Robert Audi

Robert Audi (born November 1941) is an American philosopher whose major work has focused on epistemology, ethics – especially on ethical intuitionism – and the theory of action. He is O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and previously held a Chair in the Business School there. His 2005 book, The Good in the Right, updates and strengthens Rossian intuitionism and develops the epistemology of ethics. He has also written important works of political philosophy, particularly on the relationship between church and state. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association[1] and the Society of Christian Philosophers.


Audi earned his BA from Colgate University and his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. He taught initially at the University of Texas at Austin, and then for many years as the Charles J. Mach University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln before moving to University of Notre Dame as Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Management, and the David E. Gallo Chair in Ethics. In 2009 he vacated the Gall Chair and took a chair as John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy. He has served as General Editor of the First Edition (1995) and Second Edition (1999) of The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. He has also served as the general editor for "Modern Readings in Epistemology", as well as for "Modern readings in Metaphysics".

In an interview for the Brooklyn Friends School of which he's an alumnus (year 1959), he revealed that his interest in philosophy came from his father, a businessman and Lebanese immigrant with an interest in philosophy and history. His mother, a medical doctor and faculty at NYU Medical School, was also an influence. "'Both liked to explain and comment on things,' Robert mused, 'and they often entertained people from the diplomatic world and medicine who argued about politics, religion and ideas in general.'"[2]


Audi has defended a position he calls "fallibilistic foundationalism." He thinks that the foundationalist response is the only tenable option of the epistemic regress argument. This states that if every belief has to be justified by some other, then the only options are four: infinite regress, circularity, stopping at a belief that isn't knowledge, and stopping at a basic belief that is itself justified. If the only alternative is the fourth, then if one has knowledge, one has foundational knowledge. Audi considers that foundationalism is usually taken to be infallible. That is, it is normally associated with the view that knowledge is founded on basic beliefs that are axiomatic and necessarily true, and that the rest of knowledge is deduced from this set of beliefs. Audi thinks that foundationalism may be fallible, in the sense that the suprastructure of beliefs may be derived inductively from the basic beliefs, and hence may be fallible. He also thinks that basic beliefs need not be necessary truths, but merely have some structure which makes epistemic transition possible. For example, the belief that one is in the presence of an object arises causally from visual perception.

Reference: Audi, "Contemporary Foundationalism".

Religion in the public square

In his recent book titled The Discourse Theory of Democracy, Hugh Baxter has commented on "The Rawls/Audi Restrictive View and Its Critics," stating that, "The publication of Rawls's Political Liberalism in 1993 prompted an extensive debate about the role of religion in politics and particularly about the role of religion in public political discussion among citizens. His views together with those later expressed by Robert Audi, have been taken to define one side of the controversy: the side arguing that citizens in liberal democracies should exercise restraint on public employment of religious reasons."[3] Baxter stated that the other side of the controversy was represented by the scholars Nicholas Wolterstorff and Paul J. Weithman.

Selected bibliography


Coauthored books and edited volumes

Books about Audi's work

See also


  2. "Alum Profile: Robert Audi '59, by Jeffrey Stanley
  3. Baxter, Hugh (2011). The Discourse Theory of Democracy, Sanford University Press, p. 193.
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