Richard J. Fry

Me, with a sampling of beers

I'm Richard Fry, a philosopher. I work as an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

I've taught many different courses; you can find syllabi for some of them below. In Fall '18, I'll be teaching Introduction to Philosophy and SIUE's Senior Assignment course (PHIL 480).

My research focuses primarily on Early Modern views of non-human animal cognition. My C.V. has more details. I'm also the organizer of the annual Early Modern—Saint Louis conference.

I often read science fiction, sometimes build things, sometimes play video games, and watch TV. Learn more about me.


Me, with Edinburgh's David Hume Statue
A black and white photo of the Adam Smith statue in Edinburgh

My primary area of research is Early Modern philosophy. My research focuses chiefly on Early Modern views of the mental capacities of non-human animals. This work centers on David Hume, but explores both Hume's influences and contemporaries. My published work explores Hume's views in their context.

There are two chief tasks for a philosopher looking at these topics in the Early Modern period.

The first is to discern the position and its relationship to the view of human cognition on offer in that author's larger corpus and that author's philosophical ancestors and descendants.

The second is to determine precisely how the arguments work. Many of the arguments appear to turn on analogies between human cognition and animal cognition, but oftentimes the particular presuppositions and goals of a specific author will mean that the most obvious forms of argument are disallowed. This makes for an interesting reconstructive task, where determining what moves are available to the author is as important as what the ultimate view itself is.

I also have active research interests in philosophy of science (particularly explanation), and philosophy of librarianship (particularly censorship and intellectual freedom).

Please take a look at my C.V. for more about my academic work.



"I will venture to affirm, that, perhaps, the chief benefit, which results from philosophy, arises in an indirect manner, and proceeds more from its secret, insensible influence, than from its immediate application."

- David Hume, "The Sceptic," para.29

Me, with a picture my students drew, denominating me a 'hipster'

For most students, studying philosophy isn't about learning particular authors or views. For them, philosophy's value is that it gives them the skills and virtues needed to play the game of life well. Philosophy cultivates in particular the skill of making things clear, both for yourself and for others. It also cultivates virtues of self-examination. Developing these skills in students—and helping them see that they ought to be developed—is the chief goal of much of my teaching.

Syllabi for Selected Courses:

Introduction to Philosophy (F14, F15, F16, S17, F17, S18)

Introducing students to philosophical questions and theories by anchoring them in speculative fiction.

18th Century Philosophy (S16, S18)

A survey of philosophy from Berkeley to Shepherd.

17th Century Philosophy (S15)

A survey of philosophy from Bacon to Cockburn.

Theories of Knowledge (F17)

Survey of contemporary epistemology.

Animal Cognition: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (S17)

Senior seminar survey of Early Modern views on animal cognition, culminating in examination of contemporary work on that same issue.

(De)Constructing Difference: Race, Sex, Disability (F16)

Interdisciplinary Studies course designed to give students philosophical and sociological perspectives on natural kind terms deployed in contemporary society. Co-taught with Alyson Spurgas.

Reasoning & Argumentation (F14, S15, F15)

A course focused on developing critical reading and critical thinking skills. Required for first year students at SIUE.

Disputes in Early Modern Philosophy (S14)

Early Modern philosophers directly interacted with each other in print. We used their writings as the basis for debates about philosophical issues.

Origins of Animal Rights (F13)

This class asks how Early Modern views of cognition and ethics shape the moral consideration we pay to animals.

Sex, Science, Society (S13)

How should science influence our views of seemingly obvious categories like sex? What changes does this suggest for how our society is structured? Co-taught with Cassie Herbert.

Enquiry: Science & Philosophy (F12)

How are science and philosophy related? Topics include human and animal minds; laws and explanation; kinds, species, sex and gender.

Clear & Critical Thinking (Sum11, Sum12)

We are given reasons to believe things every day in the newspaper and on TV. What makes some of these reasons good and some of them bad?

Introduction to Logic (S12)

Formal, informal, deductive and inductive logic, including propositional calculus and quantification theory.

Substance Abuse: Monism/Dualism (F11)

What's a substance? Exploring topics in metaphysics and epistemology by using Ancient and Early Modern authors' views of substance as a starting point.


A tuxedo cat being silly
A brown tabby looking regal

I grew up in rural Texas and led my polka band to second place at the Texas State German Competition. From there, I went to The University of Arizona (in Tucson), where I majored in creative writing, minoring in philosophy. I later returned to U of A to finish a philosophy major in preparation for grad school.

I moved on to the Department of Philosophy at Georgetown University, entering the Ph.D. program in Fall 2008. During my first year at GU, I met my partner; we introduced our cats to each other a few months later and were married the next summer.

After completing my Ph.D. in late 2013, I took a tenure-track job with the Department of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where I've been ever since.

I do a bit of woodworking, since I like projects with final products and designing things. (I built this site from scratch myself, for just those reasons.) I make time to read science fiction and watch television, too. I'm a bit of beer hobbyist as well, though I don't brew much these days. Traveling is fun, as is taking pictures of those travels. All the pictures on this site are mine.

If you'd like to talk about sci-fi, television, beer, or just get in touch, email me at