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Library of Living Philosophers | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Library of Living Philosophers

Historical Note:

The Library of Living Philosophers series was the literary and editorial brainchild of Paul Arthur Schilpp.  The concept of the library materialized as an editorial project which involved the publication of separate volumes on individual living philosophers, thereby offering not only a forum for their contemporaries to discuss points of interest, but also an opportunity for the philosophers to reply to their critics.

Schilpp obtained John Dewey's consent to be the first philosopher for the series.  Letters were sent inviting well-known Dewey scholars to contribute articles about different aspects of Dewey's philosophy.  As the manuscripts came in they were edited by Paul Schilpp and sent to John Dewey to enable him to formulate his reply.  The format of each of the volumes in the series was determined by individual responses though the same general pattern of autobiography, criticism, and reply was followed in all the volumes.

The reputation of the Library grew both in the US and abroad, and several of the volumes were translated into various languages. In 1965, when Southern Illinois University offered Schilpp the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor of Philosophy, the University agreed to absorb some of the editorial costs for the Library.

Schilpp continued successfully as editor of the series until 1980 when he decided to accept emeritus status in the Department of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University and to relinquish the editorship of the Library.  On February 28, 1979 a contract was signed between the Library and Southern Illinois University by which all rights were turned over to the University.  Professor Lewis Hahn was named the new editor and he took over the editorship in July 1981.  The University, in the hope of obtaining all previous editorial records of the Library, applied for a United States Department of Education Title II-C grant.  This grant enabled the purchase of the Library of Living Philosophers Papers from 1938 to the present and also provided for their arrangement and processing.

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