Professor of Philosophy and Law
Affiliation: NYU New York
Education: BA, MA, PhD, Clare College, Cambridge University
Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah was born in London (where his Ghanaian father was a law student) but moved as an infant to Ghana, where he grew up. His father, Joseph Emmanuel Appiah, a lawyer and politician, was also, at various times, a Member of Parliament, an Ambassador, and a President of the Ghana Bar Association. His mother, the novelist and children’s writer, Peggy Appiah, whose family was English, was active in the social, philanthropic and cultural life of Kumasi. Their marriage, in 1953, was widely covered in the international press, because it was one of the first “inter-racial society weddings” in Britain, and is said to have been one of the inspirations for the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
In 1970, Appiah’s great-uncle, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, was succeeded by his uncle, Otumfuo Nana Poku Ware II, as king of Ashanti. Kwame Anthony Appiah’s three younger sisters Isobel, Adwoa, and Abena, were born in Ghana. As a child, he also spent a good deal of time in England, staying with his grandmother, Dame Isobel Cripps, widow of the English statesman Sir Stafford Cripps. (Cripps was Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Minister of Finance, and was also involved in negotiating the terms for Indian independence.)
Professor Appiah was educated at the University Primary School at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; at Ullenwood Manor, in Gloucestershire, Port Regis and Bryanston Schools, in Dorset; and, finally, at Clare College, Cambridge University, in England, where he took both BA and PhD degrees in the philosophy department. His Cambridge dissertation explored the foundations of probabilistic semantics, bringing together issues in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. Once revised, these arguments were published by Cambridge University Press as Assertion and Conditionals. Out of that first monograph grew a second book, For Truth in Semantics, which dealt with Michael Dummett’s defenses of semantic anti-realism.
Since Cambridge, he has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities and lectured at many other institutions in the United States, Germany, Ghana, and South Africa, as well as at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. From 2002 to 2013 he was a member of the Princeton University faculty, where he had appointments in the Philosophy Department and the University Center for Human Values, as well as being associated with the Center for African American Studies, the Programs in African Studies and Translation Studies, and the Departments of Comparative Literature and Politics. In January 2014 he took up an appointment as Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, where he teaches both in New York and in Abu Dhabi, and at other NYU global centers.