Philosophy at Minnesota has a distinguished history. John Dewey, the logician Henry Sheffer, and the historian F.J.E. Woodbridge all taught at Minnesota early in their careers. Kierkegaard scholar David F. Swenson taught at Minnesota throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Many developments in the Department can be traced to the arrival of Herbert Feigl in 1941. He was joined by Wilfrid Sellars in 1946, and they set about making Minnesota a center for the study of analytic philosophy. Their anthology, Readings in Philosophical Analysis, published in 1949, exhibited their broad and ambitious conception of analytic philosophy. Along with their journal Philosophical Studies, begun in 1950, the anthology played an important role in developing Minnesota's reputation. Its companion volumes on ethical theory, edited by Sellars with John Hospers, and on the philosophy of science, edited by Feigl with May Brodbeck, introduced a style of investigation and argument thought to be applicable to the disciplined consideration of any philosophical subject.
During the 1950s Alan Donagan, Michael Scriven, and Burnham Terrell joined the Department. The Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science was established under the directorship of Feigl, and a number of promising young philosophers of science, including Rudolf Carnap, Paul Feyerabend, Carl Hempel, and Hilary Putnam, joined or visited the Center for extended periods. The early volumes of Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science were published under the editorship of Feigl and Grover Maxwell. With substantial foundation support, the Center was able to host a number of successful conferences on topics in the philosophy of science. The Center continues to host distinguished scholars, lead research projects, and publish results in Minnesota Studies.
In the 1930s and 1940s Philosophy was one of the few University departments with a female faculty member. Mary Shaw, a Hume scholar trained at Columbia, joined the Department in the early 1930s and served until her retirement in 1958. May Brodbeck, an internationally renowned philosopher of social science, served in the Department from 1948 until 1974, when she became provost of the University of Iowa.
The Department today has strong programs in many areas. We have concentrations in the areas of philosophy of science; moral and political philosophy; and the philosophies of language, logic, and mathematics. Each area includes courses in the development of the field, and on current issues and approaches.
The Department has both broad interests and a generous view of philosophy. At an earlier period in our history, we were interested in demarcating philosophy and drawing boundaries between it and other disciplines. Today we are interested in challenging those boundaries and working together with other disciplines in the pursuit of common interests and toward solutions to common problems.