Remembering Harry Frankfurt

July 20, 2023

It is with fond remembrance that members of the UCHV community mourn the passing of Harry Frankfurt, Department of Philosophy Professor Emeritus whose distinguished tenure at Princeton University spanned 12 years until his retirement in 2002. He died at the age of 94 in Santa Monica, California. He made numerous contributions to the field of philosophy including "a series of thematically interrelated papers, written from the 1960s through the 2000s, in which he situated the will — people’s motivating wants and desires — at the center of a unified vision of freedom, moral responsibility, personal identity and the sources of life’s meaning. Volition, more than reason or morality, was the defining aspect of the human condition."

Professor Frankfurt was a cherished colleague, friend, and mentor to many at UCHV,  and Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor for Distinguished Teaching and member of the inaugural cohort of UCHV Graduate Prize Fellows, shared poignant remarks on his passing, "[He] was such a wonderful presence at UCHV in its early days. To the first generation of UCHV Graduate [Prize] Fellows, he was an inspiring figure. He embodied the UCHV mission in more ways than one can list. He was intellectually fierce but always generous. He exemplified moral philosophy and moral psychology at its best and oriented our discussions to questions that truly mattered.  "The Importance of What We Care About" like so much of his work, had a deep personal impact on anyone who read it closely.  It is some consolation that his work will continue to provoke, inspire, and guide us."

We invite you to read about Harry Frankfurt's life and work in the New York Times obituary here and on the Department of Philosophy website here.