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Dorion Cairns

the last lecture course on ethics

Lester Embree

pp. 139-160

Dorion Cairns was born the son of a Methodist pastor on July 4, 1901. He entered Harvard in 1919 and was first exposed to phenomenology in a course with Raphael Demos, who had studied with Bertrand Russell. Cairns first heard of Husserl and Meinong in something Russell had written, continuing his exposure to phenomenology in a course on general theory of value by Winthrop Bell, who had written his dissertation under Husserl. After his first year of graduate study, Cairns won a scholarship, which was renewed for a second year, and thus he spent two years with Husserl in Freiburg im Breisgau. He returned to study with the phenomenologist, who thought very highly of him, for a year and a half in 1931–32. Cairns's dissertation, The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl, was accepted at Harvard in June 1933. Then Cairns taught part time at several universities in New York City before securing a permanent position at Rockford College for Girls. After the war and recuperation from tuberculosis, he taught at Rockford for several years; he was next a visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy of the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School for Social Research in 1954–60, and thereafter a tenured professor. He initially began a course on intentionality that was extended due to student demand for six and a half semesters. It was subsequently divided into two semesters on intentionality and then one-semester courses on theory of knowledge, phenomenology of thinking, value theory, and ethics. His colleagues were first Alfred Schutz and then Aron Gurwitsch in what was the first center for phenomenology in the United States.1

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-015-9924-5_8

Full citation:

Embree, L. (2002). Dorion Cairns: the last lecture course on ethics, in Phenomenological approaches to moral philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 139-160.

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