Stephen Nathanson (1944-2023)


Stephen Nathanson, professor emeritus of philosophy at Northeastern University, has died.

Professor Nathanson was known for his work on economic justice, war and peace, patriotism, punishment, and social and political philosophy. His books include Terrorism and the Ethics of WarAn Eye for an Eye: The Immorality of Punishing by DeathThe Ideal of Rationality: A Defense, Within Reason, and Patriotism, Morality, and Peace. You can learn more about his writings here.

Professor Nathanson was on the faculty of Northeastern for over 40 years, serving twice as department chair, and for several years leading the university’s center for teaching and learning. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.

His colleagues rememember him as a dedicated educator and write, “Professor Nathanson was a mentor, musician, activist, and lover of ideas. He pursued a collaborative and supportive version of philosophical practice, and believed that philosophy was crucial to understanding and responding to the challenges of our times.”

He died on February 10th. There is an obituary here.
(via John Basl)
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Mahmoud Jalloh
1 year ago

Stephen Nathanson was my first philosophy professor when I started as an engineering major at Northeastern University in 2012. I distinctly remember his “Markets, Governments, and Economic Justice” course as a revelation—I had already developed a cynicism that such issues could not be discussed seriously and rationally. Professor Nathanson was a perfect example of a philosopher, equally critical and charitable, interested in the truth. Besides his excellent introductory text (as noted by Gordon Barnes on Leiter’s thread), Professor Nathanson covered a wide range of interesting materials, including the work of authors like Ayn Rand, to which few philosophers would deign to give attention to but whose work was familiar and even influential to incoming students. In characteristic even-handedness, we also read the Communist Manifesto, in addition to political philosophy standards like Nozick and Rawls. I believe that was Professor Nathanson’s final course before his retirement.

It is safe to say that the course changed my life: it lead to my changing majors and going on to graduate school in philosophy. I remember having a chat with Professor Nathanson in the quad (which he noted was but a parking lot when he started) as I was ruminating over whether majoring in philosophy was a good decision and he told me a story about when he was deciding to go to graduate school. He said, if I remember correctly, that his wife told him that if he became a philosopher he would at least “never be bored”. That stuck with me, and I haven’t been bored yet! I greatly appreciate my brief relationship with Professor Nathanson and wish to express my deepest condolences to his family and friends.

roen Prowe
6 months ago

Gave me my only C+ in college. RIP Professor.