University of Pittsburgh
March 4, 2011

Pitt Philosophy Professor to Present Rare, 300-Year-Old Letter to Head Of University Library System March 7


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—At 10 a.m. March 7, Nicholas Rescher, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, will present to Rush Miller, head of Pitt’s University Library System (ULS), a rare 1711 letter from one of history’s most-renowned philosophers. 

The presentation will take place in Miller’s office, 271 Hillman Library, 3960 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 

The letter is the highlight of Rescher’s personal collection of original and rare materials he began donating to the ULS last year. Much of the material focuses on G.W. Leibniz (1646-1716), the celebrated 17th-century philosopher and mathematician who was an inventor of and contributor to calculus. Michael Gottlob Hansch (1683-1749), a theologian and Leibniz scholar, was a biographer of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), the German astronomer and astrologer whose laws of planetary motion provided a foundation a century later for Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. 

In 1711, Hansch wrote Leibniz a three-page letter regarding Kepler’s writings, but also touched upon other, theological, matters, including divine justice, infant sin, and freedom of the will. A fourth page of the letter was left blank for Leibniz’ response. Leibniz wrote back to Hansch, encouraging him to move ahead with publishing Kepler’s manuscripts, and he also answered his other questions. It is this correspondence that Rescher will present to Miller. The letter will be housed, along with Rescher’s other papers, in Pitt’s Archives of Scientific Philosophy. 

Early in his career, during the late 1940s and early ’50s, Rescher collaborated extensively with philosophers from the Berlin School of scientific philosophy, a philosophical movement inspired by the work of Albert Einstein. Rescher’s collection includes original manuscripts of 20th-century philosophers and materials relating to this school.

Rescher, who chaired the philosophy department at Pitt in 1980-81, is currently cochair of the University’s Center for Philosophy of Science. He has authored more than 100 books and hundreds of journal articles on many areas of philosophy. 



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