Philosophy En Route to Reality: A Bumpy Ride

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Adrian M. S. Piper


My intellectual journey in philosophy proceeded along two mountainous paths that coincided at their base, but forked less than halfway up the incline. The first is that of my philosophical development, a steep but steady and continuous ascent. It began in my family, and accelerated in high school, art school, college, and graduate school. Those foundations propelled my philosophical research into the nature of rationality and its relation to the structure of the self, a long-term project focused on the Kantian and Humean metaethical traditions in Anglo-American analytic philosophy. It would have been impossible to bring this project to completion without the anchor, compass, and conceptual mapping provided by my prior, longstanding involvement in the practice and theory of Vedic philosophy. The second path is that of my professional route through the field of academic philosophy, which branched onto a rocky detour in graduate school, followed by a short but steep ascent, followed next by a much steeper, sustained descent off that road, into the ravine, down in flames, and out of the profession. In order to reach the summit of the first path, I had to reach the nadir of the second. It was the right decision. My yoga practice cushioned my landing.

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How to Cite
Piper, A. (2019). Philosophy En Route to Reality: A Bumpy Ride. Journal of World Philosophies, 4(2), 106-118. Retrieved from
Philosophical Journeys
Author Biography

Adrian M. S. Piper

Adrian M. S. Piper (b. 1948; BA in Philosophy and minor in Medieval and Renaissance Musicology, CCNY, 1974; graduate studies, University of Heidelberg, 1977-78; PhD in Philosophy, Harvard University, 1981) taught philosophy full-time for 30 years at Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, University of California San Diego, and Wellesley. In 1987 at Georgetown she became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy. For her refusal to return to the USA while listed as a Suspicious Traveler on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration Watch List, Wellesley College forcibly terminated her tenured full professorship in philosophy in 2008. In 2011 the American Philosophical Association promoted her to Professor Emeritus. Her philosophy awards include a Non-Resident Fellowship at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, a Scholarship at the Getty Research Institute; and National Endowment for the Humanities, Andrew Mellon, Woodrow Wilson, Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften, and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study Research Fellowships. Piper’s principal philosophical publications are in metaethics, Kant, and the history of ethics. Her two-volume study in Kantian metaethics, Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume I: The Humean Conception and Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume II: A Kantian Conception, was accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2008 (second edition 2013) and has been available since then as an open access e-book at She lives and works in Berlin. Piper is also an artist.