Robert Richards

Robert J. Richards is the Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor in the History of Science, and Professor in the Departments of Philosophy, History, Psychology, and in the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science; he is director of the Fishbein Center for History of Science. He received his degree from Chicago in 1978. He does research and teaches in history and philosophy of biology and psychology.  This includes particular interest in evolutionary biopsychology, ethology, sociobiology, evolutionary ethics, philosophy of history, and German Romanticism. In  2003 and again in 2011, Robert Richards received the Laing book prize from University of Chicago Press;  in 2011, he received the Sarton Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the History of Science Society.  He was made a Corresponding Member in Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (2010).  He is the author or editor of several books, and many articles, some of which are listed below.

CV (DOC)


Contact

office: Social Sciences Research Building, Room 205
office hours: Autumn Quarter, Tuesdays: 1:00 - 2:30 pm and by appointment
office phone: 773/702-8343
email: r-richards@uchicago.edu

Department of History
Department of Psychology
The Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science
The Fishbein Center for History of Science

website: http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6

Robert Richard's recorded interviews and lectures

Robert Richards on Elucidations (Chicago podcast)

 

In the News

  • Philadelphia Inquirer: Planet of the apes: Luckless Lamarck, whose evolution theory preceded Darwin's — Prof. Robert Richards says French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck was brave to express non-creationist views during his lifetime (Feb. 6, 2012) - Link
  • "UChicago Press awards Robert Richards the Laing book prize" - UChicago News, May 13, 2011 - Link
  • Robert Richards in "The Richards/Dennett debate: Did Darwin think evolution was waiting for us?" November 2009, SCIENCE LIFE, University of Chicago Medicine Blog - Link
  • Robert Richards feature, "Chicago reprises historic Darwin gathering" UChicago News, October 2009 - Link
  • Additional past news and announcements can be found on our "News" and "Announcements" pages here.

Books

  • Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory (University of Chicago Press, 2013) - Link
  • The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008) - Link
  • Cambridge Companion to Darwin’s Origin of Species, edited with Michael Ruse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) - Link
  • The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 606 pp. (Winner of the University of Chicago Press Laing Prize, 2004). Paper back edition, 2004.
  • Darwinian Heretics, edited with Abigail Lustig and Michael Ruse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
  • The Meaning of Evolution: the Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwin's Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992; paperback, 1993). 203 pp. Spanish language edition, published by Alianza, 1998.
  • Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987; paperback, 1989), 700 pp. (Winner of the 1988 Pfizer Prize awarded by the History of Science Society for the best book in history of science; and the prize of the Biophilosophy Form, 1989) - Link

Selected Publications

  • “Haeckel’s Embryos:  Fraud Not Proven,” Biology and Philosophy, 24 (2009): 147-154. (PDF).
  • “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose,” Cambridge Companion to Darwin’s Origin of Species, eds. Robert J. Richards and Michael Ruse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). (PDF)
  • “The Moral Grammar of Narratives in History of Biology,” Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, eds. Michael Ruse and David Hull (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2007). (PDF)
  • “Nature is the Poetry of Mind, or How Schelling Solved Goethe’s Kantian Problems,” in The Kantian Legacy in Nineteenth Century Science (Cambridge:  MIT Press, 2006).
  • “Darwin's Metaphysics of Mind,” in Darwin and Philosophy, ed. Vittorior Hoesle and Christian Illies (Notre Dame:  Notre Dame University Press, 2005). (PDF)
  • Darwinian Heresies, ed. with Abigail Lustig and Michael Ruse (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • “Michael Ruse's Design for Living,” Journal of the History of Biology, Volume 37, Number 1, 2004 , pp. 25-38(14) (Link)
  • “Darwin on Mind, Morals, and Emotions,” In Cambridge Companion to Darwin, eds. J. Hodge and G. Radick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 92-115. (PDF)
  • The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002). Winner of the Laing Prize. (Link)
  • “Kant and Blumenbach on the Bildungstrieb: A Historical Misunderstanding,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, 31 (2000): 11-32. (PDF)
  • “The Epistemology of Historical Interpretation Progressivity and Recapitulation in Darwin's Theory,” in Biology and Epistemology Ed. Richard Creath, Jane Maienschein. 2000 (Link)
  • “Darwin's Romantic Biology The Foundation of His Evolutionary Ethics”
    in Biology and the Foundation of Ethics Ed. J. Maienschein, M. Ruse. 1999 (Link)
  • “Rhapsodies on a Cat-Piano, or Johann Christian Reil and the Foundations of Romantic Psychiatry,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Spring, 1998), pp. 700-736 (Link)
  • "A Defense of Evolutionary Ethics," with replies by Cela-Conde, Gewirth, Hughes, Thomas, and Trigg, and rejoinder "Justification through Biological Faith," Biology and Philosophy 1, no. 3 (1986). Reprinted in Issues in Evolutionary Ethics, ed. Paul Thompson (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995). ( PDF)
  • "Ideology and the History of Science," in Biology and Philosophy , 8 (1993): 103-108 (PDF)
  • The Meaning of Evolution: The Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwin’s Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). (Link)
  • Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).  Winner of the History of Science Pfizer Prize. (Link)
  • “Christian Wolff's Prolegomena to Empirical and Rational Psychology: Translation and Commentary,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 124, No. 3 (Jun. 30, 1980), pp. 227-239 (Link)
  • "Influence of Sensationalist Tradition on Early Theories of the Evolution of Behavior," Journal of the History of Ideas 40 (1979): 85-105. (PDF)
  • "The Natural Selection Model of Conceptual Evolution," Philosophy of Science 44 (1977): 494-501. (PDF)
  • "James Gibson's Passive Theory of Perception: a Rejection of the Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 37 (1976): 218-233. (PDF)
  • " Justification Through Biological Faith: A Rejoinder," Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science, The University of Chicago (PDF)

