Biography

Christia Mercer Headshot

Download Professor Mercer’s CV here (.doc).

Christia Mercer is the Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, the Founder and Director of the Center for New Narratives in Philosophy, and the President of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, 2019-20.

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, she studied art history and then philosophy before receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1989. She has been at Columbia University since 1991. Since publishing Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development in 2001, she has published papers on early modern Platonism and its centrality in early modern thought. Her most prominent recent awards include Resident Scholar, American Academy in Rome (2013), Guggenheim Fellowship (2012-13), Visiting Senior Professor at Harvard’s Villa I Tatti in Florence (2015), ACLS Fellowship (2015-16), Folger Library Fellowship (2016), and Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (2018-19). She gave the Ernst Cassirer Lectures at the University of Hamburg in 2005 and the Inaugural Margaret Dauler Wilson Lecture at Princeton in 2016.

Mercer won the 2008 Columbia College Great Teacher Award, and the 2012 Mark van Doren Award, which annually recognizes a professor for “commitment to undergraduate instruction, as well as for humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership.”

Professor Mercer has begun to devote herself more and more to contextualizing the history of philosophy. To that end, she designed a book series, Oxford Philosophical Concepts, which enlists prominent international scholars to think creatively about the “lives” of concepts in the history of philosophy. As of 2019, there are 30 volumes in various stages of production, and 15 published. See the series website or purchase copies from OUP.

Along with the late Eileen O’Neill, she launched and serves as co-editor of another series, Oxford New Histories of Philosophy, which speaks to a growing concern to broaden and reexamine philosophy’s past. The series is now co-edited by Melvin Rogers. For more, see the series website and Professor Mercer’s op-eds in the New York Times and Washington Post on the motivations behind it.

Mercer’s major research projects are: (1) Exploring the Philosophy of Anne Conway, a book on the philosophy of the seventeenth-century English philosopher, Anne Conway, whose metaphysical system has not been thoroughly studied; (2) Feeling the Way to Truth: Women, Reason and the Development of Modern Philosophy, for which she was awarded an ALCS (2015) and which argues that historians of philosophy need to rethink core assumptions about seventeenth-century philosophy and that the writings of women play a much more significant part in that history than has been recognized; and (3) Platonisms in Early Modern Thought, whose goal is to articulate the diversity of Platonisms that form the background to early modern thought and identify the range of Platonist assumptions underlying early modern philosophy, theology, and art.

In 2018, Mercer launched the Center for New Narratives in Philosophy (CNNP), a project supported by the Center for Science and Society and the Department of Philosophy at Columbia. The CNNP is a site for the most innovative work in the history of philosophy and promotes diversity in philosophy as it is practiced and taught. The first initiative of the CNNP was a workshop titled “Rethinking Justice: Pedagogy of Dignity,” generously funded by the Marc Sanders Foundation with space donated by the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

Professor Mercer has become increasingly involved in activist causes with a special interest in rethinking criminal justice and access to higher education. She was the first professor to teach in prison as part of Columbia University’s Justice-in-Education Initiative. Her experience was featured in a nationally broadcast segment on CBS This Morning and described in her op-eds for the Washington Post and NBC Think, and in a piece about her experience for Columbia News. Her article on “the philosophical origins of patriarchy” was published in The Nation in 2019. For more about Professor Mercer’s work, including her efforts with Dionna King of Education from the Inside Out (EIO) Coalition to organize the first Radical Pop-Up Schools in New York, see her In The News page.

20278007846_83daeb5b06_oHer sons, Harris and Josiah Mercer, like to conspire against her, at least on stage.