Norman Melchert

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Norman Melchert (born 1933) is a philosopher and author. He taught at Lehigh University from 1962 until his retirement in 1995. He is the author of several books, the most notable of which is his introduction to philosophy, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Lehigh University university in Pennsylvania

Lehigh University is a private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer. Its undergraduate programs have been coeducational since the 1971–72 academic year. As of 2019, the university had 5,047 undergraduate students and 1,942 graduate students.


Early life and influences

Norman Melchert was born in 1933 in Waterloo, Iowa. The son of a prominent Lutheran minister, Christian thought has been a strong influence on his life, thought, and works.

Waterloo, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Waterloo is a city in and the county seat of Black Hawk County, Iowa, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census the population decreased by 0.5% to 68,406; the 2016 Census estimates the population at 67,934, making it the sixth-largest city in the state. The city is part of the Waterloo – Cedar Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the more populous of the two cities.

As a young man, he felt moved to follow in his father's footsteps and become a minister. To this end he graduated from Wartburg College in 1955 and went on to Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, simultaneously doing graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from seminary in 1958, and from U. Penn in 1959 (Masters degree) and 1964 (PhD). His thesis was an examination of the work of the American realist and humanist, Roy Wood Sellars. He resigned from the ministry in 1965 and devoted his energies to philosophy, being particularly interested in epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of mind.

Wartburg College

Wartburg College is a four-year liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in Waverly, Iowa. Wartburg West is in Denver, Colorado.

Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), also known as the Philadelphia Seminary, was one of eight theological seminaries associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in North America. It is located on Germantown Avenue in the Mount Airy neighborhood of northwestern Philadelphia. Founded in 1864, it has its roots in the Pennsylvania Ministerium established in 1748 in Philadelphia by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg.

University of Pennsylvania Private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence and the first institution of higher learning in the United States to refer to itself as a university. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum.

Personal life

In 1956 Norman married Novalene Black, who became his lifelong partner. Together they have three children.

He retired from Lehigh University in 1995 and with his wife moved to Richmond, Virginia where two of his sons and their families live. He then became an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, teaching occasionally and continuing with his writings.

Richmond, Virginia Capital of Virginia

Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. It is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Region. Richmond was incorporated in 1742 and has been an independent city since 1871.

Virginia Commonwealth University public research university in Richmond, VA, USA

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university in Richmond, Virginia. MCV was founded in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden–Sydney College, becoming the Medical College of Virginia in 1854. In 1968, the Virginia General Assembly merged MCV with the Richmond Professional Institute, founded in 1917, to create Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2018, more than 31,000 students pursue 217 degree and certificate programs through VCU's 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health System supports the university's health care education, research and patient care mission.

In the mid 1970s he took up cycling and became a very successful racer in the veteran's class, winning many medals and trophies in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Zealand, where his eldest son lives. In 1991 he rode across the country with two friends from Seattle to Cape May New Jersey.

Cycling riding a bicycle

Cycling, also called biking or bicycling, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. People engaged in cycling are referred to as "cyclists", "bikers", or less commonly, as "bicyclists". Apart from two-wheeled bicycles, "cycling" also includes the riding of unicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, recumbent and similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.


Roy Wood Sellars was a Canadian philosopher of critical realism and religious humanism, and a proponent of evolutionary naturalism. His son was the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars. Sellars received his B.A. from the University of Michigan. For much of his career he taught at Michigan.

Originally his PhD thesis, this book was published in 1968.

A dialogue involving six friends from university days on a cycling tour. Ten years on, they revive the lively discussions they had as students, this time discussing relativism. The six friends each take a different perspective on the issue and these are each presented without comment, allowing the reader to make a kind of Kierkegaardian choice. An interesting aspect of the work is that their tour forms a kind of allegory of the discussion (for example, the riders encounter long and steep hills on days when they discuss particularly difficult issues).

Who's to Say? is available as a Google Book.

By far his most popular work, this widely used textbook is currently in its seventh edition. It looks at philosophy as a conversation through the ages on matters of the deepest concern to humanity. Starting from Homer and Hesiod, the book moves through history, presenting each philosopher's work in part as a response to previous philosophers. The latest edition includes sections on contemporary philosophers as well as Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish thinkers.

An abbreviated and illustrated version of The Great Conversation.


  1. Norman Melchert (1968). Realism, Materialism, and the Mind: The Philosophy of Roy Wood Sellars. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.
  2. Norman Melchert (1994). Who's to Say? Indianapolis, In.: Hackett Publishing Company. ISBN   0-87220-271-2
  3. Norman Melchert (2014). The Great Conversation (7th ed). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN   978-0-19-999965-1
  4. Norman Melchert (2008). Philosophical Conversations: A Concise Introduction (illustrated edition). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN   0-19-532846-9

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