History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


Donald Keefer

Donald Keefer joined the RISD faculty in 1988 with a PhD in philosophy from Temple University.  His variety of courses have covered the history of philosophy, aesthetics, theories of semiotics, the nature of wisdom, and philosophical questions regarding death, dying and the dead. On a lighter note, he teaches a Wintersession course that uses episodes of the X-files and Star Trek as vehicles to introduce students to the problems of philosophy. He has written on topics ranging over the aesthetics of music, technology and culture, the critique of postmodern theory, semiotics of design, Frederick Douglass, and most recently, the philosophy of death. 

Keefe is currently writing a book examining the philosophical dimensions of loss and mourning. His paper, “Speaking Well of the Dead: On the aesthetics of eulogies,” forthcoming in Sophia, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology and Ethics, emerged from one of the key issues in a chapter on the meanings of how we, the loved ones and community in their ways, mourn the loss of those important to us.

Keefer has served in a number of other positions, such as department head of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences, acting dean of the Division of Liberal Arts, and coordinator of Academic Advising. He is also an accomplished classical guitarist.

Academic research/ areas of interest

Philosophy of Death

Ethics and the Contradictions of Corporate Personhood

The Confluence of Evolutionary Psychology and Philosophy


Linguistics and Theories of the Sign

American Pragmatism