Roderick Chisholm

Roderick Milton Chisholm ( born November 27, 1916 in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, † January 19, 1999 in Providence, Rhode Iceland ) was an American philosopher, which refers primarily with epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of perception, materialism and ontology dealt.

  • 2.1 metaphysics
  • 2.2 epistemology
  • 2.3 phenomena and the reality



Chisholm studied philosophy at Brown University from 1934 to 1938. According to the graduating, he moved to Harvard University, where he wrote his doctoral studies in philosophy ( Ph.D. ) with a thesis entitled " The basic theses of the theory of knowledge " ( mentors were CI Lewis and Donald C. Williams) was completed in 1942.

Studied at that time, and taught at Harvard, many refugees, including professors who had fled from the Nazi regime. There was a lively debate between representatives of the "new realism" and those of " critical realism " in the former American philosophy. Soon, however, the question came to the fore, whether the U.S. should intervene in the war.

Influential was the philosophy of Franz Brentano, he discovered within a course on the psychology of Chisholm. As a result, Chisholm decided also to study psychology.

University career

Immediately after the promotion Chisholm was drafted into the army. He completed infantry training in Alabama, but was injured and so quickly got a job in the department of psychological tests in Boston. After 2 years, he was transferred to the military school in Texas, where he studying clinical psychology devoted himself. He then worked in a number of military hospitals and returned a short time later returned to New England.

Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a wealthy inventor, hired him as a presenter in his Barnes Foundation, which was affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. Here was Chisholm " Barnes Foundation Professor of Philosophy ," before he really gave a proper lecture. Because of the error it made ​​him Dr. Barnes announced in 1946. Namely The University extended the contract with Chisholm, but moved as a professor at Brown University.

Although he almost taught all his life at Brown University in Providence, we also have a long list of academic institutions where he has also worked, in particular the University of Massachusetts, University of London (1956 ), University of Graz ( found in Roderick Chisholm predominantly in the 1960s ), Oxford University (1967 ), University of Salzburg (1972 ), University of Heidelberg (1978 ), University of Würzburg, Royal Institute of Philosophy in London (1979 ), International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, society for Austro- German Philosophy.

The list of awards is remarkable, among other things, he was awarded three honorary doctorates, from the University of Graz, the International Academy of Philosophy and Brown University.

In Chisholm doctorate include: Keith teacher, RC Sleigh, Ernest Sosa, Fred Feldman, and Dean Zimmerman.

Among his research projects, participation in the work-up and publication of the estate of Franz Brentano is emphasized. This project was initiated by John Brentano, the son of Franz Brentano and financially supported. For Brentano introduced the library of his father are available.


Roderick Chisholm defended, among others, the possibility of empirical knowledge within empirical principles, with the result that it is more rational in most situations, his senses and his memory to be trusted than the reverse.

He was also known as a specialist in the field of the history of philosophy and made many references to the philosophy of antiquity, the Middle Ages and modernity. His research interests included the philosophical concepts of Aristotle, Franz Brentano, Alexius Meinong, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Aquinas and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.


What we perceive as everyday objects, loses and gains parts again and again. Molecules have been ripped off time. The same applies to the body. You win and lose consecutively parts. But people, whatever they already are, survive the changes of the body. Thus Chisholm came to the conclusion that human persons are not identical with their bodies and also with any part of the body, bypassing the changes. At some point in his career he held that human persons are small substances, within the brain. They have thus no particles and can therefore also not lose or gain.


The theory of knowledge is made up of 4 to Chisholm Socratic questions:

In order to understand the process of cognition, it is necessary to distinguish different levels:

D2 implies D1, D3, D2 and D1 implies etc.

It is fundamentally important that you understand that " obviously be " not " be true " automatically means - which is more like " sure / can not be disputed ."

Example: We think an employee from an office, working 5 days a week there.

  • If he's there today, then it is likely for him that you were in which work in all offices, yesterday, works today.
  • It would be acceptable to assume that you are working in some other offices today.
  • A sound work seems to come from an office above or come under his office. This makes for our observers, the fact that you work in this office, are undisputed.
  • For it is obvious that one works in his office and
  • He will be sure that his office now has open.

