History of the Department

Founded in 1894, the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago is one of the oldest in the United States. John Dewey served as its first chair from 1894 to 1904; under his stewardship, it rapidly became a leading center for the study of philosophy. Led first by Dewey, then James H. Tufts, and subsequently George Herbert Mead, the department was associated in its early decades, above all, with the so-called “Chicago School of Thought,” which sought to furnish a reformulation of the basic commitments of pragmatism on a strict logical basis. Under the influence of President Robert Hutchins in the early 1930s, the study of the history of philosophy acquired an important role—one which it has retained until this day—in the university’s conception of its intellectual mission as well as in its undergraduate curriculum. Beginning in 1936, when Rudolf Carnap emigrated from Austria to the United States to join Charles Morris as a member of the faculty, Chicago became an important center for analytic philosophy—especially for logic and the philosophy of science. Over the years, numerous other distinguished philosophers have served as members of the Chicago faculty, including Elizabeth Anscombe, Hannah Arendt, Donald Davidson, Richard McKeon, Bertrand Russell, and Leo Strauss.