Richard McKeon (1900-1985)

Autobiography

This section contains two autobiographical essays which, in various manners, account for the approach to intellectual pluralism that Richard McKeon took in philosophizing.

In a 1953 essay, “Spiritual Autobiography,” McKeon treats in narrative form three key problems—philosophic scholarship, education, and international and intercultural relations—that organized his intellectual life. His account begins with his education at Columbia University and in Europe, especially Paris, proceeds to his active involvement with the creation of the general education program in the College at University of Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s, and then turns to his engagement with various activities after World War Two which addressed the international reality of nations and cultures coming into increasingly complex contact throughout the world, including his work with UNESCO, including the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this narrative, he observes that Aristotle, Spinoza, and Dewey have been especially important to him in that each, in differing ways, sought to find unity through a recognition of distinctions which make possible the discovery of that unity.

In a 1952 essay, "A Philosopher Meditates on Discovery," McKeon explores the origin, nature, and consequences of his own central philosophic insight. Arguing that the philosophic problem of discovery is, ultimately, the problem of the one and the many, he traces how his early education and teachers, notably F. J. E. Woodbridge and Dewey, led to his insight, arising out of a reading of Cicero and Plato together, that although the truth is one, the expressions of it have been and are multiple. He then briefly traces how this recognition started his examination of the principles of philosophic discourse, in particular, the questions of philosophies’ subject matters, methods, assumptions, and purposes. From this inquiry arose his conception of “Philosophic Semantics and Philosophic Inquiry.

Selections download in PDF format, which may take several minutes due to file size. If you need a reader for PDFs, a link to Adobe Reader is provided at the bottom.

1952 "A Philosopher Meditates on Discovery"
McK-PhilosopherMeditates.pdf   6.8 MB

1953 "Spiritual Autobiography"
McK-SpiritualAutobiography.pdf   11 MB