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Roderick Chisholm

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Roderick M. Chisholm

Roderick M Chisholm (born in Seekonk, Massachusetts in 1916; died in Providence in 1999) was an American philosopher, known for his work on epistemology, metaphysics, free will, and the philosophy of perception. He was a student of Clarence Irving Lewis at Harvard University and made a career as a professor at Brown University.

Chisholm's first major work was a textbook on epistemolgy called Theory of Knowledge. His masterwork was Person and Object, the title of which puns rival philosopher W. V. O. Quine's Word and Object. Chisholm, a metaphysical Platonist and rationalist in the tradition of G. E. Moore and Franz Brentano, objected to Quine's anti-realism, behaviorism, and relativism. He defended the possibility of empirical knowledge by appeal to a priori epistemic principles that have the consequence that it is more reasonable to trust your senses and memory in most situtations than to doubt them. He also defended a controversial theory of volition (some think that it is a version of libertarianism, others think that it is a version of compatiblism), the possibilty of robust self-knowledge, and an objective ethics of requirements similar to the views of W. D. Ross. Chisholm's other books included The Problem of the Criterion, Perception, and A Realist Theory of the Categories, though his numerous journal articles are probably better-known than any of these.

Chisholm was known for his wide reading in the history of philosophy and his frequent references to the work of Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and even Continental philosophers (though some dispute the accuracy of his use of some of this material). Nonetheless, he conveyed great respect for the history of philosophy in a discipline and an age that often treated it with contempt.

Chisholm exercised a great deal of influence on his graduate students, the most famous of whom include Keith Lehrer, R. C. Sleigh, Ernest Sosa, Fred Feldman, and Dean Zimmerman.

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