Panayot Butchvarov

Panayot Butchvarov

Panayot Butchvarov (born April 2, 1933, in Sofia, Bulgaria) left Syracuse University in 1968 as a full professor to move to the University of Iowa, where he was at the time of his retirement in 2005 the University of Iowa Foundation Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. He served as President of the Central States Philosophical Association and of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association; he also served as editor of the "Journal of Philosophical Research".

Butchvarov has made major, systematic contributions to contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. His books include "Resemblance and Identity: An Examination of the Problem of Universals" (Indiana University Press, 1966), "The Concept of Knowledge" (Northwestern University Press, 1970), "Being Qua Being: A Theory of Identity, Existence and Predication" (Indiana University Press, 1979), "Skepticism in Ethics" (Indiana University Press, 1989), and "Skepticism about the External World" (Oxford University Press, 1998).

Like that of his erstwhile Iowa colleague Gustav Bergmann, Butchvarov's work can be broadly construed as falling under the category of phenomenological ontology. In metaphysics, Butchvarov is perhaps best known for his work on the identity theory of universals and on the nature of informative identity statements (that is, statements of the form "a=b" -- as opposed to instances of the law of identity, that is, statements of the form "a=a"). In epistemology, he argues for the view that knowledge is the absolute impossibility of mistake. In ethics, his central metaethical thesis is that a realist account of goodness is defensible if goodness is seen as a generic quality.

Butchvarov's eclectic influences include Jean-Paul Sartre, H. H. Price, and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein. The latter's influence can perhaps best be seen in Butchvarov's metaphilosophical Method of Analogy for which he argues in "The Limits of Ontological Analysis" (in M. S. Gram and E. D. Klemke (eds.), "The Ontological Turn: Studies in the Philosopphy of Gustav Bergmann" (University of Iowa Press, 1974)). He claims that understanding is most often a matter of coming to see what something is "like", seeing what it literally "is" being a limiting case, and that it is the noticing, discovery, and grasping of similarities and differences that is the core intellectual achievement in our understanding of the world.

See, also, Larry Lee Blackman (ed.), "The Philosophy of Panayot Butchvarov: A Collegial Evaluation" (Edwin Mellon Press, 2005).

Some of Butchvarov's current work, especially his major book manuscript "Anthropocentrism in Philosophy," still in progress, can be downloaded from

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