Flynn, Thomas R. 1936- (Thomas Robert Flynn)

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Flynn, Thomas R. 1936- (Thomas Robert Flynn)


Born June 2, 1936, in Spokane, WA; son of Thomas J. (in retail) and Bernice E. Colliton (a homemaker) Flynn. Education: Carroll College, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1958; Gregorian University, S.T.L. (summa cum laude), 1962; Columbia University, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1970. Politics: Independent. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—Atlanta, GA. Office—Department of Philosophy, Emory University, 561 S. Kilgo Cir., Atlanta, GA 30322; fax: 404-712-9425. E-mail—[email protected]


Academician and philosopher. Ordained Roman Catholic priest, 1961; Carroll College, Helena, MT, instructor, 1962-66, assistant professor, 1970-71, 1976-78; Columbia University, New York, NY, preceptor, 1968-70; Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, assistant professor, 1971-75; St. Mary's, Baltimore, MD, scholar-in-residence, 1975-76; Emory University, Atlanta, GA, assistant professor, 1978-82, associate professor, 1982-86, professor, 1987-88, Samuel Chandler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy, 1988—, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, faculty fellow, 2006-07. Villanova University, visiting professor, 1995.


Metaphysical Society, American Philosophical Association (board of officers, 1989-92), Society for Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy (board of directors, 1983-86), Sartre Society of North America (chair of the executive board, 1988-91), American Catholic Philosophical Association (national treasurer, 1971-74, president, 1993-94).


American Council of Learned Societies senior research fellow, 1984-85; Mellon fellow, National Humanities Center, 1991-92; National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute for Advanced Study, fellow, 1998-99; recipient of honorary degree from Carroll College, 2006.


Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective Responsibility, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

(Editor, with Dalia Judovitz) Dialectic and Narrative, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1993.

Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), Volume 1: Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, 1997, Volume 2: A Poststructuralist Mapping of History, 2005.

(Editor, with David Carr and Rudolf A. Makkreel) The Ethics of History, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 2004.

(Editor, with Peter Kampits and Erik Vogt) Über Sartre: Perspektiven und Kritiken, Turia & Kant (Vienna, Austria), 2005.

Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals and academic journals, including American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Faith and Philosophy, Research in Phenomenology, Monist, Nous, Journal of Philosophy, Georgia Law Review, Man and World, Eros, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Political Theory, Social Thought, Philosophical Forum, Modern Schoolman, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Studies in Philosophy and in the History of Philosophy, Review of Metaphysics, Ethics, Jewish Quarterly Review, and Washington Times. Reviews editor for Man and World, 1978-97. Editorial consultant for American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of the History of Philosophy, and Faith and Philosophy.


Thomas R. Flynn is an American academician and philosopher. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1961 while studying in Rome's Gregorian University. He later returned to the United States and earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University. As a professor of philosophy, Flynn's academic research interests include contemporary French and continental European philosophy, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and the theory of responsibility.

In 1997 Flynn published the first volume of the two-part Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason, called Toward an Existentialist Theory of History. Here he reconstructs and analyzes the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's theory of history. Francisca Goldsmith, writing in Library Journal, found that Flynn writes "with insight and clarifying structure."

Volume 2 of Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason was not published until 2005. This volume, called A Poststructuralist Mapping of History, examines the French philosopher Michel Foucault's concept of post-structural mapping of history in comparison to Sartre's theory of history. Edward McGushin, writing in Review of Metaphysics, wrote that "while it draws on an extraordinary range of scholarship and is a subtle and sophisticated analysis of Foucault (and Sartre), Flynn's exemplary clarity, together with his inclusion of an overview of Foucault's works … and a glossary of technical terms … makes this book accessible to those just beginning their exploration of Foucault's difficult and demanding thought." McGushin concluded: "All in all, this is a magnificent book, an invaluable study of Foucault and a penetrating comparative analysis of two of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century."

In 2004 Flynn published The Ethics of History, edited with David Carr and Rudolf A. Makkreel. Through twelve essays, the book outlines ethics and its relation to the various ways mankind views itself in the world. Hans Kellner, writing in Clio, opened by saying that "this collection of twelve varied and wide-ranging essays on ethics and history by a group of distinguished philosophers and historians reveals the state of ethical discourse today, caught between competing visions of humanity." Kellner referred to the volume as "a rich collection of essays."

Thomas R. Flynn once answered questions for CA. When asked about his primary motivations for writing, Flynn replied: "As an academic, intellectual inter- est is what I am teaching, especially, though not exclusively, at the graduate level." When asked who or what had the most significant influence on his writing, Flynn said that it was "the previous and current work of my professional colleagues as well as the challenging questions of my students, both graduate and undergraduate." When asked to describe his writing process, Flynn noted: "I always write from an outline and produce a couple of draft versions before the final one." As for the reasons why he chose the various topics of his published books, Flynn stated that "interest in the topics, specifically philosophy and history, go back to my undergraduate years and even to my high school years."

Flynn further told CA: "The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that writing is a form of discovery and not merely a matter of expressing a fully formed idea prior to its embodiment in the enunciation. It is more like panning for gold than extracting the metal from a fully exposed vein."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2005, D.A. Haney, review of The Ethics of History, p. 1602.

Clio, spring, 2006, Hans Kellner, review of The Ethics of History.

Comparative Literature, fall, 1994, review of Dialectic and Narrative.

Ethics, July, 1998, David J. Detmer, review of Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, p. 844.

French Studies, April, 1999, Ian H. Birchall, review of Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, p. 228.

History and Theory, May, 1998, review of Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, p. 283.

Journal of Modern History, March, 2000, Allan Megill, review of Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, p. 233; June, 2007, Allan Megill, review of A Poststructuralist Mapping of History, p. 389.

Library Journal, June 15, 1997, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, p. 72.

Review of Metaphysics, December, 2006, Edward McGushin, review of A Poststructuralist Mapping of History, p. 394.


Emory University, Department of Philosophy Web site, (December 10, 2007), author profile.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, (February 13, 2006), Amy Allen, review of A Poststructuralist Mapping of History.