Edwin Arthur Burtt

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Edwin Arthur Burtt
Born October 11, 1892
Groton, Massachusetts
Died September 6, 1989
Ithaca, New York
Alma mater Yale University
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Pragmatism
Pragmatic naturalism[1] ("Young Radicals")[2]
Main interests
Philosophy of science, history of science, philosophy of religion
Notable ideas
Metaphysical foundations of physical science

Edwin Arthur Burtt (/bɜːrt/; October 11, 1892 – September 6, 1989[5]), usually cited as E. A. Burtt, was an American philosopher who wrote extensively on the philosophy of religion. His doctoral thesis published as a book under the title The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science has had a significant influence upon the history of science that is not generally recognized, according to H. Floris Cohen.[6]


He was born on October 11, 1892 in Groton, Massachusetts. His missionary parents took Burtt to China for several of his teenage years. He was educated at Yale University. He graduated from Yale in 1915, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[7]:983 He attended Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He became the Susan Linn Sage Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University in 1941.

He died on September 6, 1989 in Ithaca, New York.


Though he maintained throughout his life a sympathy towards religious values and beliefs, he acknowledged that his philosophy had been marked by a reaction towards what he saw as his own father's too narrow an outlook.[8] Although Burtt participated in drafting the Humanist Manifesto I, he did not work on the project further, because he lost interest after his ideas that spiritual experience is the identification with categories of space, time, causality, and other fundamental physical principles were never included in the final publications.[9] However, in 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[10]


Based on his own statements, Thomas Kuhn may very well have been unaware that in building on the philosophy of Alexandre Koyré, he was in turn building on the philosophy of Burtt whose influence upon Koyré has been demonstrated as substantial.[11]


  • The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. A Historical and Critical Essay (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner; 1924, 1925)
  • The Metaphysics of Sir Isaac Newton (1925)
  • Religion in an Age of Science (1930)
  • Principles and Problems of Right Thinking (1931)
  • The English Philosophers, from Bacon to Mill (1939)
  • Types of Religious Philosophy (1939)
  • The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha (1955)
  • Man Seeks the Divine: A Study in the History and Comparison of Religions (1957)
  • In Search of Philosophic Understanding (1965)
  • Light, Love and Life (1986)

See also


  1. Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, p. 238.
  2. Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, p. 81.
  3. John R. Shook (ed.), Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005, p. 392
  4. Friedman, Michael (2011). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Ernst Cassirer". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 6 February 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Edwin Burtt, Professor And Author, Dies at 96". New York Times. September 9, 1989. Retrieved April 24, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, p. 63
  7. Catalogue of Beta Theta Pi. J. T. Brown. 1917. Retrieved April 24, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. A Eulogy with young life details. Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  9. Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, p. 194
  10. "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 18, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Diane Davis Villemaire, 2002, pp. 3–4


External links