Edwin Arthur Burtt

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E.A. Burtt
Born 1892
Groton, Massachusetts
Died September 6, 1989
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Pragmatic naturalism (Υoung Radicals)
Main interests Philosophy of science History of science Philosophy of religion
Notable ideas Metaphysical Foundations of Physical Science

Edwin Arthur Burtt (1892 – September 6, 1989[1]) was an American philosopher who wrote extensively on the philosophy of religion. His doctoral thesis published as a book under the title The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science has had a significant influence upon the history of science that is not generally recognized, according to H. Floris Cohen.[2] He was educated at Yale University, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He became the prestigious Susan Linn Sage Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University in 1941.


He was born to missionary parents, who took Burtt (Ned) to China for several of his teenage years. Although he maintained throughout his life a sympathy towards religious values and beliefs, he acknowledged that his philosophy had been marked by a reaction towards what he saw as his own father's too narrow an outlook.[3] He graduated from Yale in 1915, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[4]:983


Although Burtt participated in drafting the Humanist Manifesto I, he did not work on the project further, because he lost interest after his ideas that spiritual experience is the identification with categories of space, time, causality, and other fundamental physical principles were never included in the final publications.[2] However in 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[5]

Influence upon Thomas Kuhn[edit]

Based on his own statements, Thomas Kuhn may very well have been unaware that in building on the philosophy of Alexandre Koyre, he was in turn building on the philosophy of Burtt whose influence upon Koyre has been demonstrated as substantial.[2]


  • The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. A Historical and Critical Essay (1924) London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner.
  • The Metaphysics of Sir Isaac Newton (1925)
  • Religion In An Age Of Science (1930)
  • Principles and Problems of Right Thinking (1931)
  • The English Philosophers, from Bacon to Mill (1939)
  • Types Of Religious Philosophy (1939)
  • The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha (1955)
  • Man Seeks the Divine: A Study in the History and Comparison of Religions (1957)
  • In Search Of Philosophic Understanding (1965)
  • Light Love and Life (1986)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Edwin Burtt, Professor And Author, Dies at 96". New York Times. September 9, 1989. 
  2. ^ a b c E.A. Burt, Historian and Philosopher: A Study of the author of The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science), Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, Kluwer Academic Publishers, p.194(b), p.3,4(c) ISBN 1-4020-0428-1
  3. ^ A Eulogy with young life details accessdate 3-29-08
  4. ^ Catalogue of Beta theta pi. J. T. Brown. 1917. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 

External links[edit]