Robert Audi

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Robert N. Audi (born November 1941) is an American philosopher whose major work has focused on epistemology, ethics – especially on ethical intuitionism – and the theory of action. He is O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and previously held a Chair in the Business School there. His 2005 book, The Good in the Right, updates and strengthens Rossian intuitionism and develops the epistemology of ethics. He has also written important works of political philosophy, particularly on the relationship between church and state. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association [1] and the Society of Christian Philosophers.

Ethics branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct

Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology.

Ethical intuitionism is a family of views in moral epistemology. At minimum, ethical intuitionism is the thesis that our intuitive awareness of value, or intuitive knowledge of evaluative facts, forms the foundation of our ethical knowledge.

University of Notre Dame Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana, United States

The University of Notre Dame du Lac is a private, non-profit Catholic research university in Notre Dame, Indiana. The main campus covers 1,261 acres (510 ha) in a suburban setting and it contains a number of recognizable landmarks, such as the Golden Dome, the Word of Life mural, the Notre Dame Stadium, and the Basilica. The school was founded on November 26, 1842, by Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who was also its first president.



Audi earned his BA from Colgate University and his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. He taught initially at the University of Texas at Austin, and then for many years as the Charles J. Mach University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln before moving to University of Notre Dame as Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Management, and the David E. Gallo Chair in Ethics. In 2009 he vacated the Gall Chair and took a chair as John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy. He has served as General Editor of the First Edition (1995) and Second Edition (1999) of The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy . He has also served as the general editor for "Modern Readings in Epistemology", as well as for "Modern readings in Metaphysics". In an interview for the Brooklyn Friends School of which he's an alumnus (year 1959), he revealed that his interest in philosophy came from his father, a businessman and Lebanese immigrant with an interest in philosophy and history. His mother, a medical doctor and faculty at NYU Medical School, was also an influence. "'Both liked to explain and comment on things,' Robert mused, 'and they often entertained people from the diplomatic world and medicine who argued about politics, religion and ideas in general.'" [2]

Colgate University private liberal arts college

Colgate University is a private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York. Founded in 1817, Colgate enrolls nearly 3,000 students in 56 undergraduate majors that culminate in a Bachelor of Arts degree; it also enrolls a dozen students in a Master of Arts in Teaching program.

University of Michigan Public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The University of Michigan, often simply referred to as Michigan, is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university is Michigan's oldest; it was founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet spread out over a Central Campus and North Campus, two regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, and a Center in Detroit. The university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.

University of Texas at Austin public research university in Austin, Texas, United States

The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 1883 and is the flagship institution of the University of Texas System. The University of Texas was inducted into the Association of American Universities in 1929, becoming only the third university in the American South to be elected. The institution has the nation's eighth-largest single-campus enrollment, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff. As of December 2018, it also has the second-largest endowment among higher-education institutes in the US, surpassed only by Harvard University.

Audi was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018. [3]

American Academy of Arts and Sciences United States honorary society and center for independent policy research

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. It is devoted to the advancement and study of the key societal, scientific, and intellectual issues of the day.


Audi has defended a position he calls "fallibilistic foundationalism." He thinks that the foundationalist response is the only tenable option of the epistemic regress argument. This states that if every belief has to be justified by some other, then the only options are four: infinite regress, circularity, stopping at a belief that isn't knowledge, and stopping at a basic belief that is itself justified. If the only alternative is the fourth, then if one has knowledge, one has foundational knowledge. Audi considers that foundationalism is usually taken to be infallible. That is, it is normally associated with the view that knowledge is founded on basic beliefs that are axiomatic and necessarily true, and that the rest of knowledge is deduced from this set of beliefs. Audi thinks that foundationalism may be fallible, in the sense that the suprastructure of beliefs may be derived inductively from the basic beliefs, and hence may be fallible. He also thinks that basic beliefs need not be necessary truths, but merely have some structure which makes epistemic transition possible. For example, the belief that one is in the presence of an object arises causally from visual perception.

Foundationalism concerns philosophical theories of knowledge resting upon justified belief, or some secure foundation of certainty such as a conclusion inferred from a basis of sound premises. The main rival of the foundationalist theory of justification is the coherence theory of justification, whereby a body of knowledge, not requiring a secure foundation, can be established by the interlocking strength of its components, like a puzzle solved without prior certainty that each small region was solved correctly.

Logical truth is one of the most fundamental concepts in logic, and there are different theories on its nature. A logical truth is a statement which is true, and remains true under all reinterpretations of its components other than its logical constants. It is a type of analytic statement. All of philosophical logic can be thought of as providing accounts of the nature of logical truth, as well as logical consequence.

Reference: Audi, "Contemporary Foundationalism".

Religion in the public square

In his recent book titled The Discourse Theory of Democracy, Hugh Baxter has commented on "The Rawls/Audi Restrictive View and Its Critics," stating that, "The publication of Rawls's Political Liberalism in 1993 prompted an extensive debate about the role of religion in politics and particularly about the role of religion in public political discussion among citizens. His views together with those later expressed by Robert Audi, have been taken to define one side of the controversy: the side arguing that citizens in liberal democracies should exercise restraint on public employment of religious reasons." [4] Baxter stated that the other side of the controversy was represented by the scholars Nicholas Wolterstorff and Paul J. Weithman.

Selected bibliography


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Cornell University Press American university press

The Cornell University Press is a division of Cornell University housed in Sage House, the former residence of Henry William Sage. It was first established in 1869 but inactive from 1884 to 1930, making it the first university publishing enterprise in the United States.

Coauthored books and edited volumes

Books about Audi's work

See also


  2. "Alum Profile: Robert Audi '59, by Jeffrey Stanley
  3. "Newly Elected Fellows". Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  4. Baxter, Hugh (2011). The Discourse Theory of Democracy, Sanford University Press, p. 193.

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