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Faculty Profile

Chauncey Maher

Professor of Philosophy (2008)

Contact Information

East College Room 201


I have written two books on philosophical issues about “the mind.” In **The Pittsburgh School**, I introduce some ideas of three influential philosophers from the University of Pittsburgh: Wilfrid Sellars, Robert Brandom, and John McDowell. They disagree with each other about many important things, but they agree that we humans are unlike other creatures because we are responsive to norms, to what should or should not be so, to what is right or wrong, to what is a good or bad reason. They contend that genuine conceptual thinking requires being governed by and responsive to norms. They contend further that being responsive to norms requires being able to speak a language. These claims are provocative in part because they suggest that nonhuman animals don’t think conceptually, which puts these Pittsburgh philosophers at odds with many cognitive scientists. In **Plant Minds**, I turn away from humans to organisms that are allegedly much simpler and less sophisticated. I clarify and evaluate the suggestion, made by a small but vocal minority of plant biologists, that plants have minds or are “cognitive systems.” I canvass some evidence in favor of thinking that plants perceive, remember, feel, and act. Most contemporary cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind hold that these mental abilities require inner representations of the external environment. But, so far, there is not good reason to think plant behaviors involve such representations. Despite this, in the end I contend that there is a good reason to think that plants do have minds. They are self-creating and self-maintaining in the face of scarce resources and variably threatening conditions. I regularly teach Logic (PHIL103) and Ancient Philosophy (PHIL201). Intermittently, I teach courses on: free will and moral responsibility; philosophy of language; and philosophical logic. In spring 2022, in collaboration with our Data Analytics majors, I launched a new course, Philosophy of Data (PHIL258), introducing students to some of the philosophical aspects of data sciences. You can find fuller descriptions of my research and teaching on my webpage.


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

2023-2024 Academic Year

Fall 2023

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.

DATA 198 Philosophy of Data
Cross-listed with PHIL 258-01.

PHIL 258 Philosophy of Data
Cross-listed with DATA 198-01.

PHIL 401 Senior Seminar
A seminar focusing in depth on a selected philosophical topic, author or text with special emphasis on student philosophical writing and voice. Prerequisites: three prior courses in philosophy, at least one at the 300-level, or permission of the instructor.

Spring 2024

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 256 Philosophy of Mind
This course investigates the nature of the mind and its relation to the brain, body, and the surrounding world. Analyses of these topics will draw on information from fields such as psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, or computer science. Prerequisite: one previous course in philosophy, or permission of the instructor.