Robert Brandom

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Robert Brandom
Robert Brandom.jpg
BornMarch 13, 1950
Alma materYale University (B.A., 1972)
Princeton University (Ph.D., 1977)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Pittsburgh School
Doctoral advisorRichard Rorty
David Lewis
Main interests
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of logic
History of philosophy
Notable ideas
Semantic inferentialism
Logical expressivism

Robert Boyce Brandom (born March 13, 1950)[2] is an American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. He works primarily in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic, and his work manifests both systematic and historical interests in these topics. His work has presented "arguably the first fully systematic and technically rigorous attempt to explain the meaning of linguistic items in terms of their socially norm-governed use ('meaning as use', to cite the Wittgensteinian slogan), thereby also giving a non-representationalist account of the intentionality of thought and the rationality of action as well."[3]

Brandom is broadly considered to be part of the American pragmatist tradition in philosophy.[4][5]

In 2003, he won the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award.


Brandom earned his B.A. in 1972 from Yale University and his Ph.D. in 1977 from Princeton University, under Richard Rorty and David Kellogg Lewis.[2] His doctoral thesis was titled Practice and Object.[2]


Brandom's work is heavily influenced by that of Wilfrid Sellars, Richard Rorty, Michael Dummett and his Pittsburgh colleague John McDowell. He also draws heavily on the works of Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Gottlob Frege, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He is best known for his investigations of linguistic meanings, or semantics. He advocates the view that the meaning of an expression is fixed by how it is used in inferences (see inferential role semantics). This project is developed at length in his influential 1994 book Making It Explicit, and more briefly in Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism (2000); a chapter of that latter work, "Semantic Inferentialism and Logical Expressivism", outlines the main themes of representationalism (the tradition of basing semantics on the concept of representation) vs. inferentialism (the conviction for an expression to be meaningful is has to be governed by a certain kind of inferential rules) and inferentialism's relationship to logical expressivism (the conviction that "logic is expressive in the sense that it makes explicit or codifies certain aspects of the inferential structure of our discursive practice").[6]

Brandom has also published a collection of essays on the history of philosophy, Tales of the Mighty Dead (2002), a critical and historical sketch of what he calls the "philosophy of intentionality". He is the editor of a collection of papers about Richard Rorty's philosophy, Rorty and His Critics (2000). He delivered the 2006 John Locke lectures at Oxford University, and they have been published by Oxford University Press under the title Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism (2008). Brandom is currently working on a book dealing with Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.


  • The Logic of Inconsistency, with Nicholas Rescher. Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1980.
  • Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment, Harvard University Press (Cambridge) 1994. ISBN 0-674-54319-X
  • Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, by Wilfrid Sellars, Robert B. Brandom (ed.) Harvard University Press, 1997. With an introduction by Richard Rorty and Study Guide by Robert Brandom ISBN 0-674-25154-7
  • Rorty and His Critics, edited, with an introduction (includes "Vocabularies of Pragmatism") by Robert Brandom. Original essays by: Rorty, Habermas, Davidson, Putnam, Dennett, McDowell, Bouveresse, Brandom, Williams, Allen, Bilgrami, Conant, and Ramberg. Blackwell's Publishers, Oxford, July 2000 ISBN 0-631-20981-6
  • Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism, Harvard University Press, 2000 (paperback 2001), 230 pp. ISBN 0-674-00158-3
  • Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality, Harvard University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-674-00903-7
  • In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars, edited with an introduction by Kevin Scharp and Robert Brandom. Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-674-02498-2
  • Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism, Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-199-54287-2
  • Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas, Harvard University Belknap Press, 2009. ISBN 9780674053618
  • Perspectives on Pragmatism: Classical, Recent, & Contemporary, Harvard University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-674-05808-8
  • From Empiricism to Expressivism: Brandom Reads Sellars, Harvard University Press, 2015 ISBN 978-0674187283
  • Wiedererinnerter Idealismus, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2015 ISBN 978-3-518-29704-9


  1. ^ Pragmatism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ a b c Robert Boyce Brandom - Curriculum Vitae
  3. ^ Reading Brandom: On Making It Explicit. Reviewed by James R. O'Shea, University College Dublin
  4. ^ Hookway, Christopher (16 August 2008). "Pragmatism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  5. ^ McDermid, Douglas (15 December 2006). "Pragmatism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  6. ^ James Lindsey David Brown, "Propositions and Nondescriptivism in Metaethics", MPhil thesis, University College London, 2016, p. 51.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernd Prien and David P. Schweikard (eds.), Robert Brandom: Analytic Pragmatist, Ontos, 2008, 194pp., ISBN 978-3-938793-77-0. [Collection of essays with Brandom’s responses].
  • Jeremy Wanderer, Robert Brandom, Acumen Publishing (UK); McGill-Queens University Press (US), 2008, 256 pp. 256 ISBN 978-0-7735-3486-5. [Critical introduction].
  • Bernhard Weiss and Jeremy Wanderer (eds.), Reading Brandom: On Making It Explicit, Routledge 2010, 371 pp, ISBN 978-0-415-38037-9 [Collection of essays—including contributions by Gibbard, Dennett, Taylor, McDowell, Dummett, Fodor and Lepore and Wright—with Brandom's responses].

External links[edit]