity: A Philosophical Overview. Transaction Publishers.
  • 1998. Predicting The Future: An Introduction To The Theory Of Forecasting. SUNY Press
  • 1999. Kant and the Reach of Reason. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1999. Realistic Pragmatism: An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy. SUNY Press.
  • 1999 (1984). The Limits of Science. UPP.
  • 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.
  • 2004. Epistemic Logic. UPP.
  • 2005. Metaphysics: The Key Issues from a Realist Perspective. Prometheus Books.
  • 2005. Reason and Reality: Realism and Idealism in Pragmatic Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • 2005-2006. Collected Papers in 14 vols. Ontos Verlag.
  • 2006. Epistemetrics. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2006. Conditionals. MIT Press.
  • 2007. Error: On Our Predicament When Things Go Wrong. UPP.
  • 2008. Aporetics. UPP.
  • 2009. Unknowability. Lexington Books.
  • 2009. Free Will. Transaction Books.
  • 2009. Ignorance: On the Wider Implications of Deficient Knowledge, UPP.

See also


  1. ^ "Rescher elected AAAS fellow", University Times (University of Pittsburgh), 2009-05-14,, retrieved 2009-05-15  
  2. ^ 1984, "The Limits of Science" in Paul Weingartner and Hans Czermak, eds., Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Proceedings of the 7th International Wittgenstein Symposium: 223-231.
  • Robert Almeder ed., 1982. Praxis and Reason: Studies in the Philosophy of Nicholas Rescher (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America) A collection of critical and expanding essays with brief replies by Rescher. The contributors include: Timo Airaksinen, Robert Almeder, Antonio Cua, John E. Hare, Risto Hilpinen, John Kekes, Gerald J. Massey, Jack W. Meiland, Mark Pastin, Friedrick Rapp, James Sterba, and Dennis Temple.
  • Bottani, Andrea, 1989. Verità e Coerenza: Suggio su’ll epistemologia coerentista di Nicholas Rescher (Milano: Franco Angeli Liberi). A systematic study of Rescher’s coherence theory of truth.
  • Carrier, Martin et al., eds., 2000. Science at the Century’s End: Philosophical Questions on the Progress and Limits of Science (Pittsburgh and Konstanz: University of Pittsburgh Press and University of Konstanz Press). Pp. 40-134 contains a symposium devoted to NR’s work on the Limits of Science with contributions by Robert Almeder, Laura Ruetsche, Juergen Mittelstrass, and Martin Carrier.
  • Coomann, Heinrich, 1983. Die Kohaerenztheorie der Wahrheit: Eine kritische Darstellung der Theorie Reschers von Ihrem historischen Hintergrund (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang).
  • Marsonet, Michele, 1995. The Primacy of Practical Reason: An Essay on Nicholas Rescher’s Philosophy (Lanham, MD: University Press of America).
  • Moutafakis, Nicholas J., 2007. Rescher on Rationality, Values, and Social Responsibility (Frankfurt: ONTOS Verlag).
  • Murray, Paul D., 2004. Reason, Truth and Theology in Pragmatist Perspective (Leuven: Peeters). A theological study largely devoted to NR’s ideas.
  • Nabavi, Lotfallah, 2003. Avicennan Logic Based on Nicholas Rescher’s Point of View (Tehran: Scientific and Cultural Publication Co.).
  • Ernest Sosa ed., 1979. The Philosophy of Nicholas Rescher (Dordrecht: D. Reidel). A collection of critical essays with brief replies by Rescher. The contributors include: Annette Baier, Stephen Barker, Nuel D. Belnap, Jr., Laurence BonJour, Robert E. Butts, Roderick M. Chisholm, L. Jonathan Cohen, Jude J. Dougherty, Brian Ellis, R.M. Hare, Hide Ishiguro, Georg H. von Wright, and John W. Yolton.
  • Weber, Michel, ed., 2004. After Whitehead: Rescher and Process Philosophy (Frankfurt: ONTOS Verlag).
  • Wüstehube, Axel, and Michael Quante, eds., 1998. Pragmatic Idealism: Critical Essays on Nicholas Rescher’s System of Pragmatic Idealism (Amsterdam: Rodopi). Critical essays on NR’s “Pragmatic Idealism” trilogy by eighteen contemporary philosophers in Europe and the USA.
  • Almeder, Robert (ed.), Rescher Studies: A Collection of Essays on the Philosophical Work of Nicholas Rescher (Frankfurt: ONTOS, 2008).
  • Jacquette, Dale (ed.), Reason Method and Value: A Reader on the Philosophy of Nicholas Rescher (Frankfurt: ONTOS, 2009).

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