Borden Parker Bowne

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Borden Parker Bowne (/ˈbn/; January 14, 1847, near Leonardville, New Jersey – April 1, 1910, in Boston) was an American Christian philosopher and theologian in the Methodist tradition. In 1876 he became a professor of philosophy at Boston University, where he taught for more than thirty years. He later served as dean of the graduate school. Bowne was an acute critic of positivism and naturalism. He categorized his views as Kantianized Berkeleyanism, transcendental empiricism and, finally, personalism, a philosophical branch of liberal theology: of this branch Bowne is the dominant figure; this personalism is sometimes called Boston Personalism, in contrast with the California Personalism of George Holmes Howison. Bowne's masterpiece, Metaphysics, appeared in 1882. Bowne was chiefly influenced by Hermann Lotze.


Bowne has influenced philosophy in various ways. For instance, there has been a direct line of personalists from Bowne through his student, Edgar Sheffield Brightman (1884-1954), through Brightman's student, Peter Anthony Bertocci (1910 – 1989), to Bertocci's student, Thomas O. Buford (b. 1932).

There has also been a more general influence, as with Martin Luther King, Jr., who studied at Boston University, and spoke in his Stride toward Freedom of having gained "a metaphysical basis for the dignity and worth of all human personality."[1]

Bowne received nine nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature between 1906 and 1909—one from his own sister.[2]


  • The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer (New York, 1874).
  • Studies in Theism (New York, 1882).
  • Metaphysics: A Study in First Principles (New York, 1882; revised ed., 1898).
  • Introduction to Psychological Theory (New York, 1886).
  • Philosophy of Theism (New York, 1887; revised ed. 1902).
  • The Principles of Ethics (New York, 1892).
  • Theory of Thought and Knowledge (New York, 1899).
  • The Christian Revelation (Cincinnati, 1898).
  • The Christian Life (Cincinnati, 1899).
  • The Atonement (Cincinnati, 1900).
  • The Immanence of God (Boston, 1905).
  • Personalism (Boston, 1908).
  • Studies in Christianity (1909).
  • A Man’s View of Woman Suffrage (Boston, 1910).
  • The Essence of Religion (Boston, 1910).
  • Kant and Spencer: A Critical Exposition (Boston, 1912).

See also


  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1958), Stride toward Freedom, New York: Harper.
  2. "Nomination Database". Retrieved 2013-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Bowne’s papers are in the Special Collections Division of the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University.
  • Auxier, Randall E., ed. The Relevance of Borden Parker Bowne, special issue of The Personalist Forum, 13:1 (1997).
  • Auxier, Randall E. “Bowne on Time, Evolution and History,” in Journal of Speculative Philosophy 12 (1998): 181-203.
  • Bowne, Kate Morrison. “An Intimate Portrait of Bowne,” in Personalist 2 (1921): 5-15.
  • Burrow, Rufus, Jr. Personalism: A Critical Introduction (St. Louis, 1999).
  • Dearing, Mary H. “Reminiscences of Borden Parker Bowne,” Philosophical Forum 15 (1957-58): 51-55.
  • Deats, Paul, and Carol Robb. The Boston Personalist Tradition in Philosophy, Social Ethics and Theology (Macon, GA, 1986).
  • Dorrien, Gary. The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805-1900 (Louisville, 2001): 371-392.
  • Flewelling, Ralph Tyler and Rudolf Eucken. Personalism and the Problems of Philosophy: An Appreciation of the Work of Borden Parker Bowne (New York, 1915).
  • Franquiz Ventura, Jose A. Borden Parker Bowne’s Treatment of the Problem of Change and Identity (Rio Piedras, 1942).
  • Gacka, Bogumił. Bibliography of American Personalism (Lublin, 1994).
  • Knudson, Albert C. The Philosophy of Personalism (New York, 1927).
  • Knudson, Albert C. “Bowne as Teacher and Author,” in Personalist 1 (1920): 5-14.
  • Lazarus, Frederick. The Metaphysics of Ramanuja and Bowne (Bombay, 1962).
  • March, Daniel L. “Borden Parker Bowne,” in Bostonia, 10 (1937): 3-13.
  • McConnell, Francis J. Borden Parker Bowne: His Life and Philosophy (New York, 1929).
  • Pyle, Charles Bertram. The Philosophy of Borden Parker Bowne and Its Application to the Religious Problem (Columbus, OH, 1910).
  • Robinson, Daniel S., ed. “Borden Parker Bowne’s Letters to William T. Harris,” in Philosophical Forum, 13 (1955): 89-95.
  • Smith, Harmon L. “Borden Parker Bowne: Heresy at Boston,” in American Religious Heretics: Formal and Informal Trials (New York, 1966): 148-187.
  • Steinkraus, Warren E., ed. Representative Essays of Borden Parker Bowne (Utica, NY, 1981).
  • Werkmeister, William H. “The Personalism of Bowne” in A History of Philosophical Ideas in America (New York, 1949): 103-121.