Department of Philosophy


Phone: (303) 492-6593
Office: HLMS 286
Information: Faculty Page
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Curriculum Vitae: Brief Vita08wpdVar.htm






selected papers




JOHN A. FISHER (Minnesota, Ph.D. 1971), Professor Emeritus.  Growing up in Minneapolis, Fisher was always interested in the sciences. He took an undergraduate degree in physics from the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota. While an undergraduate, he was surprised, however, to find that his most engaging classes were in the humanities. A summer spent in bed with mono reading Russell’s History of Western Philosophy – a book he later came to realize was wildly unreliable – got him interested in philosophy. In his senior year, having fulfilled all of the requirements for a bachelor of physics degree, he took only philosophy courses. He found that in contrast to physics, where the courses emphasized mastering various equations and how to apply them, philosophy was an area where one could appreciate ferment and debate about fundamental questions, both questions that are abstract (“What is causation?”) and those that relate to our lives (“What am I?”). Philosophy was an area where raising questions about the foundations of a field was encouraged, and where the answers did not appear to have been predetermined, where one could jump in and make a contribution. He was hooked. Having found a degree of meaning and freedom in philosophy that he had not in physics, he shifted to philosophy, focusing in graduate school on the sorts of problems that are found in Russell, questions about knowledge, perception, mind, and philosophical methodology.

Fisher came to Colorado initially interested in epistemology, especially skepticism, as well as in such philosophy-of-language issues as meaning, linguistic rules, and knowledge of language – the sort of issues dealt with in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Quine’s Word and Object, and Chomsky’s Cartesian Linguistics. In the late 1980s he published Reflecting on Art, which explores answers to classical challenges proposed by Plato, Tolstoy, and others to the value of the arts. Since then he has concentrated on issues in the philosophy of art and aesthetics, especially on topics that involve overlap between two fields or that are interdisciplinary, such as environmental aesthetics and philosophy of music.

He remains fascinated nonetheless by the most general philosophical issues, those that Russell called “The Problems of Philosophy” in his famous and enduring textbook.

Areas of Interest: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology.

Current Research: The aesthetics of nature, aesthetic value and environmental ethics, the definition of art, songs as musical works, the ontology of recordings, sounds of nature, aesthetic properties, a cross-cultural definition of music, performers as artists, animal mentality.

For more information, see Professor Fisher's personal website and CV.


Philosophy Department, UCB 232, Boulder, CO 80309-0232
Hellems 167  |  Phone: (303) 492-6132  |  Fax: (303) 492-8386
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