Chris Mortensen & Graham Nerlich
The University of Adelaide was established in 1874, the third oldest Australian university. An inaugural grant of £20,000 was provided by Walter Watson Hughes for two foundation professorships: in English language and literature and mental and moral philosophy, and in classics and comparative philology and literature. It seems that the university forgot about this money instead of investing it properly, as the money was found recently in a university account, untouched instead of invested. One wonders whether this inaction on the part of the university was consistent with the terms of the grant. One can only speculate further whether, if the money had been invested wisely at the time, the philosophy department would now be the controller of a sizeable portion of the Adelaide CBD.
The first occupant of the philosophy chair was the Rev. John Davidson. He was not a university graduate, but his ministry of the Church of Scotland entailed a considerable education. He seems to have taught mostly logic, presumably Aristotelian logic. His successor was Edward Vaughn Boulger, philosopher, literary theorist and classicist, who had a strong academic background from Trinity College, Dublin before coming to Adelaide. Boulger is notable for having conflicted with the university over tenure of appointment, which the university did not award at the time. He was forced to resign in 1894 due to intoxication.
The first real philosopher to be appointed was William Mitchell, who arrived from Scotland in early 1895. He had already published several papers in Mind, including one as an undergraduate. His main work was the Structure and Growth of the Mind (1907). On the strength of this, he was invited to give two series of Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen (1924 and 1926), which were published as The Place of Minds in the World (1933). Mitchell gave up the chair in 1923. However, he was (unpaid) Vice-Chancellor 1916–1942, where he was the principal driving force for a major expansion of courses and buildings, and the Teachers Training College. He was knighted in 1927, and died in 1962 at the age of 101. J. J. C. Smart recalls visiting him on his 101st birthday and asking him his advice on how to make 101; his reply was: ‘Young man, get to 100 first’.
Mitchell is not studied these days. One reason for this is his forbidding philosophical style. Structure and Growth is almost entirely innocent of logical signposting. This must be held responsible for the misapprehension among historians of Australian philosophy that Mitchell was an Idealist. But in a recent book-length analysis of Structure and Growth, Marty Davies effectively demolishes this myth. Mitchell is much more plausibly read as an early realist-empiricist with a particular interest in the nature of the mind, and its development, that is its causal history over the individual’s lifetime, such as a philosophical psychologist might have. If anything, he seems to have been a materialist about the mind, though with something of the flavour of the ‘new mysterians’ such as McGinn (see Davies 2003). The mind-centredness of his approach might well have contributed to the Idealist confusion; but it is a fair assessment that he anticipated some of the doctrines for which Adelaide, and Australia for that matter, later became famous.
Mitchell’s successor was John McKellar Stewart. He was an Australian, a graduate of Melbourne and Edinburgh. He took the Adelaide chair in 1924. His studies in Europe meant that his philosophy had a continental orientation. He wrote particularly on Bergson (1913), and also Nietzsche. His philosophy is even less noticed today than Mitchell’s. He became Vice-Chancellor in 1945, and retired as Vice-Chancellor and professor of philosophy in 1950. The university had for many years a policy of appointing young promising professors; and on his retirement, Stewart generously suggested that his department should take a quite new direction, alien to the concerns of his own studies. Accordingly, his successor was a youthful Scot, J. J. C. (‘Jack’) Smart, who arrived in Adelaide in 1950 to fill the Hughes Chair.
It was a most fortunate appointment. The old philosophy-psychology link was to be cut and separate departments established. Smart appointed U. T. Place to begin and head the newly forming discipline of psychology. He also appointed C. B. Martin, who remained in the department for many years. In these years, Martin’s work in metaphysics, especially in philosophy of mind, was unique in style and widely influential in the Australian context. He later published freely.
Smart’s influence on the university community was immediate and widespread. This was made easier by the comparatively small size of the university. The department ran a small, informal, interdisciplinary group that met to discuss the new, post-war turn in philosophy. One focus of discussion was Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1953). Visitors and participants from Economics, English Literature, Mathematics and Physics took a vigorous part with Smart, Place and Martin in densely argued sessions. Place published his theory of the identity of sensations with brain processes (an output of these discussions, especially with Smart and Martin). The theory was taken up by Smart in philosophical vein and published in a philosophical journal. The identity theory flourished in philosophy and rapidly became a major and contentious influence on the philosophy of mind internationally. In one variant or another, it has dominated the subject ever since. It was ironically but affectionately referred to as ‘the Australian Heresy’.
Smart’s and Martin’s decades in Adelaide were halcyon days for the department. This was particularly so for more advanced students who enjoyed a degree of access to and friendship with their teachers that was much missed in graduate studies overseas. For so small a university a surprising number of its undergraduates became prominent philosophers. Brian Ellis, Graham Nerlich, Brian Medlin, Max Deutscher went on to fill chairs in various universities, as did Chris Mortensen who was a graduate student. Michael Bradley and Ian Hinckfuss have also been stimulating presences in Australian philosophy, far beyond what their list of publications and academic rank would suggest.
Smart’s range of interests was very wide, including metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion and ethics. He was and remains a materialist, a scientific realist, an atheist and an act utilitarian. His style is limpid, direct, incisive and terse and always reads so simply that it is easy to overlook its depth and novelty. His early work on the metaphysics of time was important in undermining what is known as the A-theory of time. The flow of time is a myth since there is no good answer to the question how fast it flows. Few searching arguments in metaphysics can be put so briefly and clearly.
A committed Christian on his arrival in Adelaide, Smart was charged with holding views on other philosophical issues which were inconsistent with religious beliefs. Smart breezily admitted the charge and announced himself an atheist henceforth, a declaration to which he firmly stuck. This kind of frankness and commitment to where the argument leads explains the definition of ‘to outsmart’ in the Philosophical Lexicon—to outsmart an opponent is to dismay him by admitting his objection forthwith or embracing the paradox presented.
In many publications Smart defended scientific realism by arguing that the difficulties raised by relativists, conventionalists or subjectivists were merely that realism is novel and surprising rather than objectionable. That was perhaps a fine example of outsmarting. Smart’s scientific realism was also connected with the increased influence by and on U.S. philosophy, which became the centre of gravity of the discipline from the beginning of the 1960s onward. Smart had been trained in Oxbridge philosophy, but scientific realism was a substantial break from that way of doing linguistic philosophy.
In the 1960s the expansion of universities led to a larger membership of staff in the department and a considerable increase in student numbers due to service courses which faculty regulations made necessary. As was the case everywhere else, this was a mixed blessing. Demands on staff time came at a cost to informal and fruitful discussion and staff perforce became more remote from students.
Smart also played a significant part in negotiating the bequest for the Gavin David Young Lectures, which has brought many highly distinguished philosophers to Australia and continues to do so. The list of Gavin David Young lecturers reads like a who’s who of late twentieth-century philosophy: Ryle, Quine, Flew, Feigl, Davidson, Lewis, Hempel, Dennett, Smart, Putnam and, in 2007, Blackburn.
Smart resigned from the university in 1972, distressed by the changes to the amiable relations with colleagues and students that meant so much to him. It was his affection for the place rather than any estrangement from it that caused his regretful departure.
His successor in the Hughes Chair in 1974 was a former student, Graham Nerlich. Nerlich came to Adelaide from turbulent times in his tenure as professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney. A significant part of these quite prominent, indeed notorious, difficulties was played by the requirement that professors must be administrative heads of their departments. 1974 saw the beginning of significant changes in administrative style at Adelaide: these played some part in Nerlich’s decision to return. Headship of the department was no longer tied to occupancy of the chair. Headship became an elected position independent of academic rank. Nerlich was elected immediately and quickly moved to allow student representation at staff meetings, among other democratic measures. These changes have persisted, and were instituted not only in philosophy but also in the university generally.
Nerlich’s research and publication in his two decades in the Hughes Chair was divided mainly between studies in the ontology of space, time and spacetime and ethics. In the former and larger output he defended realism toward spacetime and especially a unique role for it in ontology as providing geometrical, non-causal explanation in General Relativity. Geometric non-causal explanation was also argued to figure in the explanation of incongruent counterparts and the failure of similarity geometry in non-Euclidean space. Nerlich’s interest in the philosophy of physics had been stimulated early by Smart, and both have enjoyed good relations with the physics department, relations that continue to the present day in the form of a philosophy of physics seminar attended by several noted physicists. In ethics, Nerlich pursued a form of naturalism that sees the development of ethical and broadly cultural practices arising, analogously to the universal yet diverse flourishing of languages, in the natural life of human populations. In addition to Nerlich, strengths in the department in the 1970s and ’80s were logic (Bradley, Hughes, Mortensen), ethics (Chandler) and the philosophy of religion (Gill).
For many decades, too, the department enjoyed the presence of a vigorous, student-run Philosophy Club. This is a valuable adjunct to formal teaching, since it makes clear to students and those members of the public who attend that philosophy is a way of life, and a great deal of fun. The Adelaide Philosophy Club can be traced back at least to 1929, and is still active today.
The Dawkins Report on tertiary education ushered in global changes in the late 1980s to the financing, administration and accountability of staff within Australian universities. These are widely regarded within the tertiary community as unfortunate. Perhaps the least happy outcome has been the damage caused to fruitful collegiate and research community attitudes. That has sprung from the burdens arising from increased accountability, decreased trust, increased envy, and much drudgery with forms. This also began the slide in student-staff ratios, which have approximately doubled in last two decades: an inevitable drop in standards as a consequence, it would seem, of increased administrative costs.
In 1994 the Faculty of Arts faced a major revision of financial and administrative practices, which created a crisis. Nerlich resigned for that reason, in what would have been his year of compulsory retirement under former rules. The headship of the department fell to Mortensen. Within a short time, the department was faced with two attempts to destroy it. An external review of the faculty was held, and following their recommendations an internal committee of Arts professors recommended in 1995 that the philosophy department be amalgamated with anthropology, and ‘as philosophers retire they be replaced by social theorists’. Arguments such as that the faculty had social theorists coming out of its ears, and that what it needed was some metaphysics as a balance, were ignored. Several senior Australian philosophers wrote to the Vice-Chancellor in support of the department. In the end, this threat was beaten off by the expedient of simple refusal, a tactic which recommends itself to be used more often than it has been.
Mortensen’s book Inconsistent Mathematics was published in 1995. The thesis was that there is room for expansion of our conception of mathematics, by recognising the rich structure available within inconsistent theories. These are not especially theories of foundational concepts such as set theory or semantics or category theory (though these are well known to generate paradox). Rather, mathematical theories of any kind generate contradictions out of standard mathematical tools such as collapse under congruence relations, homomorphisms, cut-and-paste and many other techniques. The philosophical thesis here is that, far from paraconsistent (inconsistency-tolerant) reasoning being revisionist (as intuitionist mathematics is), it represents an extension of what has hitherto been thought possible for mathematics. Work in this area is ongoing, with impossible images (such as those of M. C. Escher) throwing up interesting and novel challenges for mathematical treatment. Mortensen was promoted to the Hughes Chair in 1998.
U. T. Place died in England on 2 January 2000. He bequeathed his brain to the Adelaide philosophy department, to be displayed with the caption: ‘Did This Brain Contain the Consciousness of U. T. Place?’. Reminiscent of Bentham’s gift to the University of London, this was an instructive piece of philosophy and a fine piece of dark humour: a worthy afterthought on his importance to Adelaide and Australian philosophy. It resides in the anatomy museum, and can be seen on the Department’s website.
Later in 2000, the department had to face another threat. A faculty committee containing several senior professors recommended a drastic cut in philosophy’s offerings at the second and third-year level. This would have seen major reductions in enrolments, and a consequent decline in staff, with a spiral downwards into non-existence a definite possibility. Through a complicated series of manoeuvres, an agreement was reached with the university that four senior staff not far from retirement would go in return for their being replaced by four young, tenured staff. Memorandum to administrators: academics are typically motivated by love of their discipline and desire to ensure its future, and are not typically motivated by fear that threats might be implemented. This renewal of the department’s energies was made possible by the generosity of spirit of those staff who retired then, and they are to be thanked for their actions.
In 2003, however, it proved to be too difficult to beat off yet another threat, namely amalgamation into schools. Philosophy was press-ganged into a School of Humanities, containing also the disciplines media, English, classics, linguistics, French and German. The heterogeneity of this mix gives the lie to the university’s patronising motivation: that the amalgamation would foster ‘synergies’. The philosophy ‘department’ was destroyed in the sense that it became a ‘discipline’ (only parts of the administration remained as departments). Worse, initially the university attempted to do without any heads of disciplines, in favour of a single head of school. Such an abuse of autonomy is alienating in the extreme: elsewhere it has led to an erosion of collegiality as people strive to defend their patch from collapse of student numbers and redundancy. But, as was obvious to all beforehand, it proved to be unworkable, and soon collapsed as discipline heads came back. The main effect was thus to insert a further, unnecessary tier of management with a great increase in costs. This sort of thing happened in many universities around the country at the time, and must be regarded as an absurdity which has the opposite effect on costs from what it claims.
Mortensen retired in 2005. Garrett Cullity had published his book The Moral Demands of Affluence (2004) the year before. The book sets up ‘the Extreme Demand’ on the (relatively) affluent, roughly that one should give everything away to the poor and suffering until the sacrifice outweighs the good it does. While acknowledging the strength of the case for the Extreme Demand (and the weakness of extant arguments against it), Cullity nonetheless argues that it ultimately undermines itself. The book won a Eureka Prize in 2008. Cullity was promoted to the Hughes Chair in 2006. Gerard O’Brien was also made professor in 2007. The current (2008) strengths of the rejuvenated department are cognitive science and the philosophy of mind (O’Brien, Gerrans, Opie, Fernandez), ethics (Cullity, Gamble, Louise), and aesthetics (McMahon). Philosophy at the University of Adelaide has been strong on the philosophy of mind ever since Smart (if not Mitchell), and the major presence of cognitive science can be regarded as the triumph of the physicalist program started by Smart and Place so many years before. The strength in ethics also represents the continuation of a tradition in which Smart and Nerlich made good contributions.
If Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then aesthetics is a series of footnotes to Kant. This is as true of the analytic tradition as of the Continental. But there has been an important change of emphasis in the object of inquiry of analytic aesthetics, which predominantly concerns theorising about the experience and criticism of works of art. Kant’s idea of aesthetics as primarily concerned with beauty, or heightened or intensified perceptual experiences of natural phenomena, has largely been eclipsed (but not entirely: e.g. Mothersill 1984). Analytic aesthetics, once considered the neglected step-child of analytic philosophy, is beginning to gain confidence as a significant area of study with much to tell us about human experience, art, taste, expression, representation, interpretation, intention, imagination and reason. In the 1950s analytic philosophers complained of the barrenness of aesthetics, but today as analytic philosophy enters an intense period of self-searching and reassessment, it is to aesthetics that one might profitably turn to gain a better understanding of the complex Kantian origins of the discipline. The most significant Kantian legacy in the aesthetic domain has been the idea of the autonomy of the work of art and our experience of it from other theoretical, practical and sensory aspects of human life.
