Philosopher Peter Caws

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Professor Peter J. Caws

Peter as a toddler


Peter Caws was born in 1931 in Southall, Middlesex, now part of west London, in a house that can still be seen from the train between Heathrow and Paddington.  He was brought up in a repressive fundamentalist sect, the Exclusive Brethren.   After a B.Sc. (hons.) in physics from the University of London he escaped to the United States in 1953, where a one-year fellowship at Yale grew into a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1956.  There followed teaching stints at Michigan State University and the University of Kansas, and then a brief interlude as an officer of a major foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Back in the academic world he taught at the City University of New York (Hunter College and the Graduate School), and in 1982 became University Professor of Philosophy, and eventually also Professor of Human Sciences, at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.   He retired as University Professor of Philosophy Emeritus. In 2019 Barsuk Records published a unique book+vinyl project produced by his son, Matthew Caws, titled The Book of Hylas, with text and reading by Peter Caws, music by the Parkington Sisters, and illustrations by Line Hoven. Portions of that text, along with other segments of Peter's writing, are read by Peter and his son, Matthew, in the Nada Surf music film for the song "Just Wait," released in 2020.


Peter was married twice and has three children, Hilary Caws-Elwitt, Matthew Rorison Caws, and Elisabeth Breslin Caws. His wife, Nancy Breslin, is a psychiatrist turned fine art photographer. 


On April 20, 2020, Peter died at home in Washington, DC.