The Department of Philosophy at La Trobe University was one of the four departments originally established in the School of Humanities, which took its first students in 1967. I was appointed as foundation professor, and took up my position there in June 1966. In the initial carve up of responsibilities, I was appointed dean, and so presided over the school’s board of studies, and officially represented the school on the Academic Board. I came to the job from the University of Melbourne’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science, where I had been a Reader.
I thought of philosophy as group of disciplines concerning the nature of human inquiry and understanding. At the centre, were metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and human reasoning—subjects that would have to be available for study at both graduate and undergraduate levels in any decent university. For these were studies about the nature of human inquiry and understanding that were of universal concern. But around this core, I argued that there ought to be a range of specialist subjects that were concerned with the philosophies of science, mathematics, politics, history, music, literature, psychology, and so on. These subjects, I thought, should be made available, wherever possible, especially to students taking courses in these areas.
Accordingly, I argued that philosophy had an important role to play in the new school structure that was then being designed for La Trobe—as a bridge between the disciplines. As a result, philosophy was made available to students throughout the University. I also argued that philosophy, like history, had, both historically and philosophically, very strong links with the social sciences, and should therefore be accorded a significant place in that school too. Accordingly, it was admitted as an official member of the School of Social Sciences, as well as of the School of Humanities. So, very early in the history of La Trobe University, the Department of Philosophy established a strong and influential position for itself in the university. It also proved to be a very attractive subject for students. This was, almost certainly, due partly to the times: the war in Vietnam, and the cultural liberation movements of the sixties and seventies, created a strong interest in social, moral and other foundational questions about society. But these factors were probably not the only ones that led to the extraordinary growth of student numbers in philosophy. It may also have been due partly to the breadth of philosophy’s intake, and to the fact that students of humanities had relatively few subjects to choose from. But, whatever the reason, philosophy boomed at La Trobe in the 1960s and ’70s, and by the end of this period it had become by far the largest philosophy department in Australia. Indeed, by this time, it was large even by American standards.
The rapid growth in philosophy at La Trobe enabled the department to develop into an academically distinguished and wide-ranging one within a very short period of time. In 1970, when there were already twelve full-time members of the academic staff, John McCloskey was appointed to the second chair of philosophy. His appointment greatly strengthened the areas of moral and political philosophy in which he specialised. In 1971 he published John Stuart Mill: A Critical Study, and shortly after that, in 1974, he published his important book, God and Evil. But this was just the beginning: by the end of the ’70s the Department of Philosophy had more than doubled its size, and it was widely acknowledged to be the best and most comprehensive philosophy department in Australia. Philosophy was not the only department to flourish at La Trobe. The departments of history and sociology also became the leaders in their respective fields, as did some of the science departments. And, some of the credit for this must go to the innovative ‘schools’ structure of the university, which provided for wide-ranging inclusive departments, and the enlightened administration of the university, which saw its role as being to assist the academic community in their efforts to build a strong teaching and research institution.
Like all universities, La Trobe was caught up in the revolutionary fervour of the early seventies, and the Department of Philosophy naturally came under attack by student radicals. At this time, there were many who thought that philosophers should be leading the struggle against both capitalism and the Vietnam War, as indeed they were at the University of Sydney and Flinders University. They were encouraged in their efforts to radicalise the La Trobe department by the visit of Robert Solomon in 1970–71, who was, at this time, heavily involved in the student movement in America. Solomon gave a series of university-wide lectures on existentialism that created great excitement, and earned him a large and devoted following. But the department was essentially an academic one, with a strong commitment to democracy, both within the university and in the state more generally. Most members of the department were naturally opposed to the Vietnam War, as nearly all social democrats were, but few felt obliged to take part in a revolutionary movement that was clearly also aimed at the overthrow of capitalism. They just wanted to end the Vietnam War, and get on with their teaching and research.