To approach the topic of analytic aesthetics let us first ask, ‘What is analytic philosophy?’, before turning to the analytic approach to aesthetics, and the contribution of its Australasian practitioners. It is familiar that there is no dominant paradigm or practice of analysis engaged in by those who regard themselves as analytic philosophers. Analytic philosophy is closely aligned with the development and application of modern symbolic logic and with the attempt to adopt the methods of the natural sciences or to give them a certain metaphysical priority—which goes some way to explaining the lowly status aesthetics has been accorded in Anglo-American circles of philosophy for most of the twentieth century. However, it is not possible to define analytic philosophy in terms of some specific set of logical, metaphysical or scientific ideas or concerns. Analytic philosophy can be more fruitfully approached in historical terms as a movement having its roots in the early twentieth-century reactions of G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell to Kant and post-Kantian Idealists. Just how to understand this reaction is currently a subject of much debate (cf. Redding 2007).
Looked at from this perspective, perhaps the most characteristic feature of analytic philosophy has been a derisive attitude towards Hegel and his immediate successors, who were typically dismissed (often with little or no engagement with their texts!) as endorsing a hopelessly implausible Idealism, understood in terms of an ill-defined dependence of reality on the mind. The recent (re)turn to Hegel and the sympathetic reinterpretation of his Idealism by leading analytic philosophers such as Brandom (2009) and McDowell (2004) will be seen by some as the end, by others as a further incarnation, of the analytic tradition. The former group tends to look to social pragmatist themes as the way forward in a post-analytic age, whereas the latter group tends to look to a science-inspired metaphysics (often misleadingly called ‘naturalism’) as a new lease of life for analytic philosophy. Of course, one could also follow Bernard Williams (1985) and dissolve much of the debate by conceiving of analytic philosophy as simply a matter of a certain style of writing displaying an overriding concern for argument, drawing distinctions and clarity of exposition.
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), an early masterpiece of analytic philosophy, had the unintended effect of giving courage to the positivist conception of philosophy as primarily concerned with the logic of the language of science, a logic that, according to Wittgenstein (following Russell’s Theory of Descriptions), was hidden by the surface grammatical form of language. Aesthetics, not being a science, suffered under this conception but it could approximate it near enough by concerning itself with an analysis of the logic of the language of criticism (cf. Beardsley 1958). It was this impoverished conception of analytic aesthetics, which sharply distinguished meta-criticism from art criticism and which tended to ignore the significance of history and society for an understanding of art, that spurred the Australian philosopher John Passmore to write ‘The Dreariness of Aesthetics’ (1951).
It was the later philosophy of Wittgenstein (1953), however, that arguably had the greatest influence on the development of analytic aesthetics in the later half of the twentieth century. Some examples of significant themes associated with Wittgenstein’s work include: (1) a family resemblance conception of art as an alternative to essentialism (Weitz 1956); (2) an anti-theoretical approach to aesthetics (Kennick 1958); (3) the idea that aesthetic concepts are non-rule-governed (Sibley 1959); (4) the radical idea of letting the object of interpretation (say, an artwork or a philosophical text) become a means of interpretation of that same object (Cavell 1969); (5) the importance of social factors in the definition of art, as in, for example, the institutional theory of art (Dickie 1974); and (6) the importance of the concepts of seeing-as and seeing-in for understanding pictorial representation (Wollheim 1980). A useful survey of contemporary work directly influenced by Wittgenstein is Allen and Turvey (2001).
But analytic aesthetics is a broad church and Wittgenstein’s influence is now less evident. Although analytic aesthetics reflects the broader tendencies within analytic philosophy—it also has its social pragmatist and scientific naturalist camps—it is now too pluralistic and philosophically adventurous to be neatly summarised. Typical questions taken up by the analytic aesthetician include the perennial ‘What is art?’, the ontology of different kinds of art, the paradoxical cognitivity of aesthetic judgment, the nature of artistic intention and its relevance to interpretation, the objectivity of interpretation, and the relation between art and emotion (the artist’s, the audience’s). From the 1960s on there has been a general movement away from the idea that art can be understood in purely aesthetic terms (often invoking a special aesthetic attitude of disinterestedness) and a growing appreciation of the need to understand art against the historical and social background afforded by artistic tradition, practices and conventions of art making, public institutions of art interpretation and appreciation, and artistic intentions.
Analytic aestheticians are among the most open-minded in the analytic tradition. Its practitioners have long realised that the way forward for analytic philosophy might well lie in appropriating the insights of the Idealist tradition that analytic philosophy began by ostensibly rejecting. Consider one of its leading practitioners, Arthur Danto: even if he is a traditionalist who argues against anti-essentialist Wittgensteinians such as Weitz that art has a metaphysical essence (Danto’s view is, roughly, that the essence of art is ‘embodied meaning’, where the ‘meaning’ in question is contextually dependent on the relevant recent history and theories of art (cf. Danto 1961)), nonetheless he also appropriates a version of Hegel’s idea of the end of art. According to Danto, the developmental history of art ends when Andy Warhol produces ‘Brillo Boxes’ in 1964, an artwork that is perceptually indistinguishable from ordinary physical objects, real-life Brillo boxes. Thereafter philosophy becomes self-conscious about the nature of art, which can no longer be understood in terms of manifest perceptual properties (cf. Danto 1997). Danto is also representative of many analytic aestheticians in having specialist art knowledge (in his case, of painting) and in being involved in the public discussion of art and its significance (Danto was art critic for The Nation from 1984 to 2009). For discussion of Danto, see Goodrich (1991).
Recent work in the Australasian context is representative of the most interesting current trends within analytic aesthetics as a whole. In the first place, there has been a move to embrace interdisciplinary approaches to aesthetics drawing on work in other areas of philosophy as well as empirically-based research in the social sciences. This is evidence of a newfound confidence in philosophical aesthetics in the face of the old anxiety that aestheticians are really just philosophers of something else, which is merely applied to the case of art. Gregory Currie (2004) perhaps leads the way here in arguing that making headway with many of the problems of aesthetics requires substantial input from metaphysics, philosophy of language and mind, value theory and empirical research (say, into the activity of interpreting). This interdisciplinary approach is also evident in other notable work: Philip Pettit’s (1983) appeal to considerations in the philosophy of language to argue for a sophisticated form of aesthetic realism; Eugenio Benitez’s (2003) argument for an intimate relation between ethics and aesthetics; and Denis Dutton’s (2001) discussion of aesthetic universals which makes significant use of research in anthropology and evolutionary psychology.
Another representative local trend is to consider special issues raised by particular arts that do not carry over to the general concept of art. This trend often goes with a conception of philosophy that does not see any point in drawing a sharp distinction between aesthetics and art criticism. Noteworthy contributions include: Catherine Abell (2007) and Jennifer McMahon (2006) on pictorial representation; Elizabeth Coleman (2005) on Aboriginal art and the law; Stephen Davies (2009), Davies and Fisher (2009), and Paul Thom (1993, 1997) on music and the performing arts; Denis Dutton (1993) on tribal art; Patrick Hutchings (2005) on Aboriginal art; and Michael Levine (2004) and David Macarthur on architecture.
A third trend worthy of note has been the renewal of interest in questions of taste and, in particular, those concerning beauty—a topic that has been out of favour for some time but which has never been absent from philosophical aesthetics since the time of Plato. John Armstrong (2004) and Jennifer McMahon (2005) are among those making valuable contributions to this literature.
Immanuel Kant’s 1790 work, The Critique of Judgment, attempts to define an autonomous field of value for aesthetic judgments. There are complex motivations for this task, many of them internal to the development of the Kantian critical philosophy and especially the exigencies of his moral philosophy. Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic autonomy rests on the claim that aesthetic pleasure follows from the judgment itself; it is not tied to pleasure in the object. Aesthetic judgments are ‘autonomous’ because they concern neither an assessment of the usefulness of the object nor the correct application of rules to this object. The autonomy of the aesthetic domain from the spheres of sensuous appetite (pleasure in the object) and cognition (usefulness or correctness) aims to establish beauty as an analogous form for moral ideas. It is because the feeling for the beautiful is without the constraints of subjective appetite or cognitive rules that it models, analogically, the qualities of moral freedom and serves too as the analogical exemplar of the moral idea. A number of the idiosyncrasies of Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic autonomy follow from the fact that this doctrine is not developed for the investigation of the fine arts or even, what Kant thought of as superior to art, instances of natural beauty, but as a way of investigating the subject’s faculty of judgment and its promise to mediate between the divided worlds of nature (cognition) and freedom (morals). In addition to the status of art as a category of peripheral use for the core problem of his philosophical system, another peculiarity imposed by the exigencies of Kant’s system on his doctrine of aesthetic autonomy is that it is a theory geared to the spectator and therefore to the analysis of the reception of beauty by the figure of the subject. Although some of these peculiarities were challenged by his immediate heirs in modern German philosophy (G. W. F. Hegel tried to redefine and restrict aesthetics to the ‘philosophy of art’ and Friedrich Nietzsche, like Martin Heidegger after him, railed against the subjectivism of Kant’s theory of judgment and its willing sacrifice of ‘truth’ as a measure of aesthetic value), the untidy nest of issues addressed in Kant’s reflections on aesthetics continues to characterise the broad parameters of research in the field.
Most contemporary writing on aesthetics is post-Kantian because its key issues are framed in relation to Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic autonomy. Some writers have gone even further and attempted to locate a genesis for the split between analytic and Continental philosophy in the different possibilities of interpretation offered by the idiosyncrasies of Kant’s aesthetics. For instance, analytic philosophy is sometimes characterised as accepting the success or desirability of Kant’s differentiation between cognition, morals and taste; to the extent that it insists on the specificity of the questions that define the field of philosophy of art and attempts to refine the differentiation of ‘art’ from other fields it is post-Kantian (Bernstein 1992). In contrast, Continental philosophy departs from the view that Kant’s differentiation between cognition, morals and taste fails; the key issues in this tradition concern the implications of this failure. In general, Continental philosophy tends to pay more attention to the historical legacy of the Kantian problem of system that structures post-Kantian writing on aesthetics. From the perspective of this problem of system, many of the prominent figures in this field accept that aesthetics has significant implications for other areas of ‘value’ philosophy, especially the fields of politics and morals. Such thinkers may be considered post-Kantian because of the evidence in Kant’s Critique of Judgment that aesthetics is an evidentiary plank for his moral theory. In this respect they are faithful to the maximal definition of aesthetics as the sensibilisation [Versinnlichung] of (moral) ideas.
At its broadest aesthetics, as its Greek etymology from the verb ‘to sense’ [aisthesis] suggests, concerns the theory of sensibility in general, rather than just the ‘philosophy of the fine arts’. A number of twentieth-century thinkers follow this definition of aesthetics as the general problem of the conceptualisation of sensibility. In this respect we may cite Gilles Deleuze’s ontology and especially his attempt with Félix Guattari to redefine the relations between philosophy/art and science outside of the historical model of autonomy and in terms of an a-subjective theory of sensation. Similarly, the Kantian account of reflective judgment, which is developed in his aesthetics, but also refined in his teleology, is the prototype for Jean-François Lyotard’s approach to ‘the differend’ characterised by the absence of an authoritative rule of judgment. In the cases of both Deleuze and Lyotard aesthetics is understood as a field that admits a general theory of ‘affect’ and one that also critically engages with the Kantian reduction of ‘affect’ to the ‘subject’. Each of these thinkers weight their interpretation of Kant’s Critique of Judgment to his appendix on the sublime because, in their view, this appendix departs from the values of consensus and disinterest that define the earlier treatment of taste.
Although there are compelling historical and semantic reasons for using the category of ‘aesthetics’ as the place holder for theories of sensation and affect, it is equally possible to identify in recent European philosophy three main approaches to literature and the fine arts, each of which addresses a different angle on Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic autonomy. Moreover, the orientation of such a schema diminishes the salience of the analytic/Continental divide for the field of aesthetics and is therefore useful for characterising research in this field in Australasia given the largely ecumenical nature of philosophy departments here.
First, there are those approaches that examine the arts as a social institution. In this approach critical attention to the historical and institutional development of the autonomy of art and a specific concern with art’s social effects is prominent. In this area we can include thinkers as diverse as Theodor Adorno, Karl Heinz Bohrer, Peter Bürger and Pierre Bourdieu. Although there are significant differences between these thinkers, the historical perspective each take on the autonomy of art introduces into the critical assessment of this sphere considerations relating to the constitution of canonicity, the role of commodification in the reception and production of the arts and the prospects for social criticism or innovation from within the arts given these factors.
The second approach comprises those who advocate ‘autonomy’ for art. In this category we can include the work of philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. These thinkers all tend to criticise attempts to saddle art with significance beyond the aesthetic domain; they argue that these attempts compromise the autonomy of art and the critical value that this autonomy might embody. This approach tends to take its settings from the conceptions of art in the modern German philosophical tradition and to the critical evaluation of the deployment of art within this tradition. For instance, Derrida is especially critical of the way Kantian aesthetics consigns art to the role of the material exemplar of the moral ideal. This approach comments much more on the paradoxes involved in the articulation of the logic of ‘autonomy’ in philosophical aesthetics than it does on the paradoxical freedom art wins through institutional and historical processes, such as the shift from a system of patronage to the entry of art into the mechanisms of a market economy, under which art first becomes intelligible as an ‘autonomous’ field, but also submits to market mechanisms.
Finally, there is the approach that adopts the ‘experience’ of the arts. The thinkers that can be grouped in this category all emphasise the reception and production of the arts and include hermeneutics (Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Gianni Vattimo) as well as reception theory (Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Hans Robert Jauss). Some of the positions in this field are described as ‘post-aesthetic’ because they call into question the defining features of Kant’s aesthetics, in particular the ‘spectatorial’ model of judgments of art (Heidegger, Vattimo, Giorgio Agamben). This conception of the art-work as providing access to a specific type of experience is located in a critical relation to the historical emergence of art as belonging to an autonomous sphere of value because it identifies this process as effectively limiting art’s significance to the confines of the cultural domain and cutting off its relation to ‘truth’.
Despite this long list of German, French and Italian names it would be misleading to characterise the topics treated by this group of European philosophers as entirely incompatible with some of the central topics of anglophone philosophy of art. After all, one of the key questions common to both fields is how to identify and defend the constitutive marks of a work of art from the sphere of non-art (see, for instance, Arthur Danto). Recent Continental philosophy approaches this problem through the analysis of the techniques involved in artistic production as much as by reference to the institutional processes such as the modern history of the museum that constitutes ‘non-art’ as ‘art’ through the mechanism of the exhibition (the display, for example, of Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades’). In this respect, both fields need to accommodate the changes happening in contemporary art practice, even if some prominent voices in Australasian philosophy express alienation from these changes and attempt to reinforce a normative sense of aesthetic value (e.g. John Armstrong at the University of Melbourne).
In Australasia research in aesthetics sustains the historico-philosophical, but also historico-institutional frameworks that bring with them topics to do with ‘value’ and ‘appearance’ and ‘sensible form’. Moreover, these historical settings also include research on topics related to the understanding of modernity, such as the problem of sustaining a role for normative judgment in the wake of the scientific secularisation of the concept of nature, as well as the historical problem, especially strong in German philosophy, of classification of avant-garde production. Finally, due to its genesis in Kant as the context to raise questions of existential meaning in the wake of secular disenchantment, the modern history of aesthetics has a privileged place in analyses of the changing nature of lived experience in modernity [Erlebnis].
