Thursday, June 15, 2017

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts: Marilyn McCord Adams

Marilyn McCord Adams
Marilyn McCord Adams (October 12, 1943 - March 22, 2017) was an American philosopher and priest of the Episcopal Church. She specialized in philosophy of religionphilosophical theology and medieval philosophy. She was the daughter of William Clark McCord and Wilmah Brown McCord. In 1966, she married the philosopher Robert Merrihew Adams.

                                                                Robert Merrihew Adams.

Adams was educated at the University of Illinois (AB); Cornell University PhD 1967); and Princeton Theological Seminary  (ThM 1984, 1985); and held the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford (2008).

Adams was Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. Before that she was, in reverse chronological order, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillRegius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, the Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology at Yale University, and a Professor of Philosophy at UCLA. She was also a former President of the Society for Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2015. Adams was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1987, and from 2004-09 was residentiary canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Adams' work in philosophy focused on the philosophy of religion, especially the problem of evil, philosophical theology, metaphysics and medieval philosophy. Her work on the problem of evil largely focused on what she calls "horrendous evils". She was an avowed Christian universalist, believing that ultimately all will receive salvation and restoration in Christ.

After a brief battle with cancer, Marilyn McCord Adams died on March 22nd, 2017, in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of seventy-three.


Traditional doctrines of  hell err again by supposing either that God does not get what God wants with every human being ("God wills all humans to be saved" by God's antecedent will) or that God deliberately creates some for ruin. To be sure, many human beings have conducted their ante-mortem lives in such a way as to become anti-social persons. Almost none of us dies with all the virtues needed to be fit for heaven. Traditional doctrines of hell suppose that God lacks the will or the patience or the resourcefulness to civilize each and all of us, to rear each and all of us up into the household of God. They conclude that God is left with the option of merely human penal systems – viz., liquidation or quarantine. - Marilyn McCord Adams


Works by Marilyn McCord Adams

Adams, Marilyn McCord. Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology Based on the Gifford Lectures for 1998-1999. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 
Adams, Marilyn McCord. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.  
Adams, Marilyn McCord. "Is the Existence of God a 'Hard' Fact?". The Philosophical Review Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (October 1967)
Adams, Marilyn McCord, trans. Paul of Venice, On the Truth and Falsity of Propositions and On the Significatum of a Proposition, ed. Francesco del Punta. London: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1977.
Adams, Marilyn McCord, and Robert Merrihew Adams, eds. The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Adams, Marilyn McCord and Norman Kretzman, eds. and trans. William Ockham's  Predestination, God's Foreknowledge, and Future Contingents. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett, 1983.
Adams, Marilyn McCord. Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist: Thomas AquinasGiles of RomeDuns Scotus, and William Ockham. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Adams, Marilyn McCord. "What Sort of Human Nature? Medieval Philosophy and the Systematics of Christology" (Aquinas Lecture 1999). Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1999.
Adams, Marilyn McCord. William of Ockham (2 vols.) Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press, 1987

Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut, where Marilyn  Adams sometimes  delivered sermons.

There are two brief lectures by Marilyn McCord Adams on the Internet. To access them, all that you need to do is type in Marilyn McCord Adams.

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