Patrick T. Riley

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Patrick Thomas Riley (October 27, 1941 – March 10, 2015)[1] was Michael Oakeshott Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is notable for his translations of the political writings of Gottfried Leibniz and his research on social contract theory, the general will, and the history of universal jurisprudence. His first book, Will and Political Legitimacy,[2] offered "a critical exposition of social contract theory in Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel."[3] In Leibniz' Universal Jurisprudence,[4] Riley detailed the social, moral, and political philosophy of Leibniz, arguing for the English-speaking world that Leibniz was the most important German philosopher before Kant. He has also written extensively on the general will of Rousseau and Kant's political philosophy. He was the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Rousseau,[5] and Leibniz's political writings for Cambridge University Press.[6]

Riley received his undergraduate degree from Claremont Men's College.[7] He then briefly pursued a career as a conductor, studying at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Shortly thereafter, he earned his M.Phil at The London School of Economics under the supervision of Michael Oakeshott. In 1968, he received his Ph.D.[8] from Harvard University where on he studied under John Rawls and Judith Shklar.[9] While at Harvard, Riley won the Bowdoin Essay Prize for Graduate Students in 1966[10] and 1967.[11] He retired from the University of Wisconsin in 2007 after 36 years of teaching. In October 2008, a General Will Symposium was held on campus to honor Riley's career, including numerous former colleagues and students from throughout his career.[12] It was subsequently published by Cambridge University Press as The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept, edited by James Farr and David Lay Williams, and it features two of Riley's essays. In 2011, the Leibniz Review was dedicated to Riley's career and his numerous contributions to the journal over an extended period.[13] The volume included David Lay Williams's tribute to Riley's interpretation of Leibniz as a philosopher of love, as well as an account of Riley's own commitment to charity as a way of life.[14] In retirement, he taught courses at Harvard near his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.