Given the importance of the German and French traditions in this field some prominent international research is conducted by individuals whose academic careers have been in language or literature departments, rather than in philosophy. Work in this field in Australasia may be schematically divided into three categories: work on the canonical writings in aesthetics; work on the arts; and philosophical writing on topics such as value, sensible form and the problem of normative judgments as these are inflected by both the former two categories as well as recent trends in English-language philosophy.
Two of the main figures working in this field in Australasia are both from the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. György Markus, who began teaching at Sydney in 1978 after having emigrated to Australia from Hungary, is a major international figure in this field. Markus’ research is famous for its critical examination of the conceptualisation of ‘high’ culture within the post-Marxist tradition (Markus 1999). He has published a number of important essays and books dealing with the conceptualisation of the commodification of culture in Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno and the paradigm of production in Marxist aesthetics (Markus 1978). He has also published significant historical pieces on the conception of ‘culture’ and its links to modern European understandings of ‘anthropology’ (Markus 1993).
A former student of Markus’, Paul Redding, also at the University of Sydney, has published pieces on the philosophy of art as well as the broader historical framework and wider issues this field addresses. We may cite in this respect his book The Logic of Affect as well as a number of significant essays in which Redding tries to connect the problem of normative judgment, as this is conceived in post-Kantian Idealism, to contemporary topics in analytic philosophy. Although Redding’s work is attentive to the historical topics and formation of this field, his work is unusual because it tries to bring this historical framework to bear on problems in anglophone philosophy (Redding 1999). Finally, the University of Sydney is the base for the Sydney Society for Literature and Aesthetics. This society provides an interdisciplinary venue for conferences, seminars and sponsors the bi-annual publication of the journal Literature and Aesthetics. The interdisciplinary mission of this society means that it is neither a partisan in the division between analytic and Continental philosophy, nor is it devoted exclusively to philosophical aesthetics narrowly defined. Some of its participants include Rick Benitez (Philosophy, University of Sydney), Vrasidas Karalis (Modern Greek, University of Sydney) and Catherine Runcie (English, University of Sydney).
Markus, along with other émigrés from the Budapest School (such as Agnes Heller, now at The New School, New York, but who previously taught in Sociology at La Trobe University), has also had a significant influence on David Roberts (German, Monash University). Roberts has written critical studies on Romanticism, the German novel and Adorno’s aesthetics. Like Markus, his work has been published in German as well as in English-language publications (Roberts 1991). Roberts’ work in aesthetics and especially the approach he takes to problems in this field tends to be restricted to the German tradition.
Another Australasian figure with international prominence in this field is Andrew Benjamin (Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash, formerly Warwick University, U.K.). Benjamin has published edited collections dealing with aesthetic topics in the writings of Walter Benjamin and Jean-François Lyotard. In addition to collections on prominent figures in the field of aesthetics, he is also the author of monographs on topics such as the avant-garde, painting and modernism and architecture. Benjamin’s work tends to follow the view, adapted from Kant’s conception of the moral significance of aesthetic value, that art has political significance (Benjamin 2004). Unlike Markus, Redding and Roberts, Benjamin’s work is influenced by the French tradition, especially deconstruction.
There are a number of others who write on literary and aesthetic problems such as the problem of cultural value (John Frow, English, University of Melbourne) or genre (John Frow, Robyn Ferrell, also in English at the University of Melbourne) (Frow 2005; Ferrell 2002). Ferrell has also written on particular artists and the topics of artistic mediums and indigenous art.
Finally, in New Zealand, Julian Young (Philosophy, Auckland University) has written well-regarded studies on Nietzsche and Heidegger’s philosophies of art. Young is also one of the translator’s of Heidegger’s Holzwege (Young 1992; Young 2004).
Australasian philosophers have made an extremely rich and diverse contribution to the area of feminist philosophy that has come to be called ‘analytic feminism’. The term dates from the early 1990s when a Society for Analytical Feminism was inaugurated in North America (Garry 2008). Ann E. Cudd has offered a helpful definition: ‘Analytic feminism holds that the best way to counter sexism and androcentrism is through forming a clear conception of and pursuing truth, logical consistency, objectivity, rationality, justice, and the good while recognising that these notions have often been perverted by androcentrism throughout the history of philosophy’ (1996: 20). Feminist theory had been dominated by postmodernism and poststructuralism which, as Cudd observes, often rejects notions such as truth, reason, objectivity, agency and autonomy. Analytic feminism attempts to rehabilitate these notions, not only because they are ‘normatively compelling, but also [because they are] in some ways empowering and liberating for women’ (Cudd 1996: 20). Although it is not restricted to these areas, many of the contributions of analytic feminists are in core areas of analytic philosophy such as philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of science.
An influential Australasian figure is Annette C. Baier, whose early articles ‘What Do Women Want in A Moral Theory?’ (1985), ‘Hume, the Woman’s Moral Theorist?’ (1987), and ‘Hume, the Reflective Woman’s Epistemologist?’ (1993) pioneered two areas of analytic feminism that are flourishing today. These are, first, feminist reconsiderations of historical figures (and the related study of the historical impact of women philosophers), and, second, the intersection between feminism and moral theory. A second pioneer is Genevieve Lloyd. Her work The Man of Reason, first published in 1984, had an important influence on both non-analytic and analytic feminists, because she drew attention to the concept of reason and the ways in which this concept is androcentric in the history of philosophy. Both Baier’s and Lloyd’s work were represented in what is perhaps the most important early anthology of analytic feminism, A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity (Antony and Witt 1993). This work did much to set the agenda of analytic feminism.
Many other Australasian philosophers have contributed analytic feminist work in epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of language, moral and political philosophy, and the history of philosophy. Karen Jones has explored the notions of self-trust and testimony in contexts of sexism and racism (2002, 2004). Her article ‘The Politics of Credibility’ was included in the second edition of A Mind of One’s Own (2002). Also in epistemology, Rae Langton’s extensive contributions on objectification have been collected in her recent book, Sexual Solipsism (2009). In metaphysics, feminists have explored the problem of essentialism, and the significance of the debate over nominalism and universals for gender properties (Stoljar 1995, 2010). In the philosophy of language, they have studied the role of language in debates about pornography (Langton 1993; Hornsby and Langton 1998; Langton and West 1999). In moral and political philosophy, Australasian feminists have contributed to feminist bioethics (Dodds 2000, 2007), to the feminist analysis and critique of liberalism (Barclay 2000; Langton 1990; West 2003), and also to the project of rehabilitating concepts that had been repudiated by earlier feminist theory, such as the concept of autonomy (Mackenzie and Stoljar 2000). Analytic feminists working in the history of philosophy have made important contributions to both the rethinking of androcentric concepts in the history of philosophy and to the discovery of the contributions of female philosophers (Broad 2002; Green 1994, 1995).
The field of analytic feminism has several key features that distinguish it from both traditional analytic philosophy and from non-analytic feminist theory. The first is the ‘blurriness’ (Cudd 1996) of the distinctions between traditional topics in analytic philosophy—for instance, epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophy of language—and social/political philosophy. An example of this is Langton’s well-known paper on freedom of expression and pornography, ‘Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts’ (1993). Langton uses J. L. Austin’s speech act theory in the philosophy of language to argue that pornography subordinates women and silences their speech. A second example is Catriona Mackenzie’s examination of the role of the imagination in agency and identity. Mackenzie’s analysis of the imagination draws on the philosophy of mind, but the primary goal is to illuminate problems in bioethics and social/political philosophy (Mackenzie 2000; Mackenzie and Scully 2007; Mackenzie 2008).
A second feature worth noticing is that, although analytical feminism is often motivated by political concerns, such as the concern to counter sexism and androcentrism mentioned above, its philosophical insights extend beyond this, and often enrich our understanding of traditional areas of philosophy. For example, recent work on the notion of autonomy by feminist philosophers has argued against standard conceptions of autonomy within moral psychology (Mackenzie and Stoljar 2000). This work makes genuine progress in our understanding of the concept of autonomy and how it applies in political philosophy and bioethics. Thus, the impact of analytic feminism is not just a political one; it is a philosophical contribution in its own right that often refigures traditional debates.
A third feature of analytic feminism is that it can rely on cross-fertilisation between non-analytic approaches and analytic approaches. Lloyd’s work on reason has already been mentioned, and in general feminists working on the history of philosophy exemplify this cross-fertilisation. The work of another prominent Australian feminist philosopher, Moira Gatens, though it is not primarily analytic, has had an impact on analytic feminism in a number of ways, for example through her analysis of sex and gender categories (1991a) and her work on feminist reinterpretations of Spinoza (2009). Marguerite La Caze’s exploration of the imagery of analytic philosophy is another good example of this cross-fertilisation (2002).
Dirk Baltzly & Paul Thom
Ancient Greco-Roman philosophy is a staple part of the curriculum in most North American universities. Few research-oriented departments are without a member of staff who describes this as his or her ‘area of specialisation’. This is perhaps partly because North American universities owe so much to the legacy of scholars such as Gregory Vlastos and G. E. L. Owen who brilliantly applied the techniques of analytic philosophy to the study of ancient texts, thus making ancient philosophy seem familiar to their not-so-historically-minded colleagues. By contrast, Australian and New Zealand philosophy departments, which have also been predominantly analytic in their orientation, have not similarly embraced ancient philosophy as an essential area of expertise. The story of scholarship in ancient philosophy in Australasia is thus one in which philosophy departments play an equal, or perhaps even a supporting, role alongside classics departments. Indeed, in the early days of Australian universities, all the teaching of ancient philosophy was done under the aegis of classics.
The University of Sydney may serve as an illustration. From 1852 to 1889, ancient philosophy was taught by the professors of classics. The syllabus included some Platonic dialogues, Aristotle’s Ethics, and bits of Aristotle’s logic. Under Francis Anderson (Challis Professor of Philosophy, 1890–1921) there was a course called ‘Ancient Philosophy’, comprising ninety lectures offering a ‘historical and critical account of the development of Primitive and Ancient Thought’. The lectures covered oriental religions and theosophies, Greek philosophy in its relation to Greek life and culture, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans and Sceptics, Roman philosophy, and the Middle Ages up to Aquinas. Bernard Muscio (Challis Professor of Philosophy, 1922–26) continued the ninety-lecture course on Ancient Philosophy, narrowing the scope to the period between Thales and Plotinus. From 1927 to 1958 John Anderson as Challis Professor of Philosophy taught an ever-narrowing selection of Greek philosophical texts, focussing on the Pre-Socratics and a few Platonic dialogues.
Anderson’s approach to the Greek philosophers was a little like that of Aristotle to his predecessors: rather than seeking to understand them in their own terms and in their own historical context, he saw their work as fitting his own theoretical framework. Other Australasian philosophers, generally working as isolated individuals, continued to approach ancient texts with interpretive frameworks drawn from contemporary philosophy as late as the early 1980s—witness Frank White’s work on Plato’s metaphysics or Maxwell J. Cresswell’s articles from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
An internationally recognised vehicle for Australasian studies of ancient philosophy came from the classicists. Peter Bicknell and David Rankin of the classics department at Monash University had launched a new journal dedicated to ancient philosophy and science, Apeiron, in 1966. Apeiron published local authors, as well as some international heavy-weights. In addition, beginning in the 1980s, the University of Newcastle’s colourful professor of classics, Godfrey Tanner, organised a series of conferences on themes of interest to classicists, philosophers and theologians. Participants included David Dockrill, who was interested in the Cambridge Platonists, Raoul Mortley, who worked on Neoplatonism, and Harold Tarrant, whose research interests span nearly the entire ancient Platonic tradition. Tarrant recalls that the standard of papers at these conferences was not particularly consistent, but to have raised the bar too high would have resulted in few participants.
The Philosophy Program at the Australian National University achieved something like critical mass with the presence of Kimon Lycos and Paul Thom. Lycos was blessed with a kind of Socratic magnetism. He was also profoundly engaged with contemporary French philosophy. Andrew Benjamin was among the students at ANU at the time and Lycos gave impetus to his subsequent work in ancient philosophy.
The 1980s and ’90s saw the publication of a number of good books in ancient philosophy by Australian and New Zealand authors. These included a commentary on Plato’s Euthydemus from R. S. W. Hawtrey (1981), two volumes from Mortley (1986) on Neoplatonism, work from Tarrant (1985) on the New Academy, Lycos’ Plato on Justice and Power (1987), and Thom’s work on Aristotelian logic (1981) and (1996).
In 1992 the Australasian Society for Ancient Philosophy (ASAP) was founded by Paul Thom, Robin Jackson (Classics, Melbourne), Kimon Lycos and Harold Tarrant (Classics, Newcastle). There was strong New Zealand support from Dougal Blyth (Classics, Auckland) and Ben Gibbs (Philosophy, Waikato). Shortly thereafter the philosophy departments of the University of Sydney and Monash University hired Americans who had trained specifically in ancient philosophy (Rick Benitez and Dirk Baltzly). The new ASAP held regular conferences that issued in two volumes of conference proceedings—a special issue of Apeiron edited by Benitez (1996) and then a special volume of Prudentia edited by Baltzly, Blyth and Tarrant (2001). The former volume testifies to the centrality of Plato among the research interests of ASAP members. The latter volume ranges more widely and includes a paper by Stephen Gardiner (Philosophy, Canterbury) on Aristotelian virtue ethics. This cross-fertilisation with Australia and New Zealand’s strength in contemporary virtue ethics was carried forward by Gardiner in a conference at Canterbury in 2002 that issued in Gardner (2005). It is perhaps work on ancient virtue ethics, together with logic and issues in ancient metaphysics, that has most interested non-specialists in Australia and New Zealand.
Another research initiative of the early 1990s that was significant for the present century was the collaboration of Tarrant, Jackson and Lycos in an ARC-funded project to translate the Commentary on Plato’s Gorgias of Olympiodorus (6th c. AD). Through his work on this project, and his membership of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Lycos continued to be a major presence in Australasian ancient philosophy. His untimely death in 1995 was a serious loss to the burgeoning research community around ancient philosophy.
The philosophy of late antiquity (200–600 AD) is currently an area of intense new interest among scholars in ancient Greek philosophy. Partly by chance and partly by design, Australia now has a significant international profile in this area. Following on the heels of the successful collaboration on Olympiodorus, Baltzly and Tarrant teamed up with David Runia (who was then professor of ancient philosophy at Leiden University) in a project to translate Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus into five volumes for Cambridge University Press. The Proclus project also organised an international conference in Newcastle with papers from leading scholars of late antiquity published as Reading Plato in Antiquity (2007). Runia, a world-class expert on doxography and the philosophy of Philo of Alexandria, has now returned to a position at the University of Melbourne. In addition to working with Runia on Proclus’ Timaeus Commentary, Michael Share (Classics, Tasmania) has also produced two more volumes of translation from another late antique Neoplatonist—Philoponus and his Against Proclus on the Eternity of the World (2005). The final addition to Australia’s concentration of researchers in late antique philosophy was the arrival of Han Baltussen to a position in classics at the University of Adelaide in 2003. In addition to a two-volume edited collection on the Greek, Latin and Arabic commentary tradition, Baltussen is the author of the first book-length study of Simplicius (6th c. AD), Philosophy and Exegesis in Simplicius (2008).
Ancient philosophy in Australia has grown remarkably over the past twenty-five years. It now has an organisational aegis of sorts, a tradition of research collaboration both domestically and internationally, and even a distinctive ‘signature’ in studies in late antique philosophy.
