Faculty Profile

Chauncey Maher

Associate Professor of Philosophy (2008)

Contact Information


Allison Hall Room 2

Office Hours for Fall 2018: MR 12-1, or by appointment


What is thinking? How does it differ from mere responding? How is it related to speaking? In what sense, if at all, is it governed by norms? I have approached this cluster of questions from two very different angles. In The Pittsburgh School, I offer a introductory overview of three insightful and influential philosophers—Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell, and Robert Brandom—who hold that humans uniquely occupy “the logical space of reasons.” In Plant Minds, taking inquisitive non-experts as my audience, I interrogate the presumption that plants obviously don’t have minds, and make the case that they do. In a separate project, I inquire into “the white moderate.” In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King, Jr. says that he’s almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the white moderate rather than the white supremacist is the great stumbling block in the pursuit of freedom and equality. I argue that white moderates have indeed been a great stumbling block to equality throughout U.S. history, delaying equality while appearing to support it.


  • B.A., University of Maryland, 2001
  • M.A., University of Chicago, 2002
  • Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008

2018-2019 Academic Year

Fall 2018

PHIL 101 Intro to Philosophy
An introduction to Western philosophy through an examination of problems arising in primary sources. How major philosophers in the tradition have treated such questions as the scope of human reason, the assumptions of scientific method, the nature of moral action, or the connections between faith and reason.

CLST 200 Ancient Philosophy
Cross-listed with PHIL 201-01. This course is an introduction to central questions, claims and arguments in ancient philosophy, centering on the work of Plato and Aristotle. Potential questions include: What is the value of reason and knowledge? What is knowledge? Is it always better to be just than unjust? What constitutes a good human life? What kind of thing is a human being?

PHIL 201 Ancient Philosophy
Cross-listed with CLST 200-01.

PHIL 261 Freedom and Responsibility
The chocolate pretzels stare back at me from the cupboard. It’s late, I’m tired, I don’t need any more to eat, but I finish the bag. I feel as if I can’t help myself. Is my action voluntary? Maybe it is. But is it freely done? If I am simply matter in motion, like a stone rolling down a hill, it’s hard to see how any of my actions could by genuinely free. If that’s true, then it seems human affairs should be dramatically altered. Would it make more sense for us to treat one another like rocks, propelled by forces beyond our control? Should we cease blaming and praising one another for what we do? What is it about any action that makes it worthy of praise or blame? By reflecting on these questions among others, you will be introduced to thinking philosophically about freedom and responsibility.

Spring 2019

PHIL 103 Logic
The study and practice of forms and methods of argumentation in ordinary and symbolic languages,focusing on elements of symbolic logic and critical reasoning, including analysis and assessment of arguments in English, symbolizing sentences and arguments,constructing formal proofs of validity in sentential and quantificational logic.Offered every semester, or every three out of four semesters.

PHIL 304 Philosophy of Language
What is the meaning of a word? How is it related to the thing or things it picks out? Can we provide a systematic account of the meaning of every sentence of a natural language (such as English, Japanese or Hebrew)? What is the relationship between what words mean and what we get across with them? In what sense, if at all, do we follow rules when we use language? This course is a seminar in which we will consider these sorts of questions among others. Prerequisites: three prior courses in philosophy, including 103 (Logic) and two at the 200 level, or permission of the instructor. Offered every two years.