CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 19, 2009 -- Mark E. Richard, who specializes in the philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and metaphysics and epistemology, has been named professor of philosophy at Harvard University, effective July 1, 2010.
"Professor Richard is an original, rigorous, and creative scholar who has made important, and impressive, contributions to the philosophy of language," says Diana Sorensen, dean for the arts and humanities in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "His work ranks with the best being done in his field today. I am delighted to welcome him to Harvard."
Within the field of philosophy of language, Richard is best known for his work on the semantical analysis of propositional-attitude ascriptions -- such as "hope that" and "believe that" -- and its connection to theories of direct reference in the philosophy of language. His 1990 book Propositional Attitudes: An Essay on Thoughts and How We Ascribe Them (Cambridge University Press), bolstered over the next decade by further elaborations and defense, has had a major influence on philosophers; to many it outlines the strongest theory in the field.
Richard’s 2008 book When Truth Gives Out (Oxford University Press) argues that the truth or falsity of an utterance is not always the appropriate dimension in which to evaluate it. Arguing against the philosophical orthodoxy, Richard uses a wide range of examples new to the philosophical literature -- including racial slurs and other epithets, as well as moral and ethical talk -- to show that performative and expressive aspects of language can trump semantics. According to Richard, what one does with one’s words may put what they say outside of the true and the false.
Among other topics, When Truth Gives Out explores relativism about truth. It argues that the way in which the contours of concepts change in response to discoveries and practical needs is best understood in terms of a modest relativism. It also investigates the idea that our having differing tastes -- and thus our making different discoveries about what is or is not attractive, stylish, boring, or perverted, for example -- results in our quite literally occupying different worlds, with what is a fact for some of us not a fact for others.
Richard has also published Meaning (Wiley-Blackwell, 2002); many of his shorter writings are compiled in a two-volume collection titled Meaning in Context, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2010 and 2011.
Richard received his B.A. from Hamilton College in 1973 and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1979 and 1982, respectively. Following visiting faculty positions at North Carolina State University and the University of Washington, he joined Tufts as an assistant professor of philosophy in 1984, becoming associate professor in 1990 and professor in 1999. He was named the Lenore Stern Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Tufts in 2007.