Blanshard, Brand, 1892-1987

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Brand Blanshard was born in Ohio in 1892. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1914, a master's degree from Columbia University in 1918, a B. Sci. from Oxford in 1920, and a doctorate from Harvard in 1921. Blanshard taught philosophy at the University of Michigan (1921-1925), Swarthmore College (1925-1945), and Yale University (1945-1961, emeritus 1961-1987). He was one of the nation's leading rational philosophers and wrote more than 300 books and articles. Brand Blanshard died in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 18, 1987.

From the description of Brand Blanshard papers, 1873-1989 (inclusive), 1913-1989 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702192692

Brand Blanshard was born in Ohio in 1892. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1914, a master's degree from Columbia University in 1918, a B.Sci. from Oxford in 1920, and a doctorate from Harvard in 1921. Blanshard taught philosophy at the University of Michigan (1921-1925), Swarthmore College (1925-1945), and Yale University (1945-1961, emeritus 1961-1987). He was one of the nation's leading rational philosophers and wrote more than 300 books and articles. Brand Blanshard died in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 18, 1987.

Brand Blanshard (named Percy Brand at birth) and his twin brother Paul Beecher were born on August 27, 1892, in Fredericksburg, Ohio. Emily Coulter Blanshard, their mother, died in a fire the following summer. Their father, Francis Blanshard, a Congregational minister, suffered from consumption and, in 1902, went west alone for the sake of his health, leaving the twins in the care of his widowed mother, Orminda Blanshard. Sometime after Francis's death in 1904, the family moved to Petoskey, Michigan, and in 1908 the family moved to Detroit for Brand and Paul to attend high school.

The brothers both went to the University of Michigan. There the chairman of the Philosophy Department, Robert Mark Wenley, heightened Brand's growing interest in philosophy and helped him secure a Rhodes scholarship. After his junior year, Brand studied philosophy at Oxford with Harold Henry Joachim as his tutor. He was a member of Merton College, Oxford. During his two years at Oxford, he also came to know T. S. Eliot and F. H. Bradley.

In 1915, Blanshard joined the British Army Y.M.C.A. and was sent successively to Mesopotamia and India. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Blanshard returned to the United States and spent the academic year 1917-1918 studying philosophy at Columbia University with John Dewey. He received an M.A. from Columbia in 1918, and at about the same time the University of Michigan awarded him an A.B. degree and elected him to Phi Beta Kappa.

During the summer of 1918, Dewey took Blanshard and a few other graduate students to Philadelphia to study the Polish community there. One of the other students was Frances Bradshaw. When Blanshard was drafted into the army in 1918, he and Frances arranged a hasty wedding before he was sent to France. With the war coming to an end, the army established an educational program in France for those men awaiting transfer home. Blanshard was assigned to the new University of Beaune as an instructor in philosophy.

On his discharge, following ten months in France, Blanshard returned to Oxford, where Frances joined him, to complete the last year of his Rhodes scholarship. Here he came under the influence of H. W. B. Joseph and prepared a thesis on Dewey's theory of judgement for the B.Sc. degree. Blanshard then returned to the United States and completed a doctorate at Harvard University during the academic year 1920-1921.

In the fall of 1921 he returned to the University of Michigan where he taught philosophy until offered an associate professorship at Swarthmore College in 1925. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1928. Frances Blanshard became assistant, associate, and then dean of women at Swarthmore.

The Blanshards spent the year 1929-1930 in Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Blanshard commenced serious writing for a book that would be published in 1939, The Nature of Thought . The book brought Blanshard prominence, and he was elected to serve as president of the Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, for 1942. When the Board of Officers of the Philosophical Association undertook a review of the place of philosophy in American education in 1943, they appointed Blanshard to the study commission. The commission issued its report, Philosophy in American Education, in 1945.

