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Stephen E. Toulmin papers

Identifier: 0334

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Scope and Content

The Stephen E. Toulmin papers, 1945-2006, document the scholarly and academic career of this University of Southern California professor. Included are academic and administrative-related documents from Dr. Toulmin's academic careers at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Southern California; material collected and created by Dr. Toulmin from and for conferences in which he participated; manuscripts and drafts of many of Dr. Toulmin's books and essays, including "Human Understanding II," "Cosmopolis," and "Wittgenstein's Vienna"; research materials created and collected by Dr. Toulmin, including documents related to research and collaboration with various organizations and NGOs; and correspondence and contracts between Dr. Toulmin and his agent and publishers.


  • Creation: 1945 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical note

Stephen Edelston Toulmin was an English philosopher and educator whose career spanned nearly six decades. Toulmin's research focused on moral reasoning analyses, and developed a new approach to analyzing arguments known as the Toulmin Model of Argumentation. A foremost authority on international relations, history and philosophy of the physical and social sciences, ethics, and the history of ideas, his research has widely influenced many fields, particularly clinical medical ethics, rhetoric, communication and computer science.

"Stephen's essential contribution was to bring philosophy back from the abstractions of reason and logic - the world of Plato and Descartes - to the human condition," said Roy Pea, a professor of learning sciences and education at Stanford University. "He argued that if we want to understand questions of ethics, science and logic, we have to inquire into the everyday situations in which they arise." (New York Times obituary, December 11, 2009)

Born March 25, 1922 in London, Toulmin earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics from Cambridge University in 1942. Shortly after graduation, Toulmin was hired by the Ministry of Aircraft Production as a junior scientific officer. After World War II, he returned to England to earn his master's and Ph.D. in moral sciences from Cambridge University, and was a disciple of Ludwig Wittgenstein. In 1949, he began teaching the philosophy of science at Oxford University. He went on to teach at many distinguished universities throughout the world, including Melbourne University, Leeds University, Columbia University, Michigan State University, Brandeis University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University before joining the faculty of the University of Southern California in 1993. Also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was appointed University Professor in 2001.

He was the author of The Uses of Argument (1958), Foresight and Understanding: An Enquiry into the Aims of Science (1961), Human Understanding (1972), The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature (1982), Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (1990), and Return to Reason (2001).

Toulmin died on Dec. 4, 2009 in Los Angeles.


25.02 Linear Feet (60 boxes)

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Papers, correspondence, manuscripts of the prolific, cross-disciplinary scholar, philosopher, historian of science, and USC University Professor, Stephen E. Toulmin.

Finding aid for the Stephen E. Toulmin papers
Chris Salvano
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Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States