There is a Professor John Anderson at Sydney University, his Chair bein [sic] Philosophy; he is described as a young man of enthusiasms in some directions and representative of school of thought evidenced in the letter to the paper mentioned [Workers’ Weekly]. He is stated not to be regarded very seriously by his colleagues, some of whom have already spoken to him in the present matter. (1930 ASIO file on Anderson, cited by Franklin 2003: 11)
Perhaps Anderson was not at first taken seriously by his colleagues. His impact and influence was always through his students. From the beginning, he attracted a group of very able students, all deeply influenced by his thought and drawn into philosophy: A. D. Hope, Perce Partridge, John Passmore and J. L. Mackie, all in his first five or six years in Sydney. Over the next thirty years, Anderson became the most profoundly and widely influential intellectual figure in Australia. The influence went way beyond the ordinary boundaries of philosophy, to encompass literature, psychology, political theory, law and education; and it went beyond the boundaries of academia to affect political, religious and cultural affairs generally. He was censured in the NSW Parliament, by the senate of the University of Sydney, and frequently attacked by both the Anglican and Catholic churches. No other philosopher in Australia, perhaps no other Australian intellectual, has had anything like that impact. My interest here is how that influence came about and what we can learn from it about the conditions under which philosophy can flourish.
Anderson was still young when he arrived at the University of Sydney. In that first decade, he was engaged in working out a comprehensive philosophical system. For his early students, what attracted and inspired enthusiasm was contact with an original and powerful thinker, working out a ‘position’ with broad implications across the spectrum, one deliberately speaking to them more than the established academic community. When Anderson retired at the end of 1958, the Workers Educational Association produced a special number of their journal, Australian Highway, celebrating Anderson and Andersonianism. Perce Partridge then remarked:
Those of us who studied with him (or later worked with him) had the experience of being associated with a thinker engaged in the work of creating a very impressive intellectual construction. He was hard at it, working over the thought of many writers—Russell, Moore, Alexander, Marx, Freud, and so on—accepting, discarding, modifying, relating, reaching out to take in new territory. This is what made him a great teacher in that decade … And his closest pupils at least were in touch, therefore, with an ambitious project of intellectual construction going forward: they could observe at first hand what intellectual creation is like. (1958: 50)
Central to Anderson’s position was a metaphysical doctrine, which he described as realism. His realism contrasted with the Absolute Idealism then still influential in Britain and Australia; but it contrasted almost as strongly with the views held by other realists reacting at the time against Idealism, including people like Russell, Moore, James and Alexander. What is real, all that is real, according to Anderson, are situations in space and time: complex entities constantly in flux. There are no absolutes, no higher beings or levels of reality, no basic or simple entities, no enduring substances, no immaterial or spiritual beings. His was, as he described it, ‘a thoroughly pluralist view in which there is not only an unlimited multiplicity of things to which the single logic of events applies but anything whatever is infinitely complex so that we can never cover its characteristics in a single formula or say that we “know all about it”’ (1958: 55). Tightly interwoven with realism was a set of views in logic, epistemology, theory of mind and ethics.
In logic, the central doctrine concerned the proposition, what can be true or false. Propositions, Anderson held, must have the same structure as potential facts; indeed a true proposition is to be identified with the situation that makes it true. Since reality is not conditional or disjunctive, so propositions are always categorical. And for that reason Anderson stuck, wrongly I think, to a traditional Aristotelian logic. (Mackie 1951 is a good place to pursue the discussion of Anderson’s logic, and Anderson’s first-year lecture notes can be found as an appendix in Anderson 2007.)
Just as there is only one way of being true—there are no grades of truth, no higher truths or necessary truths—also there is only one way of knowing, and that is through observation and critical inquiry. Anderson’s realism led to a form of radical empiricism. As he saw it, the empiricism of the British empiricists, Mill and Russell, was compromised by continuing adherence to characteristic rationalist doctrines: that there are basic data, basic certainties, from which all other knowledge has to be derived or constructed. On the contrary, he held, all knowledge is of facts or situations, and situations are always complex and never exhausted in what we know of them. Hence all knowledge is fallible, always at risk of being displaced by a deeper grasp of the facts.
Knowledge is always a relation between a knower and a known. And since the terms of any relation must be independently real entities, not things constituted by entering into those relations, there are no things whose nature it is to know, or to be known. So consciousness cannot belong to the nature of minds, as Alexander held; minds must be able to be characterised independently of what they know or what they do. That is the fundamental constraint on a theory of mind.
Anderson never published a systematic account of his position. The published essays, for example in Studies in Empirical Philosophy (1962), are apt to seem opaque and dogmatic. That is partly because they are written in a clumsy wooden style—Passmore remarks in his memoirs (1997: 93) that Anderson’s influence was a ‘triumph of content over style’—but mainly because they were intended to be placed against the background of a broad understanding of his views acquired through lectures. In the lectures his position emerged as the consistent and coherent standpoint from which the critical discussion of other philosophers proceeded; one gradually absorbed it over the three or four years of an Arts degree. The first-year course introduced logic and then moved to the Socratic dialogues of Plato. In them Anderson found, first, the occasion for reflecting on the value of free enquiry and criticism, and then for an onslaught on any form of dualism. (You can catch a glimpse of the arguments from chapter 3 of Passmore’s book, Philosophical Reasoning.) In second year, attention turned to the Pre-Socratics. There Anderson discerned early representatives of most major philosophical positions, including, in the fragments of Heraclitus, a poetic precursor of his own views. Passmore’s memoirs record how influential these lectures on Heraclitus were in shaping his worldview, and I had the same experience many years later. Subsequent courses, on Descartes, Hume and Kant, allowed the exposition of empiricism, as always by way of the criticism of historical rationalist and empiricist figures. These lectures have not yet been published, but the lectures on Alexander’s Space, Time and Deity have recently been published (Anderson 2007), using notes taken in 1949 by D. M. Armstrong, Eric Dowling and Alexander (‘Sandy’) Anderson; they provide the most detailed systematic presentation of Anderson’s central metaphysical views. Jim Baker (1986) attempted a systematic exposition of Anderson’s views, but not very successfully I fear.
There was another side to Anderson’s impact: his philosophising was driven by moral and political passion. He thought of himself primarily as an educator. His idea of what education is was made clear in ‘Socrates as an Educator’, reprinted in Studies in Empirical Philosophy (1962) and one of his more immediately accessible papers. Education is a primary good, not something to be valued solely for its utility. Its goal is to produce understanding of physical, social and cultural processes, and a critical awareness of the way various interests and conflicts shape historical movements. This view of education drove his passionate opposition to any educational practices tending to produce an uncritical acceptance of traditional beliefs or values, and so especially of the abuse of education by religious interests. Anderson consistently, almost to the end, championed the value of free thought. He did so on campus, especially through two student societies, the Freethought Society, which he founded in 1930, and the Literary Society. And off-campus he championed the same ideals, particularly through his involvement in the Workers Educational Association.
Soon after his arrival in Sydney, Anderson made contact with the Communist Party and so provoked the interest of the security service. But his involvement with the Communist Party was short-lived, for his commitment to freedom of inquiry and criticism was not then to be subordinated to any social or political program. But he remained a social revolutionary. For a while he defended Trotskyism; then, especially during the forties, he rejected Trotskyism as well and advanced an anti-utopian pluralist position, seeking to expose illusions and to criticise the mentality of servility wherever it is found. Through all this period, his views and polemical activities were decidedly left leaning. (Anderson’s political and polemical writings are collected in Weblin 2003.) But, from about 1949 until his death in 1962, his anti-communism became more strident and his political stance more conservative. Partridge, in the paper I have already referred to, remarked:
‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’. At a certain stage the impetus weakened … Moral and social criticism, a view of the nature or foundations of culture, are for him an essential object of the philosophical enterprise. It was his idea of a ‘fully worked-out position’, taking in the various aspects of life and culture, including the moral and political, which in his case fed the intellectual fire. And which incidentally attracted to him students of such diverse interests. What he had derived from or built upon Marxism was, for this reason, vital to his whole position. Perhaps, then, it was the re-examination, and ultimately the total rejection, of Marxism which was forced upon him by the course which Communism took in the thirties and forties which halted the forward-moving direction of his thinking, and threw him so much into the posture of intellectual resistance and opposition. (1958: 50)
Anderson’s slide into conservatism culminated, in August 1950, in debates in the Freethought Society over the issue of conscription. An Anti-Conscription Committee had been formed, led by David Stove, D. M. Armstrong and Eric Dowling, all former students of Anderson and later to be academic philosophers. Anderson opposed them and suggested, for the first time, that freedom of criticism might be limited by political necessity. The Freethought Society disintegrated and Anderson lost both his most important platform and the support of the radicals he had nurtured. When he retired, the Andersonian movement, if that is what it was, died. Although many of his former students were to be active in philosophy departments at the University of Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of New England and the Australian National University, none of them were Andersonians. None of them thought of themselves as working within a program, or guided by a paradigm, that Anderson had defined.
The four most prominent specialist journals in ancient Greco-Roman philosophy are Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Phronesis, Ancient Philosophy and Apeiron. Though the last of these is now edited by Jim Hankinson at the University of Texas at Austin, it has its origins in the Department of Classical Studies at Monash University. Apeiron’s story sheds an interesting light not only on philosophy in Australia but also on Monash University itself.
Monash University’s Department of Classical Studies had only been in existence for a year when David Rankin decided he had had enough of U.K. classics periodicals. They were too clubby and it was hard for those in the far-flung antipodes to get published. Moreover, only Phronesis specialised in ancient philosophy and it was regarded by many as rather conservative in its editorial choices. Rankin conspired with Peter Bicknell to establish a new journal that would be entitled Apeiron (‘Unbounded’) to indicate the breadth of its methodological tolerance, and which would be specifically a journal for ancient philosophy and science. Bicknell and Rankin proposed to produce this journal ‘in house’, using printing facilities at Monash University. Advertisements for subscriptions yielded significant requests from North America, but almost nothing from Australia, New Zealand or the U.K. From the University of Melbourne’s classics department across town, Rankin recalls, there was a distinct sense that such an initiative smacked strongly of hubris coming from a classics department whose building had not even had time to grow a smattering of ivy upon it.
The first issues of Apeiron are stapled sheets of 8 x 13-inch paper with Greek characters handwritten. Rankin and Bicknell made editorial decisions themselves, regarding the refereeing system as one that often stifled new directions in research. True to its title, there were articles on ancient astronomy and even meteorology. (Bicknell’s 1971 article on a possible reference to Kugelblitz in Pliny is, I believe, utterly unique in the annals of scholarship.) While Monash classicists figure prominently in these early issues, there are also contributions from significant overseas scholars such as Philip Merlan, Tom Robinson and Pamela Huby. Significantly absent are contributions from Australian philosophers.
In the mid 1980s, Apeiron faced a financial crisis. Monash University was no longer willing to provide printing facilities and it appeared that it was not economically feasible to continue. The editors decided to offer the journal to any institution willing to carry on the tradition. Roger Shiner at the University of Alberta in Canada agreed to take it on, expecting that with a bit of work one could increase the subscriptions to make the journal more financially sound. Under Shiner’s editorship, subscriptions grew. Shiner also instituted a policy of peer review—not because he was opposed to the previous editorial policy, but because it simply involved too much work and presupposed a significant level of expertise in a rapidly expanding sub-discipline. Shiner had correctly seen that there was good scholarship, more philosophical than classical in its orientation, that was seeking an outlet apart from Phronesis. Shortly after Apeiron moved to Canada, Oxford Studies and Ancient Philosophy were both launched in response to this growing demand for specifically philosophical journals in the area.
Apeiron’s story illustrates several things. The editors were right to think that more journals were needed in ancient philosophy and especially in ancient science. However, Monash University’s penny-pinching ways meant that by the time this judgment was vindicated, the journal was based overseas. It also illustrates the relative insularity of Australian philosophy from kindred disciplines in years past, as well as the leading role of classicists in establishing ancient philosophy as a thriving sub-discipline in Australasia.
The story has a happy ending though. The conference proceedings of the Australasian Society for Ancient Philosophy—a group made up of both philosophers and classicists—was published in 1996 … in a special issue of Apeiron.
Two types of applied ethics have flourished in Australasia. The first consists of views on human conduct and social life put forward by philosophers who are principally concerned to develop a general philosophical position or approach to philosophy. The second, which more comfortably fits the description ‘applied ethics’, focusses on a practical problem or issue, usually one of current public debate, and uses philosophical reasoning to try to resolve it. The first has always existed in Australasia, as elsewhere. The second was a product of a particular time and a philosophical turn.
For John Anderson, the influential professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney from 1927 to 1958, views about democracy, moralism, education, liberty, and censorship were manifestations of a philosophical worldview (Eddy 1945). If ideas about how to live can be regarded as applied ethics, then the libertarian movement, inspired though not blessed by Anderson, counts as one of the most influential applications of philosophy in Australasia. Though the Sydney libertarians who flourished in the middle of the last century were notorious for drinking, gambling and a male-oriented conception of sexual liberation, they never lost their interest in philosophy and the conviction that it was important to the living of a life.
John Anderson was not the first Australasian philosopher to pronounce on social affairs. Duncan McGregor, appointed foundation professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of Otago in 1871, was a Darwinist who had views on the education of women and the protection of lazy and intellectually handicapped people.
In more recent times, John Passmore, Raimond Gaita and Freya Mathews are notable examples of philosophers whose views about moral and social issues arise from a general theory about ontology, culture, morality or history. John Passmore in Man’s Responsibility for Nature (1972) addresses current environmental concerns, but his main purpose is to argue that a view about nature and how to treat it ought to be derived from traditions of thought rooted in the history of our culture. Gaita’s influential views on genocide, racism and the responsibility of intellectuals arise out of a moral philosophy that stresses the unconditional respect that we owe to each human being and the importance of the life of the mind (Gaita 1991). Mathews’ (1991) environmental ethics is the consequence of a metaphysical theory about the nature of matter.
There have always been philosophers in Australasia whose theories encompass ethical concerns. But the idea that philosophers should regard it as part of their business to pronounce on practical issues was out of favour during the 1950s and 1960s when philosophers assumed that their proper task was to analyse concepts and to concentrate on the traditional topics of philosophy. A. N. Prior ended his report for the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (AJP) on the 1957 East-West Philosophers’ Conference on the Good Life by expressing regret that getting UNESCO sponsorship dictated the choice of topic. It would have been much better, he thought, if this group of philosophers had instead been able to focus on what matters: logic and metaphysics (Prior 1958: 13).
What caused a change of orientation and brought the second, issue oriented, variety of applied ethics into existence, was in part changes in philosophy and in part the impetus of political events. Quine’s rejection of the analytic/synthetic distinction brought into question basic assumptions about the nature of philosophy and its independence from empirical and practical matters. At the same time a generation of younger philosophers (a particularly large contingent in the new or growing Australasian universities of the 1970s) were motivated by political events to bring their philosophical abilities to bear on the issues of the day. Some found inspiration in Marx as a thinker who believed in the inseparability of philosophy and practice. Others simply applied their analytical skills to current problems.