Through his work on the commission Blanshard came to know Charles Hendel, the chairman of the philosophy department at Yale University. He also worked with Hendel on a committee to write an introduction to philosophy for use by the armed forces. This work was published as Preface to Philosophy . Blanshard's work with Hendel probably led to the invitation that he received in 1944 to join the Yale faculty. The Blanshards left their positions at Swarthmore in the spring of 1945. Brand began teaching at Yale that summer and remained on the faculty for seventeen years. For seven years during his tenure he also served as chairman of the department (1945-1950, 1959-1961).

Blanshard was invited to deliver the Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1952 and 1953. Receiving a leave from Yale, he began preparing two series of ten lectures each, the first series on reason and its critics and the second on reason and goodness. In the midst of his preparations for the second series, he received an invitation from the American Philosophical Association to give the Carus Lectures. From these three lecture series Blanshard slowly crafted his trilogy on reason to supplement The Nature of Thought . Reason and Analysis, published in 1962, contains his conception of reason in light of contemporary analytical theories. Reason and Goodness, in which he applies this conception of reason to ethics and politics, was published in 1961, and in 1975 Reason and Belief was published. In the latter, Blanshard applies his conception of reason to Christian theology.

After teaching during the summer of 1953 in the Seminar in American Studies in Salzburg, Blanshard returned to Yale. Blanshard was known internationally for his literary clarity and felicity of style, and in 1954 he published a classic volume on writing, On Philosophical Style . After retiring from Yale in 1961, Blanshard spent a year at the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University and a term at the University of Minnesota. In 1966 Frances Blanshard suffered a heart attack and died. She had left unfinished her biography of Frank Aydelotte, which Brand completed during the next two years.

In 1969, Blanshard married Roberta W. Yerkes, a neighbor and editor at the Yale University Press. The next fifteen years were extremely productive ones for Brand's research and writing. He saw five books through publication including Frank Aydelotte of Swarthmore (1970) and Reason and Belief (1975). Many of his talks were collected and published in The Uses of a Liberal Education and Other Talks to Students (1973). The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard appeared in 1980 as Volume XV in the Library of Living Philosophers series. At the invitation of Paul Arthur Schilpp, founder-editor of the series, Brand wrote an autobiography, with many pen portraits of other philosophers (Part I), and replies to essays by 30 critics selected for inclusion in the volume (Part II). A bibliography of Blanshard's writings from 1916-1980, compiled by John Howie, is included as Part III of this volume. Blanshard's only foray into biography was his last book, Four Reasonable Men: Marcus Aurelius, John Stuart Mill, Ernest Renan and Henry Sidgwick (1984). At his death on November 18, 1987, the bibliography of his publications included more than 300 books and articles. Tributes at the time described him as "one of the nation's leading rationalist philosophers" and "the philosopher's philosopher."

For a fuller sketch of Blanshard's life see his "Autobiography of Brand Blanshard," The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard, volume XV in the Library of Living Philosophers, published by Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1980.

From the guide to the Brand Blanshard papers, 1873-1989, 1913-1989, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Lafferty, Theodore Thomas, 1901-1970. Theodore Thomas Lafferty papers, 1931-1945. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
referencedIn William Harmon Papers (#4568), 1939-2000 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
creatorOf Brand Blanshard papers, 1873-1989, 1913-1989 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Blanshard, Brand, 1892-1987. The idealistic theory of judgment and its critics. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Harmon, William, 1938-. William Harmon papers, 1939-2000 (correspondents B). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Paul Blanshard Papers, 1912-1979 Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn William Ernest Hocking papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Comstock, Ada Louise. Papers, 1818-1982 (inclusive), 1887-1982 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, 1898-1950 (bulk), 1898-1950 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Blanshard, Brand, 1892-1987. Brand Blanshard papers, 1873-1989 (inclusive), 1913-1989 (bulk). Yale University Library
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Peacham (Vt.)
Peacham (Vt.)
Behaviorism (Psychology)
Knowledge, Theory of
Parapsychology and philosophy
Rhodes scholarships


Birth 1892-08-27

Death 1987-11-19





Ark ID: w6jh45b1

SNAC ID: 15796264