Professor Nicholas Rescher, Alumnus Michael Chabon Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Issue Date: 
May 11, 2009
Nicholas RescherNicholas Rescher

Nicholas Rescher, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and Michael Chabon, Pitt alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, have been elected 2009 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). This marks the fourth consecutive year a Pitt philosophy professor has received this honor.

The new class of Fellows—representing scholars, scientists, writers, artists, musicians, philanthropists, and civic and corporate leaders from around the globe—will be inducted during an Oct. 10 ceremony at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Known as one of America’s most prolific and influential philosophers, Rescher has been chair of Pitt’s Department of Philosophy and director of Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, which he now cochairs. His productive research career has extended over six decades and his work represents a many-sided approach to fundamental philosophical issues—weaving together threads of thought from continental idealism and American pragmatism. His body of work includes more than 100 books on philosophy, many of them translated into other languages. His publications on themes pertaining to Catholicism include studies on Aristotle, the scholastics, and Pascal.

Rescher earned his doctorate at Princeton University in 1951 when he was only 22—the youngest person in the history of Princeton’s Department of Philosophy ever to do so. He has served as a president of the American Philosophical Association, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the American G. W. Leibniz Society, the C. S. Pierce Society, and the American Metaphysical Society. Founder of the American Philosophical Quarterly, Rescher has been elected to membership in the European Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and a number of other learned academies. His awards and recognitions include the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Humanistic Scholarship in 1984, the Belgian Prix Mercier in 2005, and the Aquinas Medal of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in 2007.

Michael ChabonMichael Chabon

Chabon was recognized as one of his generation’s most promising young writers with the publication of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (William Morrow & Co., 1988), his master’s thesis-turned-debut novel that became a national bestseller, recently translated into a Hollywood feature film starring Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, and Nick Nolte. Reviewers praised Chabon’s rich prose and strong narrative skill and compared his style to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Chabon, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English writing at Pitt and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, is probably best known for his bestselling novel Wonder Boys (Villard, 1995), a satirical comedy that chronicles three manic days in the life of Grady Tripp, a marijuana-smoking English professor whose life unravels as he struggles to complete a long-overdue novel. Wonder Boys won recognition as a New York Times Notable Book in 1995 and was adapted as a film starring Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Random House, 2000), about two cousins who create a successful comic book empire, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 2000.

Chabon, a Washington, D.C. native, also has had success with collections of short stories, many of which have appeared in The New Yorker. His hard-boiled detective novel set in an alternate world, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, won the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Rescher and Chabon join the ranks of 212 new AAAS Fellows, among them Mario Capecchi, who won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for his contributions to gene targeting; astronomer Eric Becklin, whose pioneering infrared observations led to the first glimpse of the nucleus of the Milky Way; actors Dustin Hoffman and James Earl Jones; and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Pitt has nine other faculty members among the academy’s approximately 4,000 American Fellows and 600 foreign honorary members. They are Thomas B. Starzl, transplant pioneer and Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery, elected to the academy in 1971; Adolf Grünbaum, Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy, 1976; John Henry McDowell, University Professor of Philosophy, 1992; John S. Earman, University Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, 1993; Robert Brandom, Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy, 2000; Peter L. Strick, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry and codirector of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, 2004; Anil K. Gupta, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, professor of history and philosophy of science, and a fellow in Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, 2006; Mark L. Wilson, professor of philosophy, director of graduate studies, and a fellow in Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, 2007; and Nuel D. Belnap Jr., University of Pittsburgh Alan Ross Anderson Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, 2008.

The AAAS aims to elect as members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation beginning with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century.