By the 1980s, Australasian philosophers were writing on many applied topics. Articles by Peter Singer on aid to victims of famine (1972), E. M. Curley on rape (1976), and John Kleinig on good Samaritanism (1976) appeared in early issues of Philosophy and Public Affairs. The first issue of the Journal of Applied Philosophy (1984) was dominated by Australasian contributors: Stanley Benn writing on deterrence, Helga Kuhse on letting die, Robert Elliot on justice to animals, John Passmore on academic ethics, and Gary Malinas on pesticides and policies. As a sign of the times, a conference on the philosophical problems of nuclear armaments at the University of Queensland in 1985 brought together participants as diverse as C. A. J. Coady, Graham Nerlich, Brian Ellis, Rodney Allen and J. J. C. Smart.
Many Australasian philosophers have turned their attention to applied issues, but Peter Singer is by far the most important and influential. In three areas of applied ethics he initiated a debate that transcends the confines of the discipline. He is best known for his 1975 book Animal Liberation. Going beyond the advocacy of kindness to animals, Singer argues that individual animals, since they are also capable of feeling pleasure and pain, should count no less than individual humans in determining our actions and policies. One of the implications, he argues, is that it is wrong for us to use animals for food. No other recent philosophical work has had as much influence on people’s lives.
The second area to which Singer has made an influential contribution is bioethics. He was one of the first philosophers to engage in the debate about IVF and other developments in reproduction technology (Singer and Walters 1982; Singer and Wells 1984). He is also well known for his attacks on the doctrine that all human life is sacred. By arguing that it can be justified to kill babies who suffer from conditions that make it doubtful that their lives will be worth living, Singer and his colleague and co-author, Helga Kuhse (Singer and Kuhse 1985), won support from many doctors and parents who had been forced to make difficult choices, but faced the ire of those who insisted that each human life is precious or who feared that his view would somehow lead to the handicapped being regarded as unworthy of life.
In the midst of a refugee crisis in East Bengal in 1971, Singer addressed the question of whether individuals have an obligation to help starving people elsewhere in the world (Singer 1972). Using the now famous analogy of the drowning child, his answer was, ‘yes’—indeed, that we ought to help up to the point where we would be sacrificing something of comparable moral worth. Attempts to determine whether this answer demands too much of people have since become a major philosophical activity.
Four other pioneers of Australasian applied ethics are H. J. McCloskey, Robert Young, Robert Goodin and C. A. J. Coady. Swimming against the philosophical mainstream in the 1960s, McCloskey wrote on punishment, liberty, privacy and other topics, and continued in the next two decades to publish articles on applied ethics issues, including treatment of animals and ecological ethics (e.g. McCloskey 1965a, 1965b, 1975, 1987). Young wrote influential articles on euthanasia—the earliest in 1976—and has continued to work on medical ethics, as well as writing on other topics (Young 2007). Coming to the Australian National University in 1989, Goodin had already written several books on welfare ethics, and he went on to write about environmental ethics, smoking, terrorism, and political morality (Goodin 1985, 1989, 1992a, 1992b, 2006). Coady’s 1985 discussion of how to define and morally evaluate terrorism was an early contribution to a topic that has since become a focus of attention.
The 1970s and 1980s were a period of exploration for philosophers with an interest in applied ethics. In the late 1980s and 1990s, applied ethics became an industry as philosophy departments set up courses and degrees in applied ethics, and as applied philosophers got together to form centres to coordinate research and to provide services. As usual, Peter Singer led the way by establishing a bioethics centre at Monash University in 1980 modelled, as the letter of intent states, on the Hastings Centre in New York (Swan 1980). Another bioethics research centre was set up in the School of Medicine of the University of Otago in 1988. C. A. J. Coady began the Centre for Philosophy and Public Issues at the University of Melbourne in 1990, Ian Hunt was instrumental in setting up the Centre for Applied Ethics at Flinders University in 1994, and Stan van Hooft of Deakin University has conducted Socratic dialogues with members of the public and professional groups from 1998. The St James Ethics Centre, an independent service-oriented organisation, was founded in 1989 by Simon Longstaff, its Executive Director.
Applied philosophy centres, the increasing presence of philosophers on ethics committees of hospitals, universities and other institutions, and the presence of philosophers in the media as commentators on public issues have moved applied ethics into the community and brought philosophers into contact with people outside their discipline. The Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) now offers a Media Prize for the best article or series of articles on philosophy appearing in the media during the year, while the Australasian Association of Professional and Applied Philosophy, formed in 1993, has members who come from the professions and business as well as the universities. The services provided by applied ethics centres—consultancies and special courses for professionals—also give philosophers one of the few means in their power to bring in funds, an important consideration at a time of financial stringency for universities and their departments.
Australasian philosophers have been particularly active in three areas of applied ethics. In environmental ethics they have played an especially prominent role. Richard and Val Routley, writing together and separately, were among the first in the world to present an eco-centred ethics (Routley and Routley 1980). Richard Routley, under the name of Richard Sylvan, went on to develop this ethics, which he called ‘deep-green theory’ (Sylvan and Bennett 1994), and Val Routley, under the name of Val Plumwood, wrote an ovarian work on ecofeminism (1993). John Passmore (1972) advocated a more traditional human-centred position, and H. J. McCloskey (1983) and Robert Goodin (1992) developed political theories of the environment. During the following decades other Australasian philosophers made important contributions. Among them were Robert Elliot (1982 and 1997) who argued that restoration of nature in the aftermath of mining cannot bring back the value lost, Freya Mathews (1991) who put forward a cosmic version of deep ecology, and Lawrence E. Johnson (1991) who argued for the moral considerability of living things and eco-systems. William Grey (1993) and Janna Thompson (1990) criticised eco-centred ethics; Alastair Gunn wrote on environmental engineering (Gunn and Vesilind 1998), and Andrew Brennan (1988) on pluralist approaches to environmental ethics.
The second area of applied philosophy where Australasians have concentrated their activities is bioethics, or more broadly, medical ethics. The Australasian Bioethics Association, founded in 1991, holds annual conferences with the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Health, Law and Ethics, and is one of the sponsors of the Journal of Bioethics Inquiry. The Bioethics Centre at Monash University began the international journal, Bioethics, and now publishes the Monash Bioethics Review. There are few applied philosophers who have not written on bioethics or medical ethics at some point in their career. Particularly notable are the contributions of Singer and Young (mentioned above), Helga Kuhse’s joint publications with Peter Singer and her attack on the sanctity of life doctrine (1987); John Kleinig’s (1991) account of the value of life; Suzanne Uniacke’s (1994) writing on permissible killing; views about abortion put forward by Michael Tooley (1983), Rosalind Hursthouse (1987), and Catriona MacKenzie (1992); Julian Savulescu’s (2007) provocative views about genetic enhancement; Nicholas Agar’s (2004) defence of ‘liberal eugenics’; Merle Spriggs’s (2005) work on patient autonomy; Neil Levy’s (2007) development of neuroethics; and Steve Clarke and Justin Oakley’s (2007) work on clinician accountability.
The third area in which Australasian applied philosophers have been particularly active is the ethics of international affairs. Singer’s writings on our obligations to the poor in other countries have been followed by works by Tim Mulgan (2001), Liam Murphy (2000) and Garrett Cullity (2004), who argue in different ways that the demands on us are not as great as Singer supposed. Thomas Pogge, who divides his time between Columbia University and the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), argues that members of wealthy nations have, at least, an obligation to eliminate poverty—a duty that arises from the nature of global relationships (Pogge 2007). Janna Thompson (1992) wrote one of the first books on the subject of global justice and Gillian Brock’s writings focus on cosmopolitan ethics (Brock 2009; Brock and Brighouse 2005). On the violent side of international politics, Coady has followed up his work on terrorism with a book on the ethics of war (2008), and under the auspices of the political violence program of CAPPE, Igor Primoratz (2004), David Rodin (2002) and Jessica Wolfendale (2007) have done significant work on war, terrorism and torture.
Finally, Australian and New Zealand philosophers have not been silent about a politically sensitive topic in their countries: injustices committed in the past against indigenous peoples. Arising from a New Zealand AAP Conference in 1990, Justice, Ethics and New Zealand Society (1992) features discussions of issues arising from the Treaty of Waitangi, including an early version of an influential article by Jeremy Waldron (1992). A defence of compensation to Aborigines was published in the AJP by the team of John Bigelow, Robert Pargetter and Robert Young (1990), and in 2000 the AJP published a special issue on indigenous rights. Duncan Ivison, Paul Patton and Will Sanders (2000) edited a collection on the rights of indigenous people, Raimond Gaita (1999) wrote movingly about the stolen generations, Steven Curry (2004) defended Aboriginal sovereignty, and Janna Thompson (2003) presented a theory about reparation for historic injustices.
David Mallet Armstrong (born 1926) would have had an international reputation for his work on Berkeley (Armstrong 1960) and in epistemology (Armstrong 1961, 1962, 1973), but it is his contributions to metaphysics that will go down in history. Rigorous metaphysics as practiced by Bertrand Russell, G. F. Stout and C. D. Broad, in England, by D. C. Williams in the U.S., and by Armstrong’s teacher, John Anderson, was decidedly out of fashion in the early 1960s as a result of the apotheosis of Wittgenstein and the insidious effect of the linguistic turn centred on Oxford. That we are now living in the ‘golden age of Metaphysics’, as Peter Simons has put it, is in no small part due to Armstrong’s lucid and sustained arguments for at the time unfashionable metaphysics, first for physicalism (Armstrong 1968), next for universals (Armstrong 1978), then for the non-Humean account of laws of nature as relations between universals (1983), and most recently for states of affairs as truthmakers (Armstrong 1997, 2004). While he may not have been the first to treat them in recent times, Armstrong has brought these topics to the respectful attention of the philosophical mainstream.
Armstrong is a systematic metaphysician whose work is based on three basic theses. The first is respect for common sense, ‘the Moorean facts’ as he calls them. These are beliefs that are so securely grounded in human experience that any philosophical objection serves only to undermine the philosophy in question. This is in tension with his scientific naturalism, the thesis that completed science would be a complete account of everything. The third principle is actualism, the rejection of anything that is merely possible or merely dispositional, including uninstantiated universals. The second and third theses may themselves be based on the idea on which all metaphysics rests, namely that there is a systematic unified account of everything, with a presumption in favour of ‘one way of being’, as Anderson put it.
In his A Materialist Theory of Mind (1968) Armstrong, inspired by the pioneering work of Herbert Feigl, U. T. Place and J. J. C. Smart, provides a work that is more thorough than its target, Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind. At the time Ryle’s influence on English-speaking philosophy was far greater than anyone should ever have, especially if they are not even dead. Ryle’s philosophical behaviourism was based on dispositional analyses of mental concepts. By contrast, Armstrong developed what has come to be known as functionalist analyses of the mental states as whatever plays a certain causal role, and then argued that it is neurophysiological processes that play these roles and so are identical to the mental states. For instance, according to Ryle, to be in pain is a mere disposition to behave in various ways, such as taking pills that you believe will cure the pain, whereas Armstrong holds that the pain is whatever is apt to cause those sorts of behaviour. The difference might seem subtle, but everything hangs on the word ‘mere’. Ryle’s account discourages further philosophical investigation, whereas for Armstrong it is then a matter of further argument that the pain is a certain pattern of nerve activity and not something non-physical. It is easy to see the way Armstrong’s scientific naturalism and actualism are implicit in this account, but the book also seeks to do justice to the Moorean facts about ourselves.
In the two volumes of Universals and Scientific Realism (1978) and in What is a Law of Nature? (1983) Armstrong, in his systematic and fair-minded way, criticises the alternatives to his own account, which is that there are universals, that they cannot exist without instances, and that laws of nature are relations between universals (a position also adopted by Fred Dretske and Michael Tooley). These three volumes could be thought of as one work in three parts, because, as Dretske points out, realism about laws of nature is one of the best reasons for preferring realism about universals to the nominalist alternatives. Here too we may see the basic principles of Armstrong’s metaphysics operating, notably his actualism. For one of the most serious rivals to realism about universals is David Lewis’ account of properties as sets of possibilia, whereas Armstrong is committed to accounting for possibility in terms of actual entities. Therefore, he went on to develop an account in which possibilia are replaced by combinations of universals (Armstrong 1989a). The most original feature of Armstrong’s theory of universals is his clear distinction between properties and relations on the one hand, and concepts or predicates on the other. As a consequence Armstrong is a selective realist about universals, considering it a matter for detailed discussion as to just which predicates correspond to universals. His answer is that the predicates used in completed science will correspond to some of the universals and that all other universals are structural ones composed from those. This is, he notes, quite compatible with the infinite structural complexity of all universals. Unlike Anderson, who argued for infinite complexity a priori, Armstrong considers this question to be settled only by completed science.
Most recently Armstrong has been a leading proponent of an ontology of states of affairs (1997), including the truthmaker theory of truth (2004a). This is a natural development of his actualist rejection of the Platonist conception of universals as things capable of existing by themselves.
This is not the place to object to the details of Armstrong’s impressive systematic metaphysics but the tension mentioned above is worth further comment. The respect for both science and Moorean facts, combined with the metaphysicians’ quest for unity, are best served by a synthesis in which science is integrated with proper anthropocentricism. I never quite know when Armstrong is developing such a synthesis and when he is allowing science to dominate.
Purushottama Bilimoria, Monima Chadha, Jay Garfield & Karyn Lai
Half a century ago, in 1958, a special issue of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (vol. 36, no. 1) was dedicated to what was the first East-West Philosophers’ Conference in Australasia, held the previous year in Canberra. UNESCO sponsored this ‘7-day live-in workshop’ and participants were brought out from India, Pakistan, and of course Australia and New Zealand (including Daya Krishna, Humayun Kabir, Sharif Hakim, A. N. Prior, J. L. Mackie, Alexander and Quentin Boyce Gibson, John Passmore, Annette C. Baier, A. K. Stout, amongst others). The inclusion of the conference reports by Prior and Kabir (some seventeen pages long), with a number of papers presented at the conference, indicated a great step forward for the acceptance of Asian philosophy within the mainstream of Australasian philosophy. In a show of camaraderie, articles were also solicited from J. J. C. Smart, R. D. Bradley, C. A. Campbell, and Kai Nielson. The work of B. M. Arthadeva, a regular contributor from India to the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, was also discussed in this issue.
The teaching of Indian philosophy in Australasia reached a high point in the 1960s and ’70s, with the arrival of Abu Sayyid Ayub from Calcutta University in 1962. Ayub worked closely with A. C. Jackson at Melbourne University and helped establish the Department of Indian Studies that left a lasting legacy in Melbourne. (The teaching of Asian philosophy was transferred to the Philosophy Department after the Indian Studies Department was merged with Asian Languages.) After Ayub left in the mid 1960s, Jos Jordens took over teaching Indian philosophy until he moved shortly afterwards to the newly-established Australian National University (working there with A. L. Basham and J. de Jong). In the early 1970s, encouraged by J. J. C. Smart, who shared an interest in Indian philosophy with his brother and noted comparative philosopher and scholar of world religions, Ninian Smart, Ian Kesarcodi-Watson joined the Department of Philosophy at La Trobe University. Kesarcodi-Watson (who, sadly, died prematurely in 1984) was instrumental in mentoring a good number of philosophers who went on to teach in the areas of Asian and comparative thought at Australian universities. A volume of essays was published to memorialise his legacy (Bilimoria and Fenner 1989). Also worthy of note here are the names of Yog Chopra, Rusi Khan, and Chin Liew Tan, who joined the Department of Philosophy at Monash University and maintained conversational interests in aspects of Asian philosophy. Further, in 1976 Bimal K. Matilal (Spalding Chair of Indian Religions and Ethics at All Souls, Oxford) visited Victoria University of Wellington, where he taught Indian logic over a semester.
