William Alston

Last updated
William Alston
Born(1921-11-29)November 29, 1921
DiedSeptember 13, 2009(2009-09-13) (aged 87)
NationalityAmerican
Alma mater University of Chicago
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Notable ideas
Epistemic justification

William Payne Alston (November 29, 1921 – September 13, 2009) was an American philosopher. He made influential contributions to the philosophy of language, epistemology, and Christian philosophy. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and taught at the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, University of Illinois, and Syracuse University.

Philosophy of language, in the analytical tradition, explored logic, the nature of meaning, and accounts of the mind.

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Christian philosophy

Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.

Contents

Early life and education

Alston was born to Eunice Schoolfield and William Alston on November 29, 1921, in Shreveport, Louisiana. He graduated from high school when he was 15 and went on to Centenary College of Louisiana, graduating in 1942 with a Bachelor of Music in piano. During World War II, he played clarinet and bass drum in a military band in California. During this time, he became interested in philosophy, sparked by W. Somerset Maugham's book The Razor's Edge . After this, he engrossed himself in works by well-known philosophers such as Jacques Maritain, Mortimer J. Adler, Francis Bacon, Plato, René Descartes, and John Locke. [1] After being discharged, he entered a graduate program for philosophy at the University of Chicago, even though he had never formally taken a class on the subject. [2] [3] While he was there, he learned more about philosophy from Richard McKeon and Charles Hartshorne, and he received his PhD in 1951. [1]

Shreveport, Louisiana City in Louisiana, United States

Shreveport is a city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the most populous city in the Shreveport-Bossier City metropolitan area. Shreveport ranks third in population in Louisiana after New Orleans and Baton Rouge and 126th in the U.S. The bulk of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish, of which it is the parish seat. Shreveport extends along the west bank of the Red River into neighboring Bossier Parish. The population of Shreveport was 199,311 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. The United States Census Bureau's 2017 estimate for the city's population decreased to 192,036.

Centenary College of Louisiana private college in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA

Centenary College of Louisiana is a private, four-year arts and sciences college located in Shreveport, Louisiana. The college is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Bachelor of Music is an academic degree awarded by a college, university, or conservatory upon completion of a program of study in music. In the United States, it is a professional degree, and the majority of work consists of prescribed music courses and study in applied music, usually requiring proficiency in an instrument, voice, or conducting. In Canada, the B.M. is often considered an undergraduate degree. Programs typically last from three to four and a half years.

Career

From 1949 until 1971, Alston was a professor at the University of Michigan, and he became professor of philosophy in 1961. [4] He then taught at Rutgers University for five years, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign from 1976 to 1980 and then Syracuse University from 1980 to 1992. [1]

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.

Rutgers University multi-campus American public research university in New Jersey, United States

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, commonly referred to as Rutgers University, Rutgers, or RU, is a public research university in New Jersey. It is the largest institution of higher education in New Jersey.

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign public research university in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois, United States

The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a public research university in Illinois and the flagship institution of the University of Illinois System. Founded in 1867 as a land-grant institution, its campus is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana.

His views on foundationalism, internalism versus externalism, speech acts, and the epistemic value of mystical experience, among many other topics, have been very influential. Like most contemporary American philosophers, Alston is counted among the analytic philosophers. [5]

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.

Internalism and externalism are two opposing ways of explaining various subjects in several areas of philosophy. These include human motivation, knowledge, justification, meaning, and truth. The distinction arises in many areas of debate with similar but distinct meanings.

The concept of illocutionary acts was introduced into linguistics by the philosopher J. L. Austin in his investigation of the various aspects of speech acts.

Together with Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Robert Adams, Alston helped to found the journal Faith and Philosophy . [6] With Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and others, Alston was also responsible for the development of "Reformed epistemology" (a term that Alston, an Episcopalian, never fully endorsed), one of the most important contributions to Christian thought in the twentieth century. [7] Alston was president of the Western Division (now the Central Division) of the American Philosophical Association in 1979, the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Society of Christian Philosophers, which he co-founded. He was widely recognized as one of the core figures in the late twentieth-century revival of the philosophy of religion. [8] [9] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990. [10]

Alvin Plantinga American Christian philosopher

Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher who works primarily in the fields of philosophy of religion, epistemology, and logic.

Nicholas Wolterstorff American philosopher

Nicholas Wolterstorff is an American philosopher and a liturgical theologian. He is currently Noah Porter Professor Emeritus Philosophical Theology at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on aesthetics, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophy of education. In Faith and Rationality, Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and William Alston developed and expanded upon a view of religious epistemology that has come to be known as Reformed epistemology. He also helped to establish the journal Faith and Philosophy and the Society of Christian Philosophers.

Robert Merrihew Adams American philosopher

Robert Merrihew Adams is an American analytic philosopher of metaphysics, religion, and morality.

Death

Alston died in a nursing home in Jamesville, New York, on September 13, 2009, at the age of 87. [2]

Jamesville, New York hamlet in New York, United States

Jamesville is a hamlet in the town of DeWitt, Onondaga County, New York, United States, part of the greater Syracuse area.

Bibliography

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Howard-Snyder, Daniel (2005). "Alston, William Payne (1921– )". In Shook, John R. (ed.). Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (PDF). 1. Continuum. pp. 56–61. ISBN   978-1-84371-037-0 . Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "William Payne Alston Obituary". The Post-Standard . September 20, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  3. "Emeritus professor of philosophy William Payne Alston dies". Syracuse University . September 18, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  4. "The Aquinas Lecture in Philosophy i". Marquette University Press . Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  5. Oppy, Graham; Trakakis, Nick, eds. (2009). History of Western Philosophy of Religion (PDF). Acumen Publishing, Limited. ISBN   978-1-84465-679-0 . Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  6. Plantinga, Alvin (2009). "In Memoriam: William J. Alston" (PDF). Faith and Philosophy . 26 (4): 359–360. doi:10.5840/faithphil200926434. ISSN   0739-7046.
  7. Meeker, Kevin (April 1994). "William Alston's Epistemology of Religious Experience: A 'Reformed' Reformed Epistemology?". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 35 (2): 89–110. doi:10.1007/bf01318327. JSTOR   40036246.
  8. "William P. Alston". Centenary College of Louisiana . Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  9. "APA Divisional Presidents and Addresses". American Philosophical Association. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  10. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. p. 11. Retrieved December 9, 2013.

Further reading