|Born||20 February 1947
|Residence||New York City, United States|
|Alma mater||Christ's College, University of Cambridge (B.A.); Princeton University (PhD)|
|School||Analytic philosophy, Pragmatism|
|Philosophy of Science, Bioethics, Philosophy of Mathematics, Pragmatism|
Philip Stuart Kitcher (born 20 February 1947) is an American philosophy professor who specialises in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of literature, and, more recently, pragmatism.
Born in London, Kitcher spent his early life in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on the South Coast of the United Kingdom. He earned his B.A. in Mathematics/History and Philosophy of Science from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1969, and his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from Princeton University in 1974, where he worked closely with Carl Hempel and Thomas Kuhn.
Kitcher is best known outside academia for his work examining creationism and sociobiology. His works attempt to connect the questions raised in philosophy of biology and philosophy of mathematics with the central philosophical issues of epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. He has also published papers on John Stuart Mill, Kant and other figures in the history of philosophy. HIs 2012 book documented his developing interest in John Dewey and a pragmatic approach to philosophical issues. He sees pragmatism as providing a unifying and reconstructive approach to traditional philosophy issues. He had, a year earlier, published a book outlining a naturalistic approach to ethics, The Ethical Project (Harvard University Press, 2011). He has also done work on the philosophy of climate change.
Criteria for what constitutes 'good science'
Kitcher's three criteria for good science are:
- 1. Independent testability of auxiliary hypotheses
- "An auxiliary hypothesis ought to be testable independently of the particular problem it is introduced to solve, independently of the theory it is designed to save" (e.g. the evidence for the existence of Neptune is independent of the anomalies in Uranus's orbit).
- 2. Unification
- "A science should be unified .... Good theories consist of just one problem-solving strategy, or a small family of problem-solving strategies, that can be applied to a wide range of problems".
- 3. Fecundity
- "A great scientific theory, like Newton's, opens up new areas of research... Because a theory presents a new way of looking at the world, it can lead us to ask new questions, and so to embark on new and fruitful lines of inquiry... Typically, a flourishing science is incomplete. At any time, it raises more questions than it can currently answer. But incompleteness is no vice. On the contrary, incompleteness is the mother of fecundity... A good theory should be productive; it should raise new questions and presume that those questions can be answered without giving up its problem-solving strategies".
He increasingly recognised the role of values in practical decisions about scientific research
Kuhn and creationism
Kitcher commented on the way creationists have misinterpreted Kuhn:
Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has probably been more widely read—and more widely misinterpreted—than any other book in the recent philosophy of science. The broad circulation of his views has generated a popular caricature of Kuhn's position. According to this popular caricature, scientists working in a field belong to a club. All club members are required to agree on main points of doctrine. Indeed, the price of admission is several years of graduate education, during which the chief dogmas are inculcated. The views of outsiders are ignored. Now I want to emphasize that this is a hopeless caricature, both of the practice of scientists and of Kuhn's analysis of the practice. Nevertheless, the caricature has become commonly accepted as a faithful representation, thereby lending support to the Creationists' claims that their views are arrogantly disregarded.
Kitcher currently teaches at Columbia University in the Department of Philosophy where he holds an appointment as the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy. As chair of Columbia's Contemporary Civilization program (part of its undergraduate Core Curriculum), he also holds the James R. Barker Professorship of Contemporary Civilization. Before moving to Columbia, Kitcher taught at the University of Vermont, Vassar College, The University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, and for several years at University of California, San Diego where he held the position of Presidential Professor of Philosophy.
Kitcher is past president of the American Philosophical Association. In 2002, Kitcher was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he was awarded the inaugural Prometheus Prize from the American Philosophical Association in 2006 in honour of extended achievement in the philosophy of science.
He has trained a number of prominent philosophers of science, including Peter Godfrey-Smith at the City University of New York Graduate Center, Kyle Stanford at the University of California at Irvine, Michael R. Dietrich at Dartmouth College, and Bruce Glymour at Kansas State University, and C. Kenneth Waters at the University of Calgary and Michael Weisberg at the University of Pennsylvania as undergraduates.
His appointments and service have included:
- Editorial Board, Philosophy of Science, 1985–1994.
- Editor-in-Chief, Philosophy of Science, 1994–1999.
- Governing Board, Philosophy of Science Association, 1987–1991.
- Member NIH/DOE Working Group on the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project, 1995–1997.
- Representative of the American Philosophical Association to Section L of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1995–1998.
- Member, Board of Officers, American Philosophical Association, 1996–99.
- Philosophy Referee for John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1994—
- Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism. MIT Press, 1982 (paperback 1983). ISBN 0-262-61037-X
- The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge. Oxford University Press, 1983 (paperback 1984).
- Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature. MIT Press, 1985 (paperback 1987).
- The Advancement of Science, Oxford University Press, April 1993 (paper January 1995).
- The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities (Simon and Schuster [US], Penguin [UK], January 1996, paperback editions 1997). The American paperback contains a postscript on cloning, almost identical with his article "Whose Self is it, Anyway?”.
- Patterns of Scientific Controversies, essay in Scientific Controversies: Philosophical and Historical Perspectives
- Science, Truth, and Democracy, Oxford University Press, 2001; paperback 2003. ISBN 0-19-516552-7
- In Mendel's Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology, Oxford University Press, 2003. (This is a collection of seventeen of his articles).
- Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring, co-authored with Richard Schacht, Oxford University Press, February 2004. ISBN 0-19-517359-7
- Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith, Oxford University Press, January 2007. ISBN 0-19-531444-1
- Joyce's Kaleidoscope: An Invitation to Finnegans Wake, Oxford University Press, July 2007. ISBN 0-19-532103-0
- The Ethical Project, Harvard University Press, October 2011. ISBN 0-67-406144-6
- Science in a Democratic Society, Prometheus Books, September 2011. ISBN 1-61-614407-6
- Preludes to Pragmatism: Toward a Reconstruction of Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780199899555.
- Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism, Yale University Press, 2014. ISBN 9780300203431
- Kitcher, P. Preludes to Pragmatism: Toward a Reconstruction of Philosophy", Oxford University Press, 2012
- Mallon, R. Review of Kitcher, P. The Ethical Project, Harvard University Press, October 2011. ISBN 0-67-406144-6 (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)
- Kitcher, Philip (2010). "The Climate Change Debates" Science, 328(5983):pp.1230-1234
- Kitcher, Philip (March 25, 2015). "Climate Change: The Hard Problem" 'Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas-UNAM'
- pg 46-48 Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262110853.
- Longino, Helen E. (2002), Science and the Common Good: Thoughts on Philip Kitcher’s Science, Truth, and Democracy, Philosophy of Science, 69, pp. 560–568 (PDF)
- Kitcher, P, 1982, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism, p. 168
- The Quest For Inclusion in the Science and Religion Debate
- Philip Kitcher website via Columbia University.
- Interview with Philip Kitcher. Human Nature Review. 2004 Volume 4: 87–92 (7 February).
- Interview by Point of Inquiry 13 July 2007 (mp3/podcast). Kitcher "explores the implications of Darwinism for both literalist religion, and for liberal faith" and "discusses the role and benefits of religion, and explores alternatives to it, such as secular humanism, and offers ideas for how secular humanism might become more popular in society."
- Life after faith: Interview with Richard Marshall 3am Magazine, 2 August 2015.