Until then, there were no specialised conferences strictly related to Asian philosophy. However, Asian philosophy continued through this period to be addressed in forums for Asian and comparative philosophy. In June 1984, the Asian and Comparative Philosophy Caucus (ACPC) was formally organised in Victoria; it was affiliated with the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP), and was convened by Bilimoria and Fenner, with Richard Franklin as the second vice-president. About twenty members enlisted, including some drawn from New Zealand. The ACPC began, from December 1984, to issue regular newsletters through which it disseminated information about activities in the field, and it established closer links with the American-based Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy. Meanwhile, members of the Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (ASACP) assiduously participated in the five-yearly East-West Philosophers’ Conferences in the East-West Centre in Honolulu, Hawaii, and also sponsored panels in those meetings, as they did within the AAP annual conferences (Bilimoria 1995: 2).
In early 1990 the Asian and Comparative Philosophy Society of Australasia (the pre-incorporation name of the ASACP) held a mini-conference jointly with the Australasian Association for Phenomenology and Social Philosophy. A report by Ian Mabbett read:
The conference covered a wide spectrum, with Indian belief systems strongly represented, as might be expected, but with valuable Sinological contributions, and a number of papers addressed to general questions of East-West cultural contact. It would be tempting to say that with this conference the Asian and Comparative Philosophy Society of Australasia has acquired both an atman and a tao, but for the fact that the atman is illusory and the wise do not speak of the tao. At any rate, participants came away with a strong sense that something of value had been achieved, for it has so far been but rarely that people with this particular combination of interests have been able to meet and talk in Australia. (Mabbett 1991: 103–104)
A new page was turned and a new phase begun. The dozen years since the journal Philosophy East and West published a refereed collection commemorating Asian and comparative philosophy in Australia (see Bilimoria 1995) have seen a profusion of research in this area, and a dramatic increase in the salience of Asian philosophy on the Australian scene. Important work has been done in Chinese and Japanese philosophy, Indian philosophy and Tibetan philosophy, while Buddhist philosophy has emerged as an area of distinctive national strength.
The main centres for research and teaching in Chinese philosophy are to be found at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Australian National University (ANU). Karyn Lai anchors the flourishing research and teaching program in Chinese philosophy at UNSW, where she focusses on the contemporary relevance of early Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism and Daoism. Her book, Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2008), presents a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of Chinese philosophy, and she is currently working on reasoning and argumentation in Chinese thought. At ANU, John Makeham has published on Confucian hermeneutics, Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects (2003), which was awarded the Joseph Levenson Book Prize in 2005. He is currently working on the formation and development of Chinese philosophy as an academic discipline in twentieth-century China and on the role of Yogacara Buddhist thought in modern Chinese intellectual history. He has just been appointed general editor of the new Brill series, ‘Modern Chinese Philosophy’.
At Macquarie University, Shirley Chan teaches Chinese philosophy, and has examined Confucian intellectual history in her book, The Confucian Shi, Official Service and the Confucian Analects (2004). Her current research interests lie in the newly-discovered Guodian Bamboo strips (4th c. BCE). Wu Xiaoming (University of Canterbury) has published monographs with Peking University Press, the most notable of which is Rereading Confucius (2003); he works particularly in the area of comparative Chinese and contemporary European philosophy. Feng Chongyi (University of Technology, Sydney), and John Hanafin and Peter Wong in Melbourne are significant scholars in Chinese philosophy, with Wong acting as one of the Book Review coordinators of the journal Sophia. Western Australia saw a brief flurry of activity in Confucian studies in the late 1990s in the work of Daniel Star, now at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at ANU.
Orthodox Indian philosophy has been actively pursued in New Zealand since the arrival of Jay L. (Shankar) Shaw at Victoria University of Wellington in 1970. Shaw’s prolific and pioneering research explores a range of topics at the interface of classical Indian thought and contemporary Western philosophy, including topics relating to knowledge and belief (Shaw 2007), causality (Shaw 2005), and meaning (Shaw 2003). Also influential in New Zealand has been Roy Perrett, who was educated at the Universities of Canterbury (M.A.) and Otago (Ph.D.), and in India as a Commonwealth Scholar at the Banaras Hindu University. Perrett also taught philosophy in New Zealand (at the University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, and Massey University), before moving to Australia to take up a position as senior research fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University, and then in 2002 joining the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii. Apart from numerous articles, Perrett’s publications include a study of Hindu ethics (Perrett 1998) and a series of edited collections on various aspects of Indian philosophy (e.g. Perrett 1989, 2000–01).
The tradition of analytic Indian philosophy has been continued by Purushottama Bilimoria at Deakin and Melbourne Universities, and by Monima Chadha at Monash University, who have been the most active scholars in this field in Melbourne. Chadha’s work addresses Indian epistemology, with a special focus on Nyaya philosophy of mind. Bilimoria focusses on recent and contemporary Indian philosophy, both in India and in the diaspora, as well as on classical Mimamsika thought. He has also contributed to Indian ethics and bioethics (see Bilimoria, Prabhu and Sharma 2007), and recently edited (with Andrew Irvine) Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion (2009).
Buddhist philosophy in Australia and New Zealand has traditionally been strong with the legacy of de Jong at ANU and Ian Mabbett at Monash. Paul Harrison’s philological work in Buddhist studies has always addressed deep philosophical issues, particularly in the study of early Mahayana Buddhism. He chaired Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Canterbury regularly before his retirement and move to Stanford, and he is the senior editor of the Skøyen manuscripts in Norway. The philosophical study of Buddhism received an infusion of new blood with John Powers’ arrival at the ANU, followed a few years later by Jay Garfield at the University of Tasmania. Although Garfield remained at the University of Tasmania for only three years, he has continued to maintain a close connection with Australian philosophy, with an honorary appointment at the University of Melbourne and regular visits to Australia. John Powers continues in the Faculty of Asian Languages and Civilisations at the ANU, and both he and Garfield specialise in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, and share interests in contemporary Buddhism in the West and in the relationship between Buddhism and recent anglophone philosophy, though Powers also works on Chinese, Japanese and Korean Buddhist philosophy. Another specialist in Buddhist thought, Padmasiri De Silva, who works on Buddhist psychology, environmental ethics and emotions, moved from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, where he was professor and head of philosophy and psychology, to a research fellowship at Monash University before his retirement.
Garfield initiated the University of Tasmania Buddhist Studies in India Program, an extensive exchange program linking that university directly to the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in India. This program takes students from all over Australia to study Buddhist philosophy in India, and brings Tibetan students and scholars to study, teach and to pursue research in Australia. The program is now directed by Sonam Thakchöe, who was also the first Tibetan scholar to earn a Ph.D. in Australia under the program. The University of Tasmania also hosts Anna Alomes, who works on Buddhist philosophy and Gandhian philosophy. With its large cohort of postgraduates studying with Buddhism and its exchange program, the University of Tasmania has become a major hub for Buddhist philosophy. These centres for Buddhist philosophy at the ANU and the University of Tasmania have drawn other Australian philosophers whose primary research areas are in Western philosophy into research and teaching in Buddhist philosophy. Most notable among these are Graham Priest at the University of Melbourne and Christian Mortensen at the University of Adelaide, both of whom combine interests in logic and paradox with research in Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy.
The principal forum for the discussion of Asian philosophy in Australia in this period has been the annual meeting of the ASACP. In some years, this has been a stand-alone meeting; in others it has been a meeting held in conjunction with the conference of the AAP. The Society has also held an international conference in conjunction with the International Society for Chinese Philosophy in 2005 at UNSW; the Book Supplement to the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (see Lai 2007) contains a selection of refereed papers, some of which were first presented at this conference.
At the Melbourne AAP conference of 1999, the ASACP stream was one of the largest and best attended in the conference. The ASACP conference has attracted many overseas visitors, including J. N. Mohanty (Temple University), Ninian Smart (University of California, Santa Barbara), Mark Siderits (Illinois State University), Roy Perrett (then Massey University, now University of Hawaii), Roger Ames and Chung-ying Cheng (University of Hawaii), Chad Hansen (University of Hong Kong), Lauren Pfister (Baptist University of Hong Kong), and Tan Sor Hoon (National University of Singapore). Asian Philosophy panels within AAP annual conferences have continued to be held each year, and in 2008 the ASACP organised a two-day conference in Melbourne to overlap with the IAPL (International Association of Philosophy and Literature) and AAP conferences.
A number of collaborative research projects in Asian and cross-cultural philosophy have borne fruit in Australia, including one at Monash University focussing on the philosophy of mind, one at Melbourne focussing on conventional truth, and one at the University of Tasmania on the history of Tibetan philosophy. Sophia, the international journal of philosophy of religion and philosophy pursued in the context of religious traditions, continues to be edited at the University of Melbourne, and is now published by Springer. The journal has been a regular venue for publication, by Australasian and international scholars alike, of essays in Asian philosophy. With its new publisher, it is expected to raise its profile considerably, and with it, the visibility of the active Asian philosophy community in Australasia.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw a flourishing of the founding of universities in the English-speaking world in response to the demand for advanced education. The impetus for the establishment of the first university in New Zealand in 1869 came from the Scottish settlers who had already founded the city of Dunedin. The eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment and educational traditions that they brought with them dominated many aspects of universities in New Zealand such as the staff appointed, the kind of degrees that were offered and the subject matters that were taught from medicine to classics.
The New Zealand Government responded to the Otago initiative by passing several acts in the early 1870s setting up the University of New Zealand. This became a federal arrangement of colleges which the University of Otago eventually joined (but retaining its title as a university) along with Canterbury College (1873), Auckland College (1883) and Victoria College of Wellington (1897). This structure disappeared only in 1961 when each became an autonomous university.
One of the four foundation professorships at Otago was in mental and moral philosophy; the appointee was a Scot, Duncan McGregor, from the University of Aberdeen. Following this lead, the University of New Zealand made general provision for each College to include mental science in its degrees with three core papers in psychology and ethics, logic, and history of philosophy (ancient and modern). At Auckland College discussions about making an appointment in the area dragged on for over twenty years after its foundation, with these subjects being taught only intermittently until 1906.
In the early 1900s a Joseph Penfound Grossman (1865–1953) arrived in Auckland, initially working as a journalist for the Auckland Star. He distinguished himself by becoming the first triple Honours graduate at Canterbury College in English and Latin, political science, and mental science. But his fortunes in Christchurch reversed when he was given a two-year sentence in the late 1890s for forgery. He gained an appointment at the Auckland College in 1906, as the first lecturer in three areas: economics, history and commercial geography. Probably to supplement his salary Grossman agreed to teach, as part of his contract, two courses in mental science. Throughout his tenure he covered much the same material: logic based on the writings of Jevons and Mill, psychology based on writings by James and Stout, and ethics through a range of people including Mill, Muirhead and McKenzie. With Grossman’s appointment the foundation of two subjects at Auckland College, history and philosophy, was through a person whose surface reputation as someone of broad interests turned largely on journalism and his ability, well testified, to captivate an audience through his brilliance as a lecturer.
In 1915 Grossman became a ‘multi-professor’ in his four subject areas. In the early 1930s he was dismissed by the College for, amongst other things, getting his successor in mental science, William Anderson, into debt by asking him to be a guarantor of a series of promissory notes, each of which was supposed to pay off an earlier promissory note. Such was Grossman’s reputation as a lecturer that the Students’ Association sent him a letter of appreciation at the time of his dismissal. By 1920 Auckland College agreed that Grossman should be relieved of some of his many teaching tasks and that a professorship in mental and moral philosophy be established. This title remained for the years 1921–24; but after 1925 it was converted to a professorship in philosophy, it being understood that the subjects of psychology and political studies (effectively history of political ideas) were part of the domain of philosophy. Continuing the Scottish tradition, William Anderson (1889–1955), an M.A. graduate of the University of Glasgow, took up the professorship, occupying it over 1920–55. His much better known younger brother, John, took up the chair of philosophy at the University of Sydney in 1927.
Unlike his brother, William published only a handful of papers, several being concerned with issues in education. In his obituary on Anderson, his successor Anschutz attempts to summarise Anderson’s views on philosophy. He tells us that Anderson understood it to be ‘the theory of practice’, that he held that ‘philosophy is co-extensive with political theory’ and that ‘education was for him primarily a matter of politics’. Though William’s broad claims need much unpacking, they do initially stand in contrast to the view of his brother John in which critical inquiry is essential to education, its aim being to challenge traditions and to replace opinion by knowledge. Little has been done to investigate the similarities and differences between the views of the two brothers. But it is evident that William’s impact on philosophy at Auckland stands in an inverse relation to the considerable philosophical impact of his brother on philosophy and the broader academic community in Sydney.
Richard Paul Anschutz, a graduate of Auckland College who won a scholarship to study for a Ph.D. at Edinburgh University, joined the department in 1929 as its second philosophy staff member. He succeeded Anderson in the chair from 1955 to 1961. He was the first member of the department to publish a book, a study of J. S. Mill. In the 1930s articles that Anschutz wrote led him to be at the centre of a controversy over academic freedom, especially freedom of speech, at Auckland College. Eventually the liberals who supported Anschutz prevailed over the conservative opposition, in particular by removing some conservatives from the Auckland College Council. Given the political turmoil of the 1930s, academic freedom was an issue in many universities, particularly in Great Britain. The widely reported dispute led 620 British academics to sign a congratulatory letter to Auckland College once the liberals had succeeded; two of the signatories were Lord Rutherford and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
During Anschutz’s tenure the number of staff increased to five and included Annette Stoop (later Annette C. Baier) and Gavin Ardley who published several books and who also became a joint editor of a new journal Prudentia, founded in 1969. The last connection with Scottish philosophy was in the person of Alexander Macbeath who, after temporarily occupying the chair at the University of Tasmania, also temporarily filled the chair at Auckland in 1963.
During the 1950s the department produced graduates such as Rom Harré (later of Oxford University and several other universities), J. J. MacIntosh (later of Oxford and Calgary), and Ray Bradley who was appointed to the chair at the University of Auckland in 1964. With Bradley the pre-history of the department ended as he introduced it to the world of contemporary philosophy through changes to the curriculum and in new directions for research. He made a number of new appointments, including the original logician Malcolm Rennie (1940–80); he also gave Robert Solomon his first visiting appointment, an arrangement that continued until Solomon’s sudden death in 2007. This considerable break with the past was continued by Hugh Montgomery who succeeded in the chair when Bradley left for Simon Fraser University at the end of 1969.
When the chair Bradley vacated was advertised there was a rather intriguing applicant, Paul Feyerabend, for whom the university created a special position. He came during the winter terms of 1972 and 1974, the period during which his book Against Method was being prepared and then proofed. Serious illness prevented subsequent visits. His lecturing style was electrifying and unconventional. Student numbers in the lecture theatres swelled well beyond the number officially enrolled and for several years afterwards many students were declared ‘Feyerabendians’; but they soon discovered that he was a hard act to follow.