Please see CV (PDF) for a complete list of publications.

Selected Reviews of Robert Richards' Work

  • Author(s) of Review:  P. D. Smith
    Reviewed Work(s):  The Tragic Sense of Life:  Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought by Robert J. Richards, The Times Literary Supplement, 25 July 2008, pp. 12-13.
  • Author(s) of Review: Daniel C. Dennett
    Reviewed Work(s): Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior by Robert J. Richards, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 540-543 (Link)

Reviews of work and many papers can also be accessed at  http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6

Recent & Upcoming Courses

PHIL 24301/34301. Science and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries. (= CHSS 35506, HIPS 25506, HIST 25506, HIST 35506) One can distinguish four ways in which science and aesthetics are related during the period since the Renaissance. First, science has been the subject of artistic representation, in painting and photography, in poetry and novels (e.g., in Byron's poetry, for example). Second, science has been used to explain aesthetic effects (e.g., Helmholtz's work on the way painters achieve visual effects or musicians achieve tonal effects). Third, aesthetic means have been used to convey scientific conceptions (e.g., through illustrations in scientific volumes or through aesthetically affective and effective writing). Finally, philosophers have stepped back to consider the relationship between scientific knowing and aesthetic comprehension (e.g., Kant, Bas van Fraassen); much of the discussion of this latter will focus on the relation between images and what they represent. In this lecture-discussion course we will consider all of these aspects of the science-aesthetic connection. Spring 2017.

PHIL 43011. Reason and Religion. (=CDIN 40201, KNOW 40201, CLAS 46616, HIST 66606, CHSS 40201, DVPR 46616) The quarrel between reason and faith has a long history. The birth of Christianity was in the crucible of rationality. The ancient Greeks privileged this human capacity above all others, finding in reason the quality wherein man was closest to the gods, while the early Christians found this viewpoint antithetical to religious humility. As religion and its place in society have evolved throughout history, so have the standing of, and philosophical justification for, non-belief on rational grounds. This course will examine the intellectual and cultural history of arguments against religion in Western thought from antiquity to the present. Along the way, of course, we will also examine the assumptions bound up in the binary terms "religion" and "reason."Course requirements: 12-page research paper (40%), class report (30%), active participation (15%), book review (15%) Consent required: Email sbartsch@uchicago.edu a few sentences describing your background and what you hope to get out of this seminar. Winter 2017. With S. Bartsch

HIL 20506/30506. Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation. (=HIST 25110/35110, CHSS 35110) This lecture-discussion course will trace different theories of explanation in history from the nineteenth century to the present.  We will examine the ideas of Humboldt, Ranke,Dilthey, Collingwood, Braudel, Hempel, Danto, and White.  The considerations will encompass such topics as the nature of the past such that one can explain its features, the role of laws in historical explanation, the use of Verstehen history as a science, the character of narrative explanation,the structure of historical versus other kinds of explanation, and the function of the footnote. (II) Winter 2016.

PHIL 24301/34301. Science and Aesthetics in the 18th-21st Centuries. (HIST 25506/35506, CHSS XXXXX) One can distinguish four ways in which science and aesthetics are related during the last two centuries. First, science has been the subject of artistic effort, in painting and photography and in poetry and novels (e.g., in Goethe’s poetry or in H. G. Wells’s Island of Doctor Moreau). Second, science has been used to explain aesthetic effects (e.g., Helmholtz’s work on the way painters achieve visual effects or musicians achieve tonal effects). Third, aesthetic means have been used to convey scientific conceptions (e.g., through illustrations in scientific volumes or through aesthetically affective and effective writing). Finally philosophers have stepped back to consider the relationship between scientific knowing and aesthetic comprehension (e.g., Kant and Bas van Fraassen). In this course, we will consider these four modes of relationship. The first part of the quarter will be devoted to Kant, reading carefully his third critique; then we will turn to Goethe and Helmholtz, both feeling the impact of Kant, and to Wells, a student of T. H. Huxley. We then consider more contemporary modes expressive of the relationship, especially the role of illustrations in science and the work of contemporary philosophers like Fraassen. Winter 2015.

