Robert Richards

Robert Richards
Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science and Medicine
Social Sciences Research Building, Room 205
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter, Mondays: 3:00 - 4:00 pm; Fridays: 2:00 - 3:30 pm; and by appointment
773.702.8348
Teaching at UChicago since 1979; on leave Winter and Spring 2019
Research Interests: History and Philosophy of Biology and Psychology

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 Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine. He received his degree from the University of 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.

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Selected Publications

Debating Darwin, co-authored with Michael Ruse (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016)

Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

The Tragic Sense of Life:  Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2008; Paperback, 2009); 571 pp. (Winner of the University of Chicago Press Laing Prize, 2011.)

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); paperback edition, 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.)

Structure of Scientific Revolutions at 50, edited with Lorraine Daston (University of Chicago Press, 2016)

“Evolutionary Ethics, a Theory of Moral Realism,” in Cambridge Handbook of Evolutionary Ethics, ed. Michael Ruse and Robert J. Richards (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

"The Role of Biography in Intellectual History," KNOW, a Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 1, no. 2 (2017)

"The Impact of German Romanticism on Biology in the 19th Century," The Impact of Idealism: The Legacy in Philosophy and Science, ed. Nicholas Boyle (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

“’Nature is the Poetry of Mind,’ or How Schelling Solved Goethe’s Kantian Problems,” in Michael Friedman and Alfred Nordman (eds.), Kant and the Sciences (Boston:  MIT Press, 2006

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Recent Courses

PHIL 43011 Reason and Religion

(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."

Consent required: Email sbartsch@uchicago.edu a few sentences describing your background and what you hope to get out of this seminar.

Robert Richards, S. Bartsch
2017-2018 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Religion

PHIL 23015/33015 Darwin's "Origin of Species" and "Descent of Man"

(HIST 24905, HIPS 24901, FNDL 24905, HIST 34905, CHSS 38400)

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. The year 2009 was the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin's birth and the one hundred fiftieth of the publication of On the Origin of Species. (B) (II) (V)

2017-2018 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

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.

2016-2017 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Science
Aesthetics

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.

Robert Richards, S. Bartsch
2016-2017 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Religion
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For full list of Robert Richards's courses back to the 2012-13 academic year, see our searchable course database.