As a teaching department in the 1970s, philosophy was strong. Robert Pargetter, Tim Oakley, Ross Phillips, Anna Cushan and Jan Crosthwaite were all outstanding as lecturers or tutors. Pargetter was the star lecturer, and Oakley and Phillips made huge contributions to the teaching work of the department through their untiring and conscientious efforts to involve the students in philosophy. But it was in research that the department excelled. In 1973, J. J. C. Smart resigned his chair at the University of Adelaide to accept a readership in philosophy at La Trobe. Smart was a revered figure in Australian philosophy by this time, and his presence added lustre to an already flourishing department. His book with Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against, was published in that year and sparked a lively debate in the department on the foundations of morality. Peter Singer was appointed to a lectureship in the department in 1975, the year in which his own book, Animal Liberation, was published. And Singer’s present utilitarian stance obviously owes a great deal to the departmental debate that was occurring in La Trobe at this time. Robert Young’s Freedom, Responsibility and God (1975) developed the important connections between liberal theory and theology. Tom Richards’ book, The Language of Reason, published in 1978, was a book about reasoning and the philosophy of language that was concerned with applied logic, as much as it was with formal logic. Logic, for Richards, was not merely the abstract theory of truth preservation. It was a formalism that he thought could, and should, be used more constructively to analyse arguments in ordinary language, and he set about demonstrating how this could be done. I thought this too, and throughout the 1970s I worked, at times with Barbara Davidson, on developing epistemic foundations for the standard logical systems. In 1979, I published these results in Rational Belief Systems, and laid the foundations for an on-going research program on the dynamics of belief. In 1977, Frank Jackson wrote his important book, Perception: A Representative Theory, which challenged the widely-held theory of direct realism, and argued in favour of a kind of Lockean representative realism.
The academic successes of the department naturally led to recognition of its excellence. Gershon Weiler was appointed to a chair at the University of Tel Aviv in 1973, and was the first of a number of professorial appointments from La Trobe’s philosophy department. Others in the 1970s were J. J. C. Smart (1976) to the Australian National University (ANU), and Peter Singer (1977) and Frank Jackson (1978) to Monash University. But the Department had become overstaffed by 1980. The high levels of student enrolments could not be sustained. Sociology replaced philosophy in the fashion stakes, and philosophy faced increasing competition for student enrolments from other humanities’ departments. Consequently, the department found itself under constant pressure of having to reduce staff numbers. And this led to a kind of brain drain. Tom Richards resigned to take up a position in Computer Science at La Trobe. Alwynne Mackie became Head of the Canberra College of Art. Michael Stocker, Chris Murphy, Kim Sterelny, Jack Copeland, Chris Cordner, Jan Crosthwaite and Suzanne Uniacke were all appointed to positions in other universities. And then, finally, at the end of the decade, Robert Pargetter (in 1989), and John Bigelow (in 1991) were appointed to chairs at Monash University. And, throughout this whole period, the Department of Philosophy survived without a single replacement.
The brain drain had some effect on the department’s productivity. But it was uneven. There was a notable shift away from logic and the philosophy of language in the first half of the decade, and in the second half there was a surge of interest in questions of metaphysics. John McCloskey published Ecological Ethics and Politics, in 1983, Behan McCullagh Justifying Historical Descriptions, in 1984, and Robert Young Personal Autonomy: Beyond Negative and Positive Liberty, in 1986. But from 1986 on, the focus was all on metaphysics. In 1987, John Fox published his excellent paper ‘Truthmaker’ and Frank Jackson published his book, Conditionals. John Bigelow then published The Reality of Numbers: A Physicalist’s Philosophy of Mathematics in 1988, and he and Robert Pargetter published Science and Necessity, in 1990. In 1990, when nearing the end of the ‘brain drain’ period, I published my controversial book, Truth and Objectivity, and Freya Mathews followed with her ‘deep green’ book, The Ecological Self, in 1991.
The long drought in philosophy appointments in the 1980s, which led to the brain drain, was followed by a crippling administrative squeeze, which effectively denied philosophy its due. John McCloskey had retired in 1989, and was not replaced. Given the squeeze on appointments that was already beginning to occur in humanities, this was to be expected. But when I retired in 1994, La Trobe’s philosophers were entitled to expect that I would be replaced within a year or two. The La Trobe department had, after all, been the pre-eminent department of its kind in Australia, and as good as any in the English-speaking world outside of North America. And, it had just lost four senior members of staff, two to professorial appointments at Monash University, and two due to professorial retirements. However, the university was changing rapidly. If the 1980s were characterised by increasing levels of managerialism at La Trobe, the 1990s saw the beginning of the era of corporatism. Michael Osborne was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 1990, and saw his role as being that of the CEO of a large corporation. Consequently, departments that were not paying their own way, through research grants, patents and the like, or did not have a great many students, were always under threat. The investments in time and effort that individuals had put into building up these departments, and the international reputations they had achieved, counted for little. The educational quality of La Trobe’s programs was also thought to be more or less irrelevant. What mattered most to the administration were output and productivity—as these quantities were measured by the Australian Research Grants Commission. Economic arguments replaced what used to be called (in La Trobe’s happier collegiate days) ‘academic’ arguments.
