University of Pittsburgh
December 6, 2011

Internationally Renowned Pitt Philosopher Honored by Germany With the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit at Dec. 8 Ceremony

Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany travels to Pittsburgh to confer the honor on Pitt’s Nicholas Rescher
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PITTSBURGH—In recognition of his contributions to philosophy and to German-American cooperation in this field, Nicholas Rescher, University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, will be presented with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz erster Klasse) by Busso von Alvensleben, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, at a by-invitation ceremony beginning at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 8 in the University Club, First Floor Ballroom, 123 University Place, Oakland. This is the Consul General’s first visit to Pittsburgh.
Rescher German Award

Professor Rescher is the second University of Pittsburgh philosophy professor to receive this prestigious form of recognition from the German government. This honor was previously accorded in 1997 to Professor Rescher’s friend and colleague, Gerald J. Massey, Pitt Emeritus Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy and former director of the Center for Philosophy of Science at Pitt.

A statement from the German Consulate noted that Rescher is one of the most renowned and widely read philosophers in the world and is receiving the award for his outstanding contribution to the dissemination and more profound understanding of German philosophy in America, noting that Rescher’s research on Leibniz, Kant, and German Idealism have become benchmarks in the field of philosophical studies. 

“We have long been the direct beneficiaries of all that Professor Rescher—a giant in the world of philosophy and one of the most committed, respected, and beloved members of our faculty—has done to elevate the University through the excellence and impact of his work and through his remarkable generosity in donating to the University his invaluable personal collection of original and rare materials relating to some of the world’s most renowned philosophers,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “This notable recognition of his lifetime of contributions to the advancement of philosophy and the philosophy of science is a testament to his untiring devotion to furthering knowledge and fostering German-American scholarly pursuits.”

“I am very honored to receive this award and find great satisfaction in knowing that almost 100 years after my father was awarded a decoration by the German state for services rendered in war—viz. the Iron Cross for Services on the Western Front in 1916—I am awarded one for services rendered in peace,” said Rescher.

Rescher, who joined Pitt’s Department of Philosophy in 1961, is a renowned systematic philosopher and author of a system of pragmatic idealism that weaves together threads of thought from continental idealism and American pragmatism. He is the author of more than 100 books in many areas of philosophy—more than a dozen translated into other languages—and hundreds of journal articles. He has been editor for more than three decades of the American Philosophical Quarterly, which he founded, and has served as editor of both the History of Philosophy Quarterly and the Public Affairs Quarterly.

Rescher’s many honors include the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Humanistic Scholarship in 1983, the Belgian Cardinal Mercier Prize in 2005, and the Thomas Aquinas Medal of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in 2007. An honorary member of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College, Rescher has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Royal Society of Canada, the Institut International de Philosophie, the Academie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences, and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His contributions to philosophy have been recognized by the award of honorary degrees from seven universities on three continents.

In 2010, Rescher donated his massive collection of materials on philosophy to the University’s Hillman Library. In turn, the University honored Rescher for his lifetime of achievement and devotion to the University by establishing the Dr. Nicholas Rescher Fund for the Advancement of the Department of Philosophy, which includes a prestigious biennial award, the Nicholas Rescher Prize for Contributions to Systematic Philosophy. Ernest Sosa, Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, was the inaugural recipient of the Rescher Prize. One of Rescher’s first students, Sosa earned his PhD from Pitt in 1964 before beginning his distinguished career in philosophy.

In the earlier years of his career, Rescher worked extensively in symbolic and philosophical logic. His innovations in this field include the “Rescher quantifier” as well as the “Rescher-Dienes implication relation” with the “Rescher-Manor consequence relation.” Over the years, some dozen books and monographs have been published on his philosophical work.

Rescher is a former president of the American Philosophical Association, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the American Metaphysical Society, the G.W. Leibniz Society of America, and the C.S. Pierce Society. He also has served as an officer of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, an organ of UNESCO.

At Pitt, Rescher chaired the philosophy department in 1980-81. He is currently cochair of the University’s Center for Philosophy of Science, along with its founder, Adolf Grünbaum, Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science at Pitt, who has been Rescher’s colleague ever since helping to recruit him to Lehigh University in 1957. 

Born in Hagen, Germany, in 1928, Rescher immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. He attended Queens College in New York City, majoring in mathematics, and earned his doctorate in philosophy at Princeton University in 1951, at the age of 22—the youngest person ever to do so in the history of Princeton’s Department of Philosophy.

Prior to joining Pitt’s Department of Philosophy, Rescher served in the U.S. Marine Corps, from 1952 to 1954, and was subsequently employed in the mathematics division of the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., from 1954 to 1957. He left Rand for Lehigh University in 1957.

A native of Dortmund, Germany, Busso von Alvensleben has a long and distinguished diplomatic career beginning in 1978 with service in the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn and continuing with assignments at German embassies in Kenya and Israel and at the United Nations, where he was counsellor to the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany. He also has served as German ambassador to Sweden and Ireland and became Germany’s Consul General in New York earlier this year.

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12/5/11/mab

Pitt Professor Nicholas Rescher, left, is awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit by German Consul General Busso von Alvensleben