Richard H. Popkin

Richard H. Popkin books and biography

Richard Popkin

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Name: Richard Popkin
Birth: December 27, 1923
Death: April 14, 2005
School/tradition: Scepticism, Pyrrhonian skepticism
Main interests: History of philosophy, Seventeenth century, Eighteenth century, Jewish philosophers, Jewish philosophy, millenarianism and messianism
Notable ideas: Influence of pyrrhonian skepticism on Western thought
Influences: Baruch Spinoza, Ren Descartes, Pierre Bayle

Richard H. Popkin (December 27, 1923—April 14, 2005) was one of the most influential historians of philosophy of the second half of the twentieth century.

His 1960 work The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes introduced many historians to a previously unrecognised influence on Western thought in the seventeenth century, the Pyrrhonian Scepticism of Sextus Empiricus. Popkin was also an internationally acclaimed scholar on Jewish and Christian millenarianism and messianism.



Richard Popkin was born in Manhattan to Louis and Zelda Popkin, who jointly ran a small public relations firm. Popkin earned his Bachelor's degree and, in 1950, his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at various American universities, including the University of Connecticut, The University of Iowa, the University of California San Diego, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California Los Angeles. He has been visiting professor at University of California Berkeley, Brandeis University, Duke University, Emory University, Tel Aviv University, and was Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York. Popkin was the founding director of the International Archives of the History of Ideas and the first editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy.

Among his many honors, Popkin was awarded the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal by Columbia University and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was president emeritus and founding editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy.

Richard Popkin spent his later years living in Pacific Palisades, California, He died of emphysema in Los Angeles in April of 2005. His papers have been archived at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA.


Professor Popkin is survived by Juliet (nee Greenstone), whom he married in 1944, and two of their three children. His daughter Margaret Popkin, a renowned human rights lawyer, died in May, 2005. His son Jeremy Popkin is Professor of History at The University of Kentucky. His younger daughter, Susan Popkin Hall, is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington.


His many books include The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza, The Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought; Introduction to Philosophy (with Avrum Stroll); The High Road to Pyrrhonism; and Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium (with David S. Katz). He was editor and translator of selections from Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Cultural Dictionary and edited the 1999 Columbia History of Western Philosophy.

Beyond his philosophical works, he is also noted for writing The Second Oswald in 1966, an early work questioning the lone gunman explanation of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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History Of Scepticism From Erasmus To Descartes

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