Charles Parsons (philosopher)

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Charles Parsons
Charles Dacre Parsons

April 13, 1933
Alma materHarvard University
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Doctoral advisorBurton Dreben, Willard Van Orman Quine
Doctoral studentsMichael Levin, James Higginbotham, Peter Ludlow, Gila Sher, Øystein Linnebo
Main interests
Philosophy of mathematics
Notable ideas
The distinction between "intuition-of" and "intuition-that"[1]

Charles Dacre Parsons (born April 13, 1933) is an American philosopher best known for his work in the philosophy of mathematics and the study of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. He is professor emeritus at Harvard University.

Education and career[edit]

Parsons is a son of the famous Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard University in 1961, under the direction of Burton Dreben and Willard Van Orman Quine.[2][3] He taught for many years at Columbia University before moving to Harvard University in 1989.[3] He retired in 2005 as the Edgar Pierce professor of philosophy, a position formerly held by Quine.[3]

He is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.[4]

Among his former doctoral students are Michael Levin, James Higginbotham, Peter Ludlow, Gila Sher and Øystein Linnebo.

Philosophical work[edit]

In addition to his work in logic and the philosophy of mathematics, Parsons was an editor, with Solomon Feferman and others, of the posthumous works of Kurt Gödel.[5] He has also written on historical figures, especially Immanuel Kant,[6] Gottlob Frege,[7] Kurt Gödel,[8] and Willard Van Orman Quine.[9]



  • 1983. Mathematics in Philosophy: Selected Essays. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.
  • 2008. Mathematical Thought and its Objects. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • 2012. From Kant to Husserl: Selected Essays. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 2014a. Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century: Selected Essays. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

Selected articles[edit]

  • 1987. "Developing arithmetic in set theory without infinity: Some historical remarks". History and Philosophy of Logic, vol. 8, pp. 201–213.
  • 1990a. "The uniqueness of the natural numbers". Iyyun, vol. 39, pp. 13–44. ISSN 0021-3306 (2 pp.).
  • 1990b. "The structuralist view of mathematical objects". Synthese, vol. 84 (3), pp. 303–346.
  • 2014b. "Analyticity for realists". In Interpreting Gödel: Critical Essays, ed. J. Kennedy. Cambridge University Press, pp. 131–150.


  1. ^ Bob Hale and Crispin Wright, "Benacerraf's dilemma revisited", European Journal of Philosophy 10(1):101–129 (2002).
  2. ^ Charles Dacre Parsons at the Mathematics Genealogy Project.
  3. ^ a b c Professor Emeritus Charles D. Parsons, Harvard University Department of Philosophy.
  4. ^ "Gruppe 3: Idéfag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  5. ^ Kurt Gödel, Collected Works, ed. S. Feferman, et al. Oxford University Press. Vol. III, 1995. Vols. IV–V, 2003.
  6. ^ E.g. "The Transcendental Aesthetic", Parsons [2012], Essay 1; also [1983], Essays 4 and 5.
  7. ^ E.g. "Some remarks on Frege's conception of extension", with a postscript, Parsons [2012], Essay 5; also [1983], Essay 6.
  8. ^ E.g. "Platonism and mathematical intuition in Kurt Gödel's thought", The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, vol. 1 (1995), pp. 44–74; [2014a], Essay 5, with postscript; [2014b].
  9. ^ "Quine and Gödel on analyticity", Parsons [2014a], Essay 6; also Essays 8 and 9, and [1983], Essay 7.