In the late 1970s Hugh Montgomery relinquished his headship owing to developing cancer and died in October 1979. His successor was the distinguished Swedish logician Krister Segerberg. His emphasis on research corresponded with a change in the university which began to require research-based teaching. As a result the department developed a research ethos which has subsequently grown. By the time Segerberg resigned at the end of 1992 to take up a position at the University of Uppsala, the department had grown to ten members of staff. He was succeeded by John Bishop.
Philosophy now has the largest student enrolments of any department in the Faculty of Arts, and is one of the biggest Australasian departments with eighteen permanent members of staff. From the 1970s New Zealanders who have studied overseas have had a strong influence on the transformation of the department; and to this can be added the influence of a large number of staff originally from Australia. With a constant stream of overseas visitors, the wide range of courses it offers including a Ph.D. program, the department has ceased to be the backwater it once was and has become fully engaged in the era of globalised, international philosophy.
For better or worse academics are subject to performance assessment regimes, the most thoroughgoing in New Zealand being that due to PBRF (Performance Based Research Funding). Under this regime, philosophy across all New Zealand departments has been assessed as the top discipline in the country. The Department of Philosophy at the University of Auckland has always been amongst the highest ranking departments in its faculty and in its university, with a subsequent boost to its funding well above earlier low levels. Such results can only be achieved on the basis of considerable research activity at a high level of achievement by the staff as a whole.
J. J. C. Smart
In this article it is convenient to take a generous attitude to what is to count as analytic philosophy. For example, the New Zealander A. N. Prior may be considered an analytic philosopher even though he treated the tenses of verbs as ontologically significant operators on sentences. By contrast, another tradition, dating at least from the young Bertrand Russell, has treated tensed expressions as indexicals, that is, much like ‘now’, ‘I’, ‘here’, etc., dependant on the person and time of utterance. The inspiration behind analytic philosophy, or at least the idea that philosophy consists in the analysis of concepts, derived from Russell’s Theory of Descriptions, which F. P. Ramsey regarded as a paradigm of philosophy. Russell’s theory allows us to treat ‘The present king of France is bald’ as meaningful even though there be no king of France to refer to. What appears to be a referring phrase in ‘The present king of France’ (but can it refer when there is no present king of France?) disappears when we translate the sentence as ‘There is a king of France and only one such and he is bald’. This removes puzzlement about the apparent reference to a nonexistent, and the sentence is seen to be merely false. Change ‘king’ to ‘president’, and to know whether the sentence is true I would simply need to see (e.g.) a photograph. The idea, then, is to translate apparently puzzling sentences into non-puzzling ones. However, in interesting cases such translations were not forthcoming. For example, philosophers tried to translate sentences about tables or stars into sentences about sense data. (In retrospect this epistemologically motivated aspiration was a mad one anyway, with its horrible anthropocentricity or at least psychocentricity.)
The Cambridge philosopher John Wisdom, in a long series of articles in Mind (somewhat misleadingly titled ‘Other Minds’), immediately gave up translation for more informal elucidations (see Wisdom 1952). In part following Wittgenstein, he ushered in a new conception of philosophical analysis, which was for a time (a bit misleadingly) called ‘ordinary language philosophy’. However, the word ‘ordinary’ should not be misplaced. Gilbert Ryle held that we can talk not only of the use of ordinary (i.e. commonsense) language, but of the ordinary use of commonsense, scientific, technological, theological etc. language. Ryle stated that he himself was concerned mainly with commonsense language because he had had a classical education based on Latin and Greek, and not with the sciences of physics, chemistry, genetics, biochemistry, and so on. By a natural evolution the direct rapprochement led J. J. C. Smart and others such as Adolf Grünbaum and notably W. V. Quine in the U.S. to advocate a hard-headed metaphysics where plausibility in the light of total science was seen as a pointer to metaphysical truth. Indeed, Quine held that there was no sharp line between science and philosophy.
George Paul, who had been a student of Wittgenstein’s, arrived at the University of Melbourne in 1939 and had a great influence there, not only in the philosophy department but throughout the university. After Word War Two he became a fellow of University College Oxford, and although he thought that he was past his peak at that time, this would be contested by Smart. Paul was a great applier of Wittgenstein’s methods, and his untimely death was a significant loss to philosophy. He published relatively little and might not have fared well in the present ‘publish or perish’ and bureaucratic climate.
D. A. T. Gasking arrived at the University of Melbourne immediately after the war and was outstanding. He was that rare bird: a lucid Wittgensteinian. In old age he told Smart that he was really Vienna Circle, but there actually was a lot of Wittgenstein in his methods. Moreover, as C. B. Martin was keen to point out in conversation, there was a lot of verificationism in Wittgenstein. Greatly impressive in Melbourne in the post-war years was A. C. Jackson, who had come to philosophy through Paul and had attended Wittgenstein’s lectures in Cambridge. He suffered from a Wittgenstein-induced reluctance to publish but had great profundity as well as something of Wittgenstein’s rather gnomic style of expression. Both he and Gasking were still flourishing in the 1950s and beyond. Ten of Gasking’s papers (three previously published and seven previously unpublished) have been collected and edited by I. T. Oakley and L. J. O’Neill, with one of the papers extensively edited and another reconstructed from lecture notes (Gasking 1996).
In 1950 John Anderson was still dominating the department at the University of Sydney, though there was a separate department under Alan Stout of moral and political philosophy. J. L. Mackie, who later went on to great things at University College Oxford, was a member of Stout’s department. At that time Anderson was very dogmatic and preferred disciples, and although Mackie was quite sympathetic to Anderson’s metaphysics, he criticised Anderson’s failure to support his contentions with argument, and he also differed from Anderson by arguing for the subjectivity of ethics.
A slightly older Sydney philosopher who was also well able to differ from Anderson was John Passmore. An excellent historian of philosophy but also a fine philosopher in his own right, Passmore was professor of philosophy at the University of Otago in 1950–54. He then returned across the Tasman to be a reader, later professor, at the Australian National University, where he became the doyen of Australian philosophers and a pioneer of environmental philosophy.
In New Zealand again, A. N. Prior, a graduate of the University of Otago and presciently promoted at the University of Canterbury by J. N. Findlay, was teaching an enormous load of seventeen lectures and tutorials per week. But this did not prevent him from continuing to write numerous books, including a valuable though rather eclectic one on formal logic (Prior 1955). He and Smart met at the Sydney AAP conference in 1951 and became close friends, pursuing their disagreements with almost weekly letters across the Tasman.
The year prior to this meeting, in August 1950, Smart had arrived at the University of Adelaide. What passed as ‘psychology’ was still thought to be the basis of philosophy and was taught in the philosophy department in its first-year course. Smart soon changed that and very importantly succeeded in having U. T. Place hired as a lecturer. With Smart’s encouragement, Place became de facto independent and soon set up an experimental laboratory and acquired an excellent colleague, Syd Lovibond, who later became professor at the University of New South Wales. Place always thought of himself as a psychologist, but in fact became much more widely known as a philosopher. Unfortunately he did not stay long, returning to England for private reasons, one of which was an amateur interest in Roman British archaeology.
Psychology soon became a de jure and not merely a de facto independent department, and also very much bigger than the philosophy one. It was in Adelaide that U. T. Place wrote his seminal paper, ‘Is Consciousness a Brain Process?’ (1956), and an earlier one, ‘The Concept of Heed’ (1954). These converted Smart from his Rylean dispositional account of the mind, and after all a Rylean disposition surely requires a categorical basis. Place did not give up the Rylean account for such things as beliefs and desires, but it soon became evident (as was suggested by D. M. Armstrong) that these could be contingently identified with brain states. B. H. Medlin, in defending such a view, suggested the more felicitous title of ‘Central State Materialism’. Another important arrival at the University of Adelaide was that of C. B. Martin, then a graduate student at Cambridge. He had a very independent mind, and after a short stay in Adelaide and some time in a chair at the University of Sydney, he returned to North America where he continued a very illustrious career. During this period Smart was also publishing on space and time, the reality of theoretical entities, and utilitarianism in ethics.
Besides a fine philosophy department, the University of Melbourne was also home to an excellent Department of History and Philosophy of Science, benevolently headed by Diana Dyason. She was definitely ‘H’, not ‘P’. One of the ‘P’ was John Clendinnen, who proposed a very interesting defence of direct induction (not mere reliance on the hypothetico-deductive method). Gerd Buchdahl was a leading ‘P’ person, but a bit too fond of Kant to be genuinely ‘analytic’. Around this time (during the 1950s decade), Melbourne also witnessed the rise of moral philosophy in the work of Kurt Baier and W. D. Falk, and it was amusing to hear them arguing about whether one could have a duty to oneself. The Sydney Andersonians would not have had much time for the word ‘duty’ in moral philosophy, which has its chief place in legal and military contexts. Also at the University of Melbourne were John McCloskey and Hector Monro, both important moral philosophers. Monro was a New Zealander who taught at the University of Otago before moving to be senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, and from there to an inaugural chair at Monash University, as at the same time did A. C. Jackson. Monro’s Empiricism and Ethics (1967) qualifies him as ‘analytic’, but with his reliance on moral intuition McCloskey probably was not. He contested Smart’s utilitarianism, which in the tradition of David Hume was allied to a non-cognitivist meta-ethics.
What is perhaps most striking, both at first glance and upon deeper examination, is that there is no core area of analytic philosophy to which Australasian philosophy, from the 1960s onwards, has not contributed significantly. This article will convey some sense of that philosophical fecundity.
Only some sense of it, though; I will not attempt to describe every notable idea emanating from Australasian analytic philosophy during this period. It has been a time of sustained and wide-ranging productivity, of much excellence, within Australasian philosophy. Other entries in this Companion document this fully; here, I gesture at a few landmarks.
There is no manifestly best way to tell this tale. No single area of Australasian analytic philosophy has been the fount for the others. Nevertheless, some areas have occupied more Australasian philosophical minds than others; and it is with one of those that I begin.
The Metaphysics of Mind
When 1950s Australasian analytic philosophy comes to mind, the philosophy of mind is probably what first enters the mind. U. T. Place (1956) and J. J. C. Smart (1959b) placed it there, laying the foundations for what came to be called Australian materialism. Did this focus fade away in the 1960s and beyond? Not at all. Developments ensued, especially thanks to D. M. Armstrong (1968). What is a sensation? What, in general, is a mental state? Answer: a physical state, a specific one. Armstrong argued that philosophy supplies the conceptual framework for this answer—with science then finding the details within. The result is a contingent identification, of mental states with brain states.
And so a debate began. Frank Jackson (1982), in particular, deepened it. He introduced us to Fred and Mary, two experientially deprived people. Mary, for example, was raised in a room where only black and white surrounded her, where she nonetheless learnt all there is—all of the physics, all of the biology—to experiencing colours. Only upon leaving that room, one fortuitous day, did she herself experience something’s being red. Did she thereby come to know something new—new for her—about the world? If so, is there more to experience than can be reported—and learnt—in physicalistic terms, from within science? In the early 1980s, at any rate, Jackson thought so. If he was right, Australian materialism was mistaken.
That debate was enlivened further in the 1990s. (And it persists, still energetically.) David Chalmers (1996) asked us to ponder conceptual reducibility. He did so by letting loose some zombies. Yes, zombies: is it possible for a world physically identical to ours to include zombies? It is (urged Chalmers): physicalism is not conceptually adequate to the task of ensuring that conscious experience is understood. Even if science identifies the two, this identification is not conceptual.
Provocative philosophy, indeed. Distinctive, too. And it maintains Australasian philosophy’s involvement in one of contemporary philosophy’s central conceptual debates.
The Metaphysics of Properties
The question of whether some mental properties could not be scientifically described is partly an instance of this question: Are all properties in principle scientifically describable? And that depends upon how we should answer the question of what it is to be a property. Starting in the 1970s, Armstrong helped to revive widespread philosophical interest in those questions. When philosophers now confront that oldest of old philosophical puzzles—the problem of universals—they reach not only for Plato, but also for Armstrong (1978; 1989b). First, he clarified the conceptual issues; next, he developed a solution strategically akin to his earlier analysis of mind. Thus, Armstrong argued that there are universals—repeatable properties, which help to constitute the world’s being however it is. But he argued, too, that only science—not the semantics of everyday or even careful speech and thought—reveals the details of which universals exist. Conceptual analysis shows us that properties are repeatables; science uncovers the actual properties within the world.
Has everyone agreed with Armstrong about this? Of course not; analytic philosophy thrives on disputation. Keith Campbell (1990), for one, defended a view—inspired largely by the American philosopher D. C. Williams (1966)—of properties as particulars, as non-repeatable but resembling.
Even if Armstrong was right not to regard language and its semantics as sufficing to tell us which properties exist, we must not set aside the possibility of these linguistic elements of the world revealing other elements of the world. Nor must we presume, admittedly, that this is what language does for us. Australasian analytic philosophy of language, from the 1960s onwards, has accommodated both of those possibilities. How does meaning arise? How is it present, as part of a given utterance or thought?
Australasian answers to these questions have played notable roles within the internationally dominant discussions. Oxford, especially, in the 1970s and 1980s was a centre for analyses based upon the writings of Donald Davidson and Michael Dummett. And some Australasian philosophers were part of that trend. Barry Taylor (1980), for instance, sought to understand aspects of how a Davidsonian—a truth-conditions-based—theory of meaning should be developed and applied. Huw Price (1988) explored questions arising within a Dummettian framework, particularly ones bearing upon the clash between realism and anti-realism. (What clash is that? I return to this in a moment.)
Also at the heart of international philosophy of language from the 1970s onwards was the work of the American Hilary Putnam (e.g. 1975), partly building upon influential suggestions by another American, Saul Kripke (1980 ). One Australasian philosopher in particular has, since that time, engaged prominently with that tradition—helping to constitute it as a tradition. Michael Devitt (e.g. 1981; 1984) has vigorously defended a Putnam-Kripke picture of meaning as built upon reference, with reference in turn being understood in terms of causality. At its base, that is how language meets the world—referentially, through causal interaction.
On that picture, language really does meet the world: there is a world. Dummett, for one, had championed a conception of anti-realism. Yet although this view was gaining adherents, Devitt would have none of that. In the spirit, we might say, of Australian materialism about mind and of Armstrong’s scientific realism about universals, Devitt has championed a robust realism about the world in general. Language largely reveals the world. Language is not a vehicle merely of illusion. And so a theme recurs (even if contested by, for instance, Taylor’s anti-realism: 2006). Again, an Australasian contribution to analytic philosophy has striven not to be distracted by what it would regard as mere conceptual possibilities, attempting not to lose sight of what is real.
Nevertheless, Australasian analytic philosophy has not been wholly like that. Should we regard language as sometimes directing us towards a realm of nonexistent beings—possibilia? Richard Routley (1980) argued so. How should this sort of puzzle be decided? One criterion could call upon the concept of truthmaking. For instance, is a nonexistent being, Pegasus, needed as part of a truthmaker if the statement ‘Pegasus is a winged horse’ is to be true? Notable Australasian accounts of truthmaking—bearing indeed upon all the metaphysical topics identified in the sections above—are John Fox’s (1987) and Armstrong’s (2004a).
