Rogers Albritton

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Rogers Garland Albritton (August 15, 1923 – May 21, 2002) was a chair of the Harvard and UCLA philosophy departments, and considered by his peers to be one of the finest philosophical minds of the 20th century[citation needed]. Albritton's influence[citation needed] was achieved despite having published very little, a fact about him that inspired the entry "allbutwritten" in Daniel Dennett's philosophical Lexicon. Albritton's specialties included ancient philosophy,[1] philosophy of mind, free will, skepticism, metaphysics and the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein.[2]


Albritton was born in Columbus, Ohio. He was admitted to Swarthmore at the age of 15, but left to serve in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He received his B.A. from St. John's College, Annapolis in 1948.

He taught for a year at St. John's, and began teaching full-time at Cornell after completing 3 years of graduate work at Princeton University. Rogers was not generally interested in main stream philosophy such as ethics and other topics dealing with social and political philosophy. His main focus was to shift his attention to knowledge, thought processes, and validity within such methods of obtaining knowledge or if the knowledge itself was valid. Albritton was especially interested in the main concept of being, time, space, etc. This led his decision to focus on metaphysics and epistemology. Freedom and free will were big staples of his philosophies. This shaped his philosophies and studies further into his life.[3] He received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1955, taught at Cornell for one more year, before being appointed to Harvard in 1956. He made tenure at Harvard in 1960, and served as chair from 1963 to 1970. In 1968, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4] In 1972, he transferred to University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as chair from 1972 to 1981. In 1984 he was president of the Western (then Pacific) Division of the American Philosophical Association.[5]

He died in 2002 of chronic emphysema.[6]

Freedom of Will vs. Freedom of Action[edit]

Albritton's 1985 presidential address to the APA, "Freedom of Will and Freedom of Action," distinguished freedom of action (the freedom to do what we will) from freedom of the will itself.

This was unusual, because free will had been identified with freedom of action by compatibilists since Thomas Hobbes and David Hume.[7]

"Where there's a will, there just isn't always a way," as he put it.


  1. ^ "Philosophy". Wikipedia. 2017-03-28.
  2. ^ UCLA obituary
  3. ^ [ "Welcome to the Academic Senate"] Check |url= value (help).
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  5. ^ ScienceBlog Obituary
  6. ^ New York Times obituary
  7. ^ Compatibilism

External links[edit]