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.
office: Social Sciences Research Building, Room 205
office hours: Spring Quarter, Friday’s: 2:00 - 3:30 pm and by appointment
office phone: 773/702-8343
Robert Richard's recorded interviews and lectures
Robert Richards on Elucidations (Chicago podcast)
Please see CV (PDF) for a complete list of publications.
Reviews of work and many papers can also be accessed at http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6
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.