Talk of meaning can lead swiftly to talk of lack of meaning—of meaninglessness. And one of the more distinctive Australasian contributions to analytic philosophy has indeed concerned meaninglessness. Mainly in the 1960s and 1970s, Leonard Goddard and Richard Routley fashioned the contours of the logic of significance; or (as it has sometimes been called) the logic of nonsense. Are some sentences grammatical yet meaningless? This is a question with surprising philosophical potential. Maybe there are category mistakes like that (an idea promoted famously by Gilbert Ryle: 1949)—even including some claims which seem philosophically substantial. If there are, how should logic absorb them? Can logic do this? Goddard and Routley (1973) provided the most detailed investigation of this topic.
Nor has Australasia’s significance in logic ended there. Relevance logic (or Relevant logic, as it is also known) did not originate in Australasia. But it has prospered here, principally through Richard Routley (who was later Richard Sylvan) and Valerie Routley (who was later Valerie Plumwood), Robert Meyer, and Ross Brady. (For overviews, see Routley et al. 1982; Brady 2003; 2006.) What constraints should we place upon the nature of the entailment relation, if we are to avoid licensing some notorious fallacies of logical consequence? (These apparent fallacies arise within classical logic.) Do we need to formalise the idea of premises somehow being relevant, in terms of content, to whatever they are being held to entail? Many have thought so, expending much effort on this project.
We also must not overlook Australasian contributions to paraconsistent logic. Richard Routley and Robert Meyer were important to these; as has been Graham Priest (e.g. Priest, Routley, and Norman 1989). Whenever inconsistency is present within some premises, considered jointly, what can be logically entailed by them—short of allowing (as classical logic does) that everything can be? For which constraints, which desiderata, should we reach here? Work continues on these questions.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Australasian epistemology was concerned mainly with the nature of perception. What is it to have a perceptual experience? And how does perceptual knowledge arise from it? The former question intermingled epistemology and the philosophy of mind; but the latter question led definitively into epistemological issues. It was at the heart of much lively debate, especially featuring Armstrong (1961; 1963), J. L. Mackie (1963), Brian Ellis (1976), and Jackson (1973; 1977b). The epistemic dimension of perceptual experience attracted most attention. Are sensation reports incorrigible? Do they give us knowledge? Is perception itself a kind of knowledge?
Out of all this emerged Armstrong’s main contribution (1973) to epistemology in general—his epistemic reliabilism. Primarily, this was a theory of non-inferential knowledge. In that respect, it included his oft-cited comparison between a reliable thermometer and anyone perceiving surroundings in a way that provides immediate knowledge. This sort of reliabilist picture became quite influential, with reliabilism now being one of analytic epistemology’s major ideas. Armstrong’s version of it was an initial and seminal one.
It arose as part of epistemology’s grappling with ‘the Gettier problem’—a classic, by now, of analytic philosophy. This problem was conceptual: what, exactly, does the concept of knowledge encompass? How are we to define knowledge? The American philosopher Edmund Gettier (1963) had posed two counterexamples to the traditional conception of knowledge (as being a justified true belief). Epistemologists had rushed to repair the damage, with reliabilism being one suggestion. It has continued thriving, though, even beyond the Gettier problem. This matters to its significance because there have also been a few challenges to Gettier’s having really posed quite such a problem. Stephen Hetherington (1998; 2001: ch. 3) and Brian Weatherson (2003b) have been among those few challengers.
Recently, too, Australasian philosophy has contributed to discussions of a priori knowledge. These contributions could equally well have been mentioned above, in the section on the philosophy of language, because they reflect new complexity in our conception of how a term means a specific concept. Chalmers (1996) and Jackson (1998b) have been particularly prominent in articulating the idea of two-dimensionality in a term’s meaning. For example, can we distinguish between two concepts which are separately meant by a given predicate (such as ‘knowledge’)? One of these concepts would have an extension which, if knowable, is empirically so. The other’s extension would be knowable, if at all, only a priori. Will this distinction help us to resolve conceptual confusions? The debate is under way.
At the heart of reliabilism, as a theory of knowledge, is the matter of how effective a specified belief-forming method is at producing true beliefs. In this respect, reliabilism is a consequentialist theory of epistemic value. Australasia has been similarly prominent—probably even more so—in defending and applying consequentialist theories of moral value. Utilitarianism, especially, has been noteworthy within Australasian philosophy.
J. J. C. Smart (1973) defended utilitarianism, in a well-known interchange with the English philosopher Bernard Williams. Smart’s goal was to understand, in utilitarian terms, the nature of a morally right action. That goal has driven, equally, Peter Singer’s influential accounts of utilitarianism. Most famous—and it really is famous, even outside academic philosophy—has been his defence (1990 [first edition 1975]) of an ethical status for non-human animals. ‘Animal liberation’: the term has become synonymous with a social movement. The term was Singer’s.
Further applications of his utilitarianism principles have also created controversy. His influential ethics textbook (1993b [first edition 1979]) reflects his general program. Of particular notoriety has been his stance (along with Helga Kuhse: 1985) on what would be ethically permissible in the treatment—or mistreatment, as many have called it—of severely incapacitated newly-born infants. Earlier than that was Singer’s (1972) argument in support of the case for our morally needing to increase our personal levels of humanitarian aid. These theories have persisted within his philosophical development.
Do they render utilitarianism—or consequentialism, more generally—too demanding a form of theory, though? Tim Mulgan (2001) has striven to defuse this fundamental concern.
What is analytic philosophy? If one was to immerse oneself within Australasian philosophy for a while, how clear a sense would one gain of what it is to be an analytic philosopher? One might thereby observe such philosophy in action. Could one also find oneself reading about this issue? Has Australasian philosophy contributed to analytic philosophy’s understanding of what makes it analytic?
There has been some Australasian theorising about the nature of analytic philosophy, such as by Neil Levy (2003). But mostly there has just been much practice of such philosophy. Australasian analytic philosophy, from the 1960s until now, has at least been a representative sample of worldwide analytic philosophy. Generally speaking, the topics, arguments, proposals, and methods used within Australasian analytic philosophy are identical or continuous with those present in many other countries. That said, at times there have been some distinctive clusters—concentrations of focus—within Australasian analytic philosophy. For instance, in recent years there has been talk of ‘the Canberra Plan’. This approach is particularly evident within metaphysics and the philosophies of mind and language. Its aim is conceptual analysis, very self-avowedly so. Jackson (1998b) is perhaps its most forceful proponent, defending a thorough commitment to the use of conceptual analysis as a way of making real philosophical progress. A vigilant respect for naturalism and science; attention to robust and everyday linguistic phenomena; all of this, combined with a refusal to stray far from commonsensical thinking. Such are marks of this approach.
Probably not all Australasian analytic philosophers would identify quite so strongly with all of those aspects. But commonalities persist. Ironically, perhaps these are best unified by way of the notion of family resemblance, famously due to that not-clearly-analytic Austrian-English philosopher, the later Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953). I say ‘ironically’ because he—Wittgenstein II—has not always been a required or paradigm topic of study among Australasian analytic philosophers. Should he be, though, if only so that we may understand more fully that even what makes us analytic philosophers does not entail our essentially being so?
In the mid 1960s the University of New England (UNE) was a centre of logic for Australia, essentially due to the presence of Len Goddard and Richard Routley (who was later Richard Sylvan). A logic conference was held there in 1964, attended by twenty-five people, and after this conference a meeting of eighteen of those people occurred, to discuss the setting up of a Logic Association. Such a motion was passed, to be ratified at the next meeting. The inaugural conference was held in 1965 at UNE, with Len Goddard as president and Richard Routley as secretary. At the AGM the ratification took place, initiating the Australasian Association for Logic (AAL).
The object statement of its constitution, as amended in 1991, reads: ‘Its object shall be the furtherance of studies in logic, in particular, in formal logic, history of logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of logic, and the applications of formal logic to problems in philosophy, computer science, artificial intelligence, and any other appropriate science or technology’. Further, ‘The Committee shall arrange a Conference … normally at least once in each calendar year’ and ‘Such Conferences shall be held in New Zealand … normally once in every three years’.
In order to achieve this breadth, it has often been worthwhile to co-locate the AAL conference with a related conference in an adjunct discipline. Generally, this has been the Australasian Association of Philosophy conference, but has recently included the Australian Artificial Intelligence Conference, the Australasian Computer Science Week, the Australian Mathematical Society Conference, and the International Advances in Modal Logic Conference.
In 1967 the American-based Association of Symbolic Logic agreed to sponsor the AAL conferences and to publish the abstracts of its papers in the Journal of Symbolic Logic and later in the Bulletin of Symbolic Logic.
During 1969–74, there were no official conferences organised. Nevertheless, there were five papers presented under the AAL banner in 1970 at the University of Sydney, and Richard Routley presented an AAL paper in 1971 to the AAP conference at the University of Queensland, announcing the semantics for relevant implication.
By 1975, the centre of logic had moved to the Australian National University, essentially due to the presence of Richard Routley and Robert Meyer. There, Michael McRobbie provided the impetus to revive the AAL conference as its secretary. John McGechie, as last president from 1968, presided over the meeting in 1975 to re-constitute the AAL. This was then consolidated in 1976 with Routley taking up the presidency and with McRobbie continuing as secretary.
The AAL conferences have attracted a number of international visitors, the most notable being the following: Grattan-Guinness in 1977; Wojcicki in 1979; van Fraassen, Lewis, Skyrms and Zalta in 1981; Brink, Chellas and Seldin in 1986; Pollack in 1988; Deutsch, Hugly, Lewis and Teichman in 1989; Hindley in 1990; Chellas, Dunn and Lance in 1992; Hjorth in 1993; Chellas, Lewis and Hindley in 1994; Detlefsen in 1995; Zalta in 1997; Akama, Griffin, Lycan and Zalta in 1998; Lewis in 1999; Beall and Lycan in 2000; Beziau in 2001; Bueno in 2003; and Wansing and Weiermann in 2005. The following distinguished logicians have come as invited speakers: Suppes in 1978; Cresswell in 1979; Chellas, Dunn, Segerberg, Smiley and Thomason in 1983; Hamblin, Meyer and Tichý in 1984; Hughes in 1986; Tennant in 1989; Field in 2000; Read in 2001; Dezani-Ciancaglini in 2002; and Venema in 2006.
The AAL conferences have hosted a number of ground-breaking papers. The following come to mind: Goddard, ‘Towards a Logic of Significance’ in 1966; Priest, ‘The Logic of Paradox’ in 1976; Brady and Routley, ‘The Non-Triviality of Extensional Dialectical Set Theory’ in 1979; McRobbie, Thistlewaite and Meyer, ‘A Mechanised Decision Procedure for Nonclassical Logics—The Program KRIPKE’ in 1980; Meyer, ‘Relevant Arithmetic’ in 1982; Segerberg, ‘Logics of Change’ in 1986; Sylvan and Priest, ‘Much Simplified Semantics for Basic Relevant Logics’ in 1989; and Mortensen, ‘Inconsistent Pictures’ in 1999.
Also, a number of the conferences were special in various respects. In 1979, Rod Girle introduced an Academic Issue of the Australian Logic Teachers’ Journal. In 1986, there was a discussion on logic teaching, led by Brian Chellas and Martin Tweedale, initiating the introduction of critical thinking in Australasia. In 1989 the AAL held the twenty-year memorial conference for A. N. Prior, with a conference volume, Logic and Reality: Essays on the Legacy of Arthur Prior, edited by Jack Copeland (1996a). This was the largest conference we have ever had, with one hundred people attending and sixty-two papers presented, only a selection of which were published as abstracts in the Journal of Symbolic Logic. In 2002, approval was given to initiate an internet journal to be called the Australasian Journal of Logic, edited by Greg Restall (manager, philosophy), Martin Bunder (mathematics), and Errol Martin and Hans van Ditmarsch (computer science).
R. W. Home
In the mid 1960s, Australia boasted two substantial university programs in History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), at the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and a number of other people, chiefly employed in departments of philosophy, who were active in this field. The UNSW group arranged a conference in May 1966 at which it was agreed in principle to form a national HPS association. A working party was formed to draft a constitution. In August 1967, during a second conference hosted by the UNSW group, a formal decision was taken to establish an Australasian Association for the History and Philosophy of Science. The constitution that had been drawn up was adopted and an executive elected. The association’s stated purpose was ‘the furtherance of the study of the history of the sciences, technology, and medicine; of the philosophy, logic, and methodology of the sciences; and of related subjects’. That it should be an Australasian rather than an Australian association, thus including New Zealand in its bailiwick, was agreed following an impassioned plea from the only New Zealander present.
During the following few years, the membership of the association grew steadily as new university programs in HPS were established and increasing numbers of postgraduate students entered the field. Eventually, the number of members stabilised at somewhere between 100 and 150, a significant proportion of whom have always been drawn from beyond the narrow confines of academic programs in HPS. Reflecting a trend in HPS studies elsewhere, the name was expanded in 1979 to the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS).
The association’s principal activity has always been its annual conference, the first of which was held at the University of Melbourne in August 1968. More often than not, conferences have been held in conjunction with the annual conferences of the Australasian Association of Philosophy, and only rarely has the association’s conference proceeded entirely alone. The annual Dyason Lecture honours the association’s founding President, Diana Dyason, who was for many years Head of the Melbourne HPS Department.
In addition to holding an annual conference, the association for many years issued a newsletter, at first annually and later semi-annually. This offered members a lively survey of activities in the field in different parts of Australia and New Zealand (and, for a time, Papua New Guinea), including departmental news and lists of higher-degree theses in progress, of members’ publications, and of the papers presented at the annual conferences and later also at meetings of the local branches of the association that were established in Sydney and Melbourne.
In due course, AAHPSSS also began circulating, as ‘Proceedings’, typescript sets of the papers presented at the annual conferences. Some members saw this as a first step towards the launching of a full-blown Australasian HPS journal. Others, however, worried about the likely lack of focus of any journal that attempted to cover the very wide range of interests represented in AAHPSSS. As a means of addressing this problem, in 1982 a monograph series, Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, was launched, in which individual volumes focussed on particular themes within the broader field of HPS. Edited by R. W. Home, Professor of HPS at the University of Melbourne from 1975, and published by the international publisher D. Reidel (later, Kluwer Academic Publishers), the series had extended to seventeen high-quality volumes by the time Home passed the editorship to Stephen Gaukroger (University of Sydney) in 2002. Published now by Springer, the series continues under a new name with a less explicit regional focus, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.
In 1984 AAHPSSS also launched a journal, Metascience, initially under the editorship of W. R. Albury, Professor of HPS at UNSW, that it was hoped would become a ‘forum for critical debate … a meeting place of ideas growing out of specific disciplinary niches, but of interest to overlapping segments of cognate fields’. Though it published some interesting papers, the journal struggled to attract enough high-quality material, with many members of the local HPS community preferring to publish in established overseas journals. In 1991, it was reconfigured into a review journal intended to serve as ‘a guide to recent publications and a forum for the critical appraisal of new and important works of scholarship’. In 1998, responsibility was transferred from AAHPSSS to a commercial publisher. Now independent of the Association though still with strong Australasian connections, the journal enjoys an excellent reputation.
AAHPSSS was established at a time when HPS was expanding within the tertiary education systems of Australasia, and it played a valuable role in bringing those involved together for mutual support, encouragement, and the cross-fertilisation of ideas. More recently, as many of the teaching programs have declined, the AAHPSSS has also shrunk. Its future is insecure and uncertain.