Log In

Sydney S. Shoemaker

Philosophy educator

Sydney S. Shoemaker, American philosophy educator. Fulbright scholar Edinburgh, Scotland, 1953-1954; Santayana fellow Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960-1961; fellow Center Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, 1973-1974, National Endowment for Humanities, 1980-1981, Guggenheim Foundation, 1987-1988, National Humanities Center, 1987-1988.


Shoemaker, Sydney S. was born on September 29, 1931 in Boise, Idaho, United States. Son of Roy Hopkins and Sarah Parker (Anderson) Shoemaker.


Bachelor, Reed College, 1953. Postgraduate, Edinburgh University, Scotland, 1954. Doctor of Philosophy, Cornell University, 1958.


Taught at Ohio State University, 1957-1960, Harvard, 1960 I, Cornell, 1961-1967, Rockefeller Institute, New York, 1967 70. Professor of Philosophy at Cornell, from 1970. Susan Linn Sage Professor, Cornell, from 1978: Visiting Professor at Columbia, 1968, Calgary, 1969, and

Harvard, 1970.

John Locke Lecturer. University of Oxford. 1972; Fellow of Center for Advanced Study in Behavioural Sciences, Stanford. 1973-1974; National F.ndowment for Humanities Fellowship, 1980-1981.

Guggenheim Fellow and Fellow at National Humanities Center, 1987 -8. Vice president, Eastern Division. American Philosophical Association.

1992-1993, President. 1993-1994; Editor, Philosophical Review, intermittently from 1964. General Editor, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy, 1982-1990.



Initially, in Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity (1963), Shoemaker appealed to criteria, especially bodily identity, for analysing personal identity, while insisting that we know ourselves without criteria. Later, however, he gave primacy to psychological continuity over bodily identity and, discussing the possibility of ‘fission’ in ‘Persons and their pasts’ (1970), introduced ‘quasi-remembering’, where the previous experience that memory involves need not be that of the rememberer. But he then abandoned the emphasis on criteria and concentrated instead on the functionalism for which he has been most influential: mental states are defined by how they function, i.e. by their causes and effects on behaviour.

He has argued, controversially, that functionalism can tolerate qualia, that it is impossible that qualia should be absent from a creature behaving exactly like one in which they were present, but that your qualia and mine could in principle differ in behaviourally undetectable ways.


Member American Association of University Professors, American Academy Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Association (member executive committee eastern division 1977-1980, vice president 1992-1993, president 1993-1994).


  • Philosophers & Thinkers

    Locke, Wittgenstein. Malcolm. Putnam. Armstrong, D. Lewis and Davidson.

  • Other Interests

    Philosophy of mind: metaphysics.


Married Molly McDonald, October 1, 1960. 1 son, Peter William.

Roy Hopkins Shoemaker

Sarah Parker (Anderson) Shoemaker

Molly McDonald