About me

Close-up photo of John McCaskey

: ‘Me in Nantucket’

After spending twenty years in the computer business, I went back to school and got a PhD in history from Stanford. I mostly now research the history of philosophy of science, especially the history of induction. I blog about that and various topics in ethics and politics.

Though I don’t maintain a full-time academic post, I have nonetheless had the good fortune to teach at some great universities.

In 2015–16, I taught Contemporary Civilization in the famous Core Curriculum at Columbia University. From 2012 through 2014, I taught one seminar each fall for the Political Theory Project at Brown University. Two were on 20th-century defenders of capitalism, one on Ayn Rand specifically. I taught similar seminars and ones on history of scientific method for several years at Stanford University. In 2011, I taught a course on history of science at Stevens Institute of Technology.

I received undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering and an MBA (three degrees in five years!) at Case Western Reserve University.

Photo of me c. 1978 assembling circuit testers on my bedroom floor

: ‘JPM Electronic Design Labs, c. 1978’

My first commercial invention was a device I designed in high school to diagnose Sonitrol security equipment. Here I am assembling some units, in my bedroom, around 1978, gooping them with epoxy so no one would steal my design. That Teletype Model 33 was for a weather station that I never did finish building.

I worked at Data General for several years, in Massachusetts and Colorado, in marketing and engineering. I moved to California in 1988 and worked at MIPS Computer Systems then Silicon Graphics, all in marketing. In 1997, I co-founded Epiphany, Inc. with Steve Blank, Ben Wegbreit, and Greg Walsh. We started by commercializing some in-house software I wrote at Silicon Graphics. The company did well and is now part of Infor, Inc. I left Epiphany and the computer business in 2001. (Well, I did later contribute some to the Text Encoding Initiative.)

I am inventor on four US patents, three for software work at Epiphany, one for hardware I designed at Picker International in my engineering grad-school days.

The main theme of my academic research is that the philosophical problem of induction is an artifact of a bad turn taken in the early nineteenth century, by which induction came to be conceived as a logic of propositional inference that depends on a suppressed uniformity principle. In antiquity and from Bacon to Whewell, induction was instead conceived as a logic of classification.

My latest large project was a two-volume Latin edition and the first ever English translation of Jacopo Zabarella’s On Methods and On Regressus. Harvard University Press published it in their I Tatti Renaissance Library in 2014. I am now writing a comprehensive history of induction from Socrates to Popper.

I blog on induction and various topics in ethics and politics, generally with an historical perspective.

I have long been a student of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. From 2004 to 2010 I was on the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute. I founded the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship in 2001 and was on its board, also until 2010, when I had a rather public falling out with Leonard Peikoff over my privately expressed reservations about the historical accuracy of David Harriman’s The Logical Leap.

Most of my blog posts are from what I consider to be an Objectivist perspective, though some of Ayn Rand’s most prominent followers disagree with several of my positions.

I live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan with my wife, the acclaimed historian, philosopher, and author Laura J. Snyder, and her son.

You can reach me at mailbox@johnmccaskey.com.

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