Christia Mercer

Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy
Columbia University

Christia Mercer studied art history in New York and Rome, before going to graduate school in philosophy (PhD, Princeton University, 1989). Among other awards, she has received a Fulbright Scholarship (1984-85), Humboldt Fellowship (1993-94) and NEH Fellowship (2002). She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2012-13) and, along Seamus Heaney, a Resident Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Spring, 2013). Most recently, she is the recipient of an ACLS (2015-16), Folger Library Fellowship (2016), and a Senior Visiting Professor at Harvard University's Villa I Tatti Library, Florence, Italy (2015). Mercer is proudest of her teaching awards. She 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 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 and publishes on the need to make higher education more widely available and on justice reform (see her CV).

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, that enlists prominent international scholars to think creatively about the "lives" of concepts in the history of philosophy. As of 2016, there are 32 volumes in various stages of production, and 10 published.  Along with Eileen O'Neill, she is co-editor of another new series, Oxford New Histories of Philosophy, which speaks to a growing concern to broaden and reexamine philosophy’s past.

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, 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.