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Cheney Ryan

Guest Artist, Playwright

Headshot of Cheney Ryan

Contact Information

Salem Campus

900 State Street
Salem  Oregon  97301


Cheney Ryan’s principal area of interest is political philosophy, but he also works on issues in philosophy of law, ethical theory, and philosophy of film. His main concern at the moment is understanding the amount of violence in the world and thinking about the ways to transcend it. But questions of war and peace cannot be separated from basic questions of justice, so he also works on questions about the nature of justice and rights. 

Another aspect of his work deals with the practices of conflict resolution, from the personal and local to the global. In addition to teaching in the Philosophy Department he is a faculty member of the Masters Program in Conflict Resolution, based in the Law School. Cheney Ryan teaches the initial course in that program dealing with the foundations of conflict resolution. You can learn more about this program from its website:


Cheney Ryan has over 50 publications, not including book reviews and journalism, in almost all the leading philosophy journals. An article of his on pacifism self-defense ("Pacifism, Self Defense, and the Possibility of Killing", Ethics, Jan. 1983) is one of the most reprinted articles of the past 25 years. The Philosopher’s Annual chose this as one of the top articles of its year.

Cheney Ryan has received the Joseph J. Blau Prize, from the Society for Advancement of American Philosophy, for contribution to history of American philosophy, and was named by Washington Post as one of nation's twenty leading scholars "on the frontier of peace and conflict studies."

He has been active in campus activities related to his political concerns since coming to the University of Oregon in the mid-1970s. During his first year at Oregon Cheney Ryan helped found the Office of Multicultural Affairs; most recently he co-founded the Masters Program in Conflict Resolution. In between, Cheney Ryan helped create the University of Oregon Humanities Center, the Carleton Savage Endowment in International Relations in Peace, the University of Oregon Schnitzer Program on Judaic Studies.

Cheney Ryan has been active in peace related activities for many years, a commitment that began when he worked with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement in New York City. He was active in the civil rights movement and anti-war movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s (that’s why he don’t have an undergraduate degree -- he was expelled from Harvard for political activities). Cheney Ryan is currently working with the Northwest Institute for Conflict Resolution to create a statewide organization of the university and community members to promote work in conflict resolution and peace.


In addition to his philosophical work, Cheney Ryan has also been active in theatre as a playwright. Much of his work has a political dimension to it, and intertwines with his interest in political philosophy. Recently, his play “Appalachian Ebenezer,” co-authored with Randi Douglas, was performed at Portland's Artist’s Repertory Theatre. His play, “Holy Dirt,” co-authored with Marcos Martinez, has been widely performed in the United States and Europe. For many years Cheney Ryan worked with the theatre group, Teatro Nuestro, producing plays about pesticides and working conditions for migrant workers on the west coast.

You can find out more about this part of his life by looking at his theatrical vita. This also contains lists the awards his work has received, and various other items.

Willamette University


M. Lee Pelton Theatre
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.