If we knew exactly what our person really knows about his business building, then these data would be practically significant for us.

There are three levels in this Socratic process:

As rational beings, we know that some other assertions imply and also that some of those other negate. Furthermore, some may confirm some other or vice versa. So when we come across two mutually negating statements, we will thus say goodbye to at least one of them. This process of filtering, we are searching for the data that are acceptable. So we gradually get the data that is undoubtedly true.

If ever we can know what we know, then we can have knowledge of what we believe the right. Such a knowledge is objective. The statements can be either true or false. Under what conditions but we can ever think that we know what is true?

We can at least say this: if a statement is justified by the fact that it is true certainly, if one reflects how this belief is formed and if we ask according to the correctness of the statement, then you will know if it is really true.

Privileged access

We have privileged access to some of the processes of our mind.

This doctrine has two sides:

  • Access: from the content of our thinking - either intellectually (eg faith ) or emotional ( love, hate ) or sensory ( sensory perception).
  • Privilege: the parts of our thoughts present themselves to us, the owners directly.

Example: Man is thinking about walking. If you think about it, then you know immediately that you think about it. You do not need to search for evidence to be sure. If you " think " as used usual, then we could say that " think about to take a walk " adequate evidence to believe that somebody thinks a walk over, implies.

We also have a privileged access to certain data about our feelings. I do not know immediately that a leaf that I see is green - but I know immediately that something looks green.

Even the unconscious is needed to understand thoughts; why we need much detailed knowledge of the person. With the search of all data about a person conscious thoughts and desires are discovered, as well as the potential conscious states.

If you can think and feel a unity, then it may be nothing more than a substance. It may for example be a number. A number can not think or feel namely. So what is this thing that felt unconscious desires, if it is not the same as the subject of conscious desires?

Two possible answers:

  • A first possibility would be to say that there is a second substance in each of us and it is unconscious; this second substance can hate things that loves the first substance and vice versa.
  • One could also say that for each of us exists a quasi substance that the substance is similar ( they can feel ), but does not fit any known drawer though.

No matter how much may be the psychoanalysis, it is epistemologically and ontologically simply insufficient.

Within the categorizations we take any deliberate action for our example; assess wonder want or hope for. We can know what these terms mean. As rational beings, we can grasp the nature of these things. We may never know what it's like to own these things. We can see that they are things that can have only individual examples. And they can also be abstract objects are not members (such as numbers or relationships). One can only hope that the rain falls, but no process or number or relationship can hope. Thus, there is an individual substance which possesses these properties. We can exclude from three phases:

  • I can know that I hope for rain
  • As a rational creatures I can understand what it means to hope for rain
  • I find out that the only unit that can have the property to hope for rain, something individual or a substance is

Phenomena and the reality

How to identify symptoms? If we know under what conditions an external physical being can be perceived, then you can provide what phenomena will accept it.

Aristotle criticized the fact that in front of him felt natural scientists, that there can be no black or white without a view. In this sense, a question could be called just that: " Is a falling tree makes one sound also when no one is in the forest? "

When we say that the objects of visual sensory perception surfaces are in the body of the subject, then we draw the conclusion that the subject needs a body if it is to perceive something. What is perceived as natural a part of the body.

The objects of visual sensory perception are definitely. It is either that all objects of sense perception as an individual or that some of them are unique and have different properties quite different.

Our qualitative experience is subjective, because their existence depends on the existence of comprehending the subject of experience.


  • Hahn, Lewis Edwin (ed.): The Philosophy of Roderick M. Chisholm, Open court, Chicago and La Salle, Illinois ( 1997). ISBN 0-8126-9356-6

Publications (selection)

  • "The perception: a philosophical study " / " Perceiving " ( Cornell University Press, 1957)
  • " The person and the object" / "Person and Object " ( George Allen and Unwin, 1976)
  • " The first person " / "The first person " (Minnesota University Press, 1981)
  • " A realistic theory of categories " / " A Realistic Theory of Categories" (Cambridge University Press, 1996 )