Leddy, Thomas W

Leddy, Thomas W

Professor, Philosophy


Preferred: thomas.leddy@sjsu.edu


Preferred: (408) 924-4528

Office Hours

MW 12:00-1:00, M 5:00-5:45, W 3:00-4:00 and by appointment.

MW 12:00-1:00, W 5:00-5:45, M 3:00-4:00, and by appointment


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Boston Univ, 1983


Thomas (Tom) Leddy was born in 1949 in Oakland, California. His father was an electronics sales representative, and his mother was an artist. One brother, Bill, is a San Francisco-based architect. His sister, Robin, is an artist living in Sacramento. His other brother, John, is a manufacturer's representative and a political activist in Venice, CA. After a few years in Clovis, California, Tom ended up in San Mateo where he graduated from Aragon High School in 1967. Around 1965 he started to think of himself as a philosopher, being attracted to such writers as Thoreau, Krishnamurti, Russell, Plato, and Nietzsche. Although brought up in the Episcopal church, Tom began to have doubts about the existence of God in his teen years. After reading up on the various proofs for God's existence he became a lifelong atheist. One of his strongest influences in his early years was his friend Dave Cellers, with whom he had many and long philosophical conversations. Tom went to College of San Mateo, where Don Porter and Ward Fellows were his first philosophy teachers. He then went to UC Santa Cruz, where he received a BA in Philosophy in 1971. His favorite philosophers then were Wittgenstein, Marcuse and Kant. His teachers at Santa Cruz included Robert Goff, Paul Lee, Albert Hofstadter, and Maurice Natanson. He was strongly influenced by the anti-war movement and the cultural revolution of that time (hippies, rock-and-roll, etc.). He wrote interviews of artists for the City on the Hill Press. After he received his BA, he went on to gain an MA in Humanities at San Francisco State. He then taught part-time for Napa and Chabot Colleges in Humanities and in Philosophy, while taking courses for a second MA in Philosophy, also at SFSU. His teachers at SFSU included Sandra Luft, Anita Silvers, Eleanor Morrissey, Anatole Anton, Matthew Evans, Jacob Needleman, and Edward Kaufmann. His favorite philosophers at that time were Plato and Marx. He joined the American Society for Aesthetics in 1974, and has been an active member ever since.

In 1977 Tom moved to Boston to work on his PhD in Philosophy at Boston University. There, in 1981, he met and courted his future wife, Karen Haas. He graduated from BU in 1982 with a dissertation on the theory of metaphor. He also came to specialize in aesthetics/philosophy of art. His teachers at BU included Marx Wartofsky, Erazim Kohak, John Findlay, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Martin and Tom McCarthy. His favorite philosophers at that time were Goodman, Ricoeur, and Lakoff and Johnson.  An important early mentor was Hilde Hein, with whom he co-edited the Newsletter for the American Society for Aesthetics.

After teaching for one year at Alfred University, Tom came to San Jose State University in 1983 to fill a temporary full-time position. He and Karen were married in 1985. Since then, he has been happily teaching at SJSU, eventually gaining a tenure-track position, then tenure and finally becoming a Full Professor. He continues to be deeply interested in aesthetics and philosophy of art, attending meetings of the American Society for Aesthetics about twice a year, and publishing articles, mainly in this field. He served one term on the Board of Trustees for the ASA.  Tom joined the editorial board of the online journal Contemporary Aesthetics in 2016.  His most admired living philosopher is Joseph Margolis.

Tom also enjoys teaching the great philosophers: Plato, Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Kant. He attended an intense NEH summer seminar in 2002 on pragmatism and culture (with an emphasis on Dewey), and is still digesting that. One result has been an increasing interest in American Philosophy, which he now regularly teaches. He has published the article on John Dewey's aesthetics in the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which he did of major revision of in 2016.

In recent times Tom's main research interest has been in everyday aesthetics. His book, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Aesthetics of Everyday Life, was published in 2012 by Broadview Press.  His Blog Aesthetics Today is mainly devoted to this topic.  The BLOG has had over 120,000 hits.

Tom has often been involved in Departmental, College and University governance. In the Spring 2006, he was Acting Chair of the Philosophy Department, having also been Interim Chair from 1999-2001. He has been a member of the Academic Senate and of the Board of General Studies (twice).

Tom and Karen Haas (an artist who also teaches watercolor classes) share a love of the arts. They attend galleries, museum shows, and theater as often as they can. They regularly read the New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times (they call them "The New Yorks".) They have also belonged to a fiction reading group called "The Lit Group" since 1985. They enjoy travel both nationally and internationally as well as hanging out at their mountain cabin in Arnold. Tom has long enjoyed photography and has one of his works in the collection of the city of San Jose.