20610/30610. Goethe: Literature, Science and Philosophy. (=HIST 25304/35304, GRMN 25304/35304, CHSS 31202, HIPS 26701) This lecture/discussion course examines Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of Young Werther through the final stages of Faust. Along the way, we read a selection of Goethe’s plays, poetry, and travel literature. We also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we discuss Goethe’s coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter’s Third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling’s transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe is the unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in “the eternal feminine.” German is not required, but helpful. Winter 2014.

20506/30506: Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation. (=HIST 25110/35110) This lecture-discussion course will trace different theories of explanation in history from the nineteenth century to the present.  We will examine the ideas of Humboldt, Ranke, Dilthey, Collingwood, Braudel, Hempel, Danto, and White.  The considerations will encompass such topics as the nature of the past such that one can explain its features, the role of laws in historical explanation, the use of Verstehen history as a science, the character of narrative explanation,the structure of historical versus other kinds of explanation, and the function of the footnote. (II) Autumn 2013.

23405. History and Philosophy of Biology. This lecture-discussion class will examine in an episodic fashion the basic biological ideas of the following theorists: the Hippocratics, Aristotle, Vesalius, William Harvey, Descartes, Buffon, Galvani and Volta (i.e., the spark of life), Bichat, Schleiden and Schwann (i.e. cell theory), Lamarck, Darwin, Mendel. The central questions of concern will be: what is life and how can it be experimentally and theoretically investigated? (B) Winter 2012.

23015/33015. Darwin's Origin of Species and Descent of Man. (=FNDL 23501 BPRO 25150). This lecture-discussion class will focus on a close reading of Darwin's two classic texts. An initial class or two will explore the state of biology prior to Darwin's Beagle Voyage, and then consider the development of his theories before 1859. Then we will turn to his two books. Among the topics of central concern will be: the logical, epistemological, and rhetorical status of Darwin's several theories, especially his evolutionary ethics; the religious foundations of his ideas and the religious reaction to them; and the social-political consequences of his accomplishment. 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th of the publication of the "Origin." (B) (II) 2008. Syllabus

20600/30600. Philosophy of History: Historical Explanation
Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Third- or fourth-year standing.See History offerings in the College Catalog. (B) Autumn 2006. Syllabus

20610/30610. Goethe: Literature, Science and Philosophy
Open to college and grad students. This lecture-discussion course will examine Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of a Young Werther through the final stages of Faust. Along the way, we will read a selection of Goethe's plays, poetry, and travel literature. We will also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we will discuss Goethe's coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter's third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling's transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe will be the unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in "the eternal feminine." German is not required, but helpful. Autumn 2007. Winter 2010.

20701/30701. German Romanticism: Science, Philosophy, Literature
Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Open to third- and fourth-year College students with consent.. This is a lecture-discussion seminar that investigates the formation of the idea of the Romantic in literature, philosophy, and science during the age of Goethe. The works of the following will be discussed: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel brothers, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schiller, the Humboldt brothers, and Goethe. (V). Winter 2006. Syllabus

22810/32810. History and Philosophy of Psychology. Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Third- and fourth-year standing and consent of instructor. This lecture-discussion course will trace the development of psychology from the early modern period through the establishment of behaviorism in the 20th century. In the early period, we will read Descartes and Berkeley, both of whom contributed to ideas about the psychology of perception. Then we will jump to the 19th century, especially examining the perceptual psychology in the laboratory of Wundt, and follow some threads of the development of cognitive psychology in the work of William James. The course will conclude with the behavioristic revolution inaugurated by Chicago's own John Watson and expanded by F. B. Skinner. Winter 2004.

24300/34300. Evolution of Mind and Morality: 19th to 21st Centuries
Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. This lecture-discussion course will focus on theories of the evolution of mind and moral behavior. We will begin with Spencer's and Darwin's conception of mental and moral evolution, examine the psychological status of these ideas during the last part of the century in the work of William James, then jump to the last part of the 20th century, examining the development of sociobiology. The second part of the course will concentrate on the central features of evolutionary psychology, as that new discipline has come to be known, and on contemporary theories of the evolution of ethical behavior and rational cognition. Winter 2007. Autumn 2009.

25100. Evolutionary Theory and Its Role in the Human Sciences
Open to college students. Prerequisites: Third- or fourth-year. The course's aim is two-fold: 1) an examination of the origins and development of Darwin's theory from the early 19th century to the present; and 2) a selective investigation of the ways various disciplines of the human sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, ethics, politics, economics) have used evolutionary ideas. Winter 2008.

28500/38500. Darwin's Origin of Species
Open to college and grad students. This lecture/discussion course traces the development of Darwin's theory of evolution through the early stages (just after the Beagle voyage) to his Origin of Species. The principal focus of the course is on the Origin, its several editions, and the debates concerning the theory of evolution by natural selection. We'll be especially concerned to assess the logical and rhetorical structure of Darwin's argument. We will also consider the status of the contemporary alternative to the Darwin's theory, namely, Intelligent Design. *Special note: Additional crosslist: FNDL 23500. Autumn 2005.