Christia Mercer

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Christia Mercer
Residence New York, New York, United States
Nationality United States
Alma mater Brooklyn College (B.A.); Princeton University (Ph.D.)
Scientific career
Fields Early modern philosophy, Feminist Philosophy
Institutions Columbia University

Christia Mercer is the Gustave M. Berne Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, Mercer received her PhD from Princeton University in 1989 after studying art history at Brooklyn College. In between, she studied Latin with Reginald Foster at the Gregorian University in Rome in 1980, and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the Leibniz Archives in the University of Münster in 1984.[4]


Mercer has been at Columbia University since 1991. She works primarily in early modern philosophy and is the author of Leibniz's Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development (CUP, 2001),[5] which offers a new interpretation of Leibniz's philosophical development.[6][7][8][9] She has published widely on the diversity and importance of early modern Platonisms with a forthcoming book on the philosophy of the English Platonist, Anne Conway, Exploring the Philosophy of Anne Conway.[10]

Mercer’s current major research projects include Feeling the Way to Truth: Women, Reason and the Development of Modern Philosophy, which argues that historians of philosophy need to rethink core assumptions about seventeenth-century philosophy and that the writings of women play a much more significant part in that history than has been recognized; and Platonisms in Early Modern Thought, whose goal is to articulate the diversity of Platonisms that form the background to early modern thought and identify the range of Platonist assumptions underling early modern philosophy, theology, and art.[10]

From 2004 to 2015, Mercer was the North American Editor for Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie.[11] She is also the editor of a new series of books, entitled Oxford Philosophical Concepts.[12] Each of the volumes traces the historical development of central philosophical concepts and includes interdisciplinary "reflections." As of 2015, there are 30 volumes in various stages of production, and 5 published. These include Space, Memory, Consciousness, Self-Knowledge, Efficient Causation, Sympathy, Evil, and the Soul.

Along with Eileen O'Neill and Andrew Janiak, she is co-editor of a new series, Oxford New Histories of Philosophy, which "speaks to a growing concern to broaden and reexamine philosophy’s past."[13]

From 2010-2012 and 2013-2014, Mercer was the Chair for the Core Curriculum course, Literature Humanities, an interdisciplinary course on the masterpieces of Western literature and philosophy taken by all first-year undergraduates at Columbia College.[14] She was the Director for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia from 2000-2001.

In 2012, Mercer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.[15][16][17][18] She won the 2008 Columbia College Great Teacher Award[19] and the 2012 Mark van Doren Award, which annually recognizes a professor for her "commitment to undergraduate instruction, as well as for humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership."[20] She gave the Ernst Cassirer Lectures at the University of Hamburg in 2005.

She has also written articles on plagiarism,[21] Literature Humanities,[22] and the importance of "being queer"[23] for the Columbia Daily Spectator undergraduate newspaper. She appears in Pat Blute’s Hardcore as a naughty professor, a comic comment on Literature Humanities and the Core Curriculum at Columbia.[24]


Mercer's Twitter profile describes her as a "sometimes activist."[25] In 2015, she was the first Columbia University professor to teach in a prison as part of Columbia’s Justice In-Education Initiative.[26] At Taconic Correctional Facility, she taught female prisoners texts including the Aeschylus's Oresteia, Euripides's Medea, Aristophanes's Lysistrata, and William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. She has been active in the education and prison reform movements, publishing op-eds and posts in the Washington Post and other outlets about philosophy's gender bias, the history of Christianity, and the prison-industrial complex.[27][28][29][30][31] In 2015, her post on the Columbia prison divestment campaign was publicly challenged by Jonathan Burns, director of public affairs for the Corrections Corporation of America, who accused her of making "multiple misleading and false statements about our company." Mercer's response argued that "Mr. Burns’s demand for corrections exemplifies the tortured logic of the corporation he represents."[32]

Recent awards and positions[edit]

  • Fellowship, Folger Shakespeare Library, Spring, 2016.
  • Senior Professor, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy, Fall, 2015.
  • Resident Fellow, American Academy, Rome, Italy, Spring, 2013.
  • Sovereign/Columbia Affiliated Fellowship, American Academy, Rome, Italy, 2010-11.
  • Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy, 2009–present.
  • Great Teacher Award, Society of Columbia Graduates, Columbia College, 2008.
  • Gustave M. Berne Professorship in the Core Curriculum at Columbia College, 2003-2009.
  • North American Editor, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 2002–2015.
  • Guest Professor, Centre Alexandre Koyré, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, December 2003, November 5, December 7.
  • Ernst Cassirer Lectures, Ernst Cassirer Guest Professorship, Philosophy Faculty, University of Hamburg, Spring 2006.


  • Oxford Philosophical Concepts, General Editor
  • Early Modern Philosophy: Mind, Matter, and Mechanism (co-edited with Eileen O´Neill), Oxford University Press, 2005.[3]
  • Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development, Cambridge University Press, 2001; paperback edition, 2006.


  1. ^ "Columbia Faculty Page". Columbia University. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Mercer, Christia. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Early Modern Philosophy: Mind, Matter, and Metaphysics". Oxford University Press Catalog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  5. ^ Mercer, Christia (2001). Leibniz's Metaphysics: Its Origin and Development. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521403014. 
  6. ^ Hawthorne, John (28 March 2003). "Active or Passive?" (PDF). Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Look, Brandon. "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  8. ^ McDonough, Jeffrey. "Leibniz's Philosophy of Physics". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Youpa, Andrew. "Leibniz's Ethics". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Christia Mercer | Department of Philosophy". Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  11. ^ "Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie". De Gruyter. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Oxford Philosophical Concepts". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Oxford New Histories of Philosophy". Oxford New Histories of Philosophy. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  14. ^ "Faculty Profile: Christia Mercer". Columbia University. Archived from the original on 1 November 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  15. ^ Leiter, Brian. "Three philosophers win Guggenheim Fellowships". Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  16. ^ Budd, Jeremy (16 April 2012). "10 professors win Guggenheim Fellowships". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "Christia Mercer's Guggenheim page". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Eight Columbia Profs Win Guggenheim Fellowships". Bwog. Bwog. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Toure, Madina (24 October 2008). "Profs Honored With Teaching Awards". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Mercer, Lurie Receive Van Doren, Trilling Awards". Columbia College Today. Summer 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Mercer, Christia (31 March 2011). "Cheating and Dante's Hell". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  22. ^ Mercer, Christia (9 September 2010). "Lit Hum and the Examined Life". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  23. ^ Mercer, Christia (10 February 2008). "21st Century Feminism or the Need to "Be Queer"". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  24. ^ Blute, Pat. "Hard Core: A Columbia Odyssey". Bwog. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  25. ^ "Christia Mercer (@christiamercer8) | Twitter". Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  26. ^ "Philosophy Professor Teaches Core Classics at Women's Prison | Columbia News". Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  27. ^ Strauss, Valerie (2015-06-18). "The lessons of Juneteenth still matter 150 years later". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  28. ^ Strauss, Valerie (2015-06-16). "Radical Pop-Up Schools: A new way to reach educationally disadvantaged communities". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  29. ^ Anderson, Nick (2015-04-28). "Philosophy's gender bias: For too long, scholars say, women have been ignored". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  30. ^ Mercer, Christia (2015-03-24). "I teach philosophy at Columbia. But some of my best students are inmates". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  31. ^ "Sorry, Fox: Obama Was Right About Christianity's 'Terrible Deeds'". Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  32. ^ Strauss, Valerie (2015-07-15). "Update: Columbia University divesting from private prison companies. Why other schools should too". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 

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