Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Kittanning, Armstrong County
Although focusing on philosophy, Hartshorne also wrote about his hobby, bird watching, in Born to Sing: An Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song.
Charles Hartshorne is known as one of the most influential philosophers of metaphysics. His endless articles and publications have left many influential theories in philosophy and theology with his most influential work denoted Anselm’s Discovery. Hartshorne, born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, and schooled at the Yeates Boarding school in Lancaster County, began his career highly influenced by Quaker religion at Haverford College. He received his Doctorate from Harvard University and spent his life teaching at various prestigious universities throughout the country. His contributions to academia are innumerable and his works are still discussed within philosophical and theological circles.
Charles Hartshorne was born June 5, 1897, in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. His childhood was influenced by the church as his father was an Episcopal minister. Due to his religious upbringing, Hartshorne learned a tolerant and liberal form of Christianity. While attending Yeates Boarding School in Lancaster County, Hartshorne was introduced to Existence and Actuality edited by John B. Cobb Jr. and Franklin L. Gamwell, which lead to his break away from orthodox Christianity. This would play a key role in the future philosophical and theological writings that would try to develop a God that could be rationally defended while at the same time supplying the necessary religious needs of faith. Hartshorne began his studies at Haverford College highly influenced by the Quaker faith. This first attempt at studies was cut short by World War I as Hartshorne volunteered in the Army Medical Corps.
Hartshorne is most noted for his leading role in metaphysics. This role began during his college work in Harvard University and continued as he completed his Doctorate. His work began with his dissertation titled The Unity of All Things. Due to the success of his dissertation he was awarded a Sheldon Fellowship where he worked closely with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. In 1928 Hartshorne joined the faculty of the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago where his career as a metaphysician began to excel.
He published Beyond Humanism, Man’s Vision of God, and The Divine Relativity. These books addressed how man relates to God in order to understand himself and how the traditional ideas of God can be believed by being reformulated in a coherent manner. The Divine Reality and Reality as a Social Process were key in developing the role of the process of reality and the interconnectivity of all things. Other main ideas proposed in these works were denial of the classical doctrine of omnipotence of God and the realization that the divine perfection, as noted in classical theism, embodied only one side of perfection.
Because Hartshorne’s works were rather controversial throughout the circles of classical theism, his publications caused controversy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He therefore left the University of Chicago and took a position at Emory University. It is at this University that Hartshorne developed one of his most recognized works, Anselm’s Discovery. In this book he defended Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence and furthered the thesis by adding his personal implications and arguments of support. It is in this book that Hartshorne states “that any being that exists with the possibility of not existing cannot be God. Therefore, either God exists without the possibility of existing, or God does not exist.” This denies the argument that assumes that God can still be God regardless if it is believed that he exists or not, ruling out any contradictions.
Hartshorne continued his work at Emory until he reached the age of mandatory retirement. At this time in 1962, he transferred to University of Texas where he continued to teach until 1996. He was honored with the title of Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus. At the ripe age of 98 Hartshorne published his last article, The Zero Fallacy and Other Essays in Neoclassical Philosophy, in an academic journal. Hartshorne died at his home in Austin, Texas, on October 9, 2000, at the age of 103. His contributions to the fields of Philosophy and Theology include over 150 articles and more than 100 book reviews. He is often referred to as the Einstein of metaphysics.
The Philosophy and Psychology of Sensation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1934.
Philosophy Reading Course: Contemporary Philosophy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1934.
Beyond Humanism: Essays in the New Philosophy of Nature. Chicago: Willett, Clark & Co., 1937.
Man’s Vision of God and the Logic of Theism. Chicago: Willett, Clark, & Co., 1941
The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God (Terry Lectures ). New Haven: Yale UP, 1948.
Reality as Social Process: Studies in Metaphysics and Religion. Glencoe: The Free Press and Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953.
The Logic of Perfection, and Other Essays in Neoclassical Metaphysics. LeSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1962.
A Natural Theology for Our Time. LeSalle, IL: Open Court, 1967.
Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. LeSalle, IL: Open Court, 1970.
Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1972.
Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany: State U of New York P, 1984.
Creativity in American Philosophy. Albany: State U of New York P, 1984.
Easterbrook, Gregg. “A Hundred Years of Thinking about God.” Editorial. U.S. News & World Report 23 Feb. 1998: 61-65.
Haurwitz, Ralph. “UT Philosopher Explored Nature of God, - Hartshorne, an Influential Metaphysical Theorist, Dies at age 103.” Austin American-Statesman 11 Oct. 2002: 13 Aug. 2005 <>http://infoweb.newsbank.com>.
Martin, Douglas. “Charles Hartshorne, Theologian, Is Dead; Proponent of an Activist God Was 103.” Editorial. New York Times 13 Oct. 2000: b9.