Curt John Ducasse (1881-1969), was born in Angouleme, France, on July 7, 1881. His father was a sea captain and his mother the daughter of a German painter. He went to school at the Lycée of Bordeaux and the Abbotsholme School in Staffordshire, England. In 1900 he left his first position in a Paris business house to work for a dry goods firm in Mexico City. His job was an “elevator,” carrying bolts of cloth up and down stairs all day, while he slept on the store’s counters at night to save money. His next job of measuring window panes did not last long. Next he took a stock of Mexican lace to New York and opened a shop. When the lace business did not prosper, he got a job handling Spanish correspondence for a music firm and went back to Mexico as a music salesman. In 1906 in Seattle, while he was secretary to an engineer involved in railroad construction, he decided to study philosophy. He received his bachelor and master of arts degrees from the University of Washington in 1908 and 1909, taught there for one year, then went to Harvard as a University Scholar in 1910 and received his Ph.D. degree in 1912. He returned to teach at the University of Washington, and while there published his first book, Causation and the Types of Necessity. After returning from a long train trip to read an article at a meeting of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association in Chicago in April 1924, he decided to organize the Pacific Division of the Association. In 1926 he came to Brown as associate professor of philosophy. He was made full professor in 1929 and was head of the Philosophy Department from 1930 to 1951. He was acting dean of the Graduate School from 1947 to 1949. He retired in 1951, having reached the compulsory retirement age, but was asked to teach part-time. He retired from part-time teaching at Brown in 1958, after which he accepted a part-time teaching position at New York University, He was the author of The Philosophy of Art in 1930, Nature, Mind and Death in 1951, and A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life after Death in 1961, and numerous articles and other books. He was fond of cats. The last one he and Mrs. Ducasse owned was a Siamese named Chichibu after the brother of Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Chichibu died in 1954 at the age of 22, and was buried in the back yard of the Ducasse home with a marker of blue (the color of Chichibu’s eyes) on the gravesite.
Ducasse was interested in and wrote about all sorts of paranormal phenomena. He thought that the idea of reincarnation made sense, stating that, given the genius and the boob, the beautiful and the ugly, it would be a manifestation of justice in the universe. He said that the study of the paranormal “broadened my horizon of the potentialities of human nature and of the universe. So many people are hemmed in by tacit beliefs and disbeliefs, by conformities and the things they take for granted, that they shut their eyes to the fact that the material world is not the whole of this world and that there are apparently dimensions of nature as yet unknown and unexplored. ... I face the prospect of dying as an interesting adventure, as a sort of laboratory experiment.” Ducasse died on September 3, 1969 at the age of 88. His ashes were buried in the yard next to Chichibu.