Richard J. Bernstein

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For other people named Richard Bernstein, see Richard Bernstein (disambiguation).

Richard J. Bernstein (born May 14, 1932) is an American philosopher, the Vera List Professor of Philosophy and former dean of the graduate faculty at The New School.[1][2] He is best known for his work synthesizing and developing themes from American pragmatism, hermeneutics, and critical theory.

Early life and education[edit]

Bernstein grew up as part of a middle-class Jewish family in Borough Park, Brooklyn; his family moved to Long Island, New York following World War II.[3] He received an A.B (1951) from the University of Chicago, a B.S. summa cum laude (1953) from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. (1958) from Yale University.


He took a faculty position at Yale, but in 1965, the university denied him tenure despite the initial unanimous support of his department, leading to student protests[4][5][6][7][8][9] and eventually to reforms of the tenure system at Yale.[10][11] This event, now called the Bernstein Affair, was “one of the most contested cases of tenure in the United States.”[3] Bernstein then moved to a tenured position at Haverford College,[12] where he taught for 23 years and became the T. Wistar Brown Professor of Philosophy before later moving to The New School.[1] At The New School, the Richard J. Bernstein Endowed Prize Fellowship in Philosophy is awarded to distinguished philosophy students in his honor.[13] In 1981, Bernstein became founding co-editor of Praxis International, the revived journal of the Yugoslav Praxis School philosophical movement. In 1988, he served as President of the Metaphysical Society of America, and in 1989 as President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association.


He is best known for his work synthesizing and developing themes from American pragmatism, hermeneutics, and critical theory.

Davaney & Frisina (2006) write:[14]


Bernstein's many books include:

  • John Dewey (Washington Square Press, 1966)
  • Praxis and Action: Contemporary Philosophies of Human Activity (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1971)
  • The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)
  • Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1983)
  • Philosophical Profiles: Essays in a Pragmatic Mode (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1986)
  • The New Constellation: The Ethical-Political Horizons of Modernity/Postmodernity (MIT Press, 1992)
  • Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question (MIT Press, 1996)
  • Freud and the Legacy of Moses (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998)
  • Radical Evil: A Philosophical Interrogation (Blackwell Publishers, 2002)
  • The Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 9/11 (Polity Press, 2006)
  • The Pragmatic Turn (Polity Press, 2010)
  • Violence: Thinking without Banisters (Polity Press, 2013)

As Editor

  • Habermas and Modernity (MIT Press, 1995)


  • The Pragmatic Century: Conversations with Richard J. Bernstein, ed. Sheila Greeve Davaney & Warren G. Frisina (State University of New York Press (2006)
  • Pragmatism, Critique, Judgment: Essays for Richard J. Bernstein, ed. Seyla Benhabib & Nancy Fraser (MIT Press, 2004)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Phi Beta Kappa Lecture: Bernstein to address democracy on March 8, Earlham College, February 27, 2004.
  2. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (June 5, 2002), "Graduate Faculty Dean Is Named at New School University", New York Times .
  3. ^ a b Weiss, Paul; Brewster, Kingman; Heller, Agnes (2004), "A Philosopher from New York", in Benhabib, Seyla; Fraser, Nancy, Pragmatism, Critique, Judgment: Essays for Richard J. Bernstein, MIT Press, pp. 329–352 .
  4. ^ Devlins, John C. (March 2, 1965), "Yale Men Picket Over Tenure Rule: Students Charge University Looks For Quantity, Not Quality, In Writings", New York Times .
  5. ^ "Professors at Yale Drop Tenure Fight", New York Times, March 8, 1965 .
  6. ^ Bilitz, Walter (March 12, 1965), "Yale's Tenure Row Ends in an Assembly", Chicago Tribune .
  7. ^ "How To Rate a Teacher", Time Magazine, March 12, 1965 .
  8. ^ Jaffs, Raymond (March 14, 1965), "Non-Writing Professors", New York Times .
  9. ^ Hechinger, Fred M. (March 14, 1965), "The News of the Week in Education: Student Action", New York Times .
  10. ^ "Students & Tenure at Yale", Time Magazine, October 22, 1965 .
  11. ^ Currivan, Gene (May 14, 1967), "Don't Publish, Don't Perish", New York Times .
  12. ^ "Denied Tenure at Yale, Bernstein Gets New Post", Hartford Courant, July 29, 1965 .
  13. ^ Named Fellowships, The New School.
  14. ^ Davaney, Sheila Greeve; Frisina, Warren G. (2006), The Pragmatic Century: Conversations with Richard J. Bernstein, SUNY Press, p. vii .

External links[edit]