Academically, the success stories in philosophy at La Trobe University in the period of corporate dominance were Janna Thompson, Freya Mathews, Behan McCullagh, Ross Brady, and me, perhaps, in my retirement. Janna Thompson published two books, Justice and World Order: A Philosophical Inquiry (1992), and Taking Responsibility for the Past: Repatriation and Historical Injustice (2002). In recognition of her distinguished work, she was appointed in 2002 as Head of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. Freya Mathews continued the work she began in The Ecological Self on the philosophy of the environment and its metaphysical foundations, publishing three more books, For Love of Matter (2003), Journey to the Source of the Merri (2003), and Reinhabiting Reality: Towards a Recovery of Culture (2005). Behan McCullagh published two more books: The Truth of History in 1998, and The Logic of History: Putting Post-modernism in Perspective in 2004. And I myself have published two books recently, Scientific Essentialism in 2001, and The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism in 2002. In 1995, Alec Hyslop published his definitive volume Other Minds, on which he had been working for many years, and Phillipa Rothfield produced a number of online publications relating to, and illustrating, her researches in medical ethics, feminism, and dance. But, most significantly of all, Ross Brady has become ‘the most distinguished relevance logician in Australia’, according to Bob Meyer. Arguably, he is now one of the most distinguished relevance logicians anywhere. His major work, Universal Logic, appeared in 2006.
In 2005, the department (sorry, the Philosophy Program in the School of Communications and Critical Inquiry) received the welcome news that Andrew Brennan had been appointed to fill the vacant chair of philosophy from 2006. He has already made some excellent new appointments. Frank Jackson was welcomed back to the department (as part-time professor) in 2008.
In the analytic tradition, one of the most important influences on metaphysical and epistemological inquiry has been Hume’s problem of induction. In the course of his argument, Hume suggests that if we had evidence that nature is governed by laws, then we would have grounds for inductive inference. But since evidence that nature is governed by laws is itself formed by induction, we can have no such grounds. Evidently we do believe in laws of nature, so empiricists were left with the project of trying to identify what we could mean by talk of laws. The typical empiricist response was to identify laws with certain types of regularity. For a regularity theorist, ‘It is a law that p’ means simply that p is true, and p has a suitable logical form: being a regularity that does not make reference to particulars, and saying something like ‘All Fs are Gs’.
It was widely known throughout the first half of the twentieth century that such views had somewhat counterintuitive consequences. There are certain paradigmatic features of laws which appear to be inexplicable on the assumption that laws are mere regularities. For instance: (1) Laws of nature are thought to be relatively robust under counterfactual suppositions. Mere regularities, however, are extremely fragile under counterfactual suppositions. (2) Laws appear to ‘govern’ their instances, at least in some sense. A statement that ‘All Fs are Gs’, even if true, does not seem to govern anything. And finally, (3) laws appear to be importantly different from cosmic regularities that hold by coincidence. Compare the fact that there are no mile-wide spheres of gold and the fact that there are no mile-wide spheres of uranium-235. The former is a mere accident, while the latter is more than a mere coincidence: its truth—or at least its extremely high probability—is ensured by the laws. It would not be practically possible to make such a sphere unless the laws governing thermonuclear fission were very different.
But if laws are mere regularities, then it appears to entail that all of these pretheoretical beliefs about laws are either false or are true only in some grossly attenuated fashion.
Despite the parlous state of regularity theories, no serious alternative emerged from the first half of the twentieth century. Then in the 1970s, D. M. Armstrong (working at the University of Sydney) and Michael Tooley (then at the Australian National University) independently conceived the idea that laws of nature were higher-order relations between universals. Outside Australia, a similar idea was also put forward at the same time by Fred Dretske (1977). This was a major development in the history of thought about laws of nature, as it opened up a quite different line of inquiry than had gone before in the tradition of regularity theories.
For both Tooley (1977) and Armstrong (1978: ch. 24; 1983), the basic tenets of the higher-order relation theory are as follows: ‘All Fs are Gs’ is a law if there exists a higher-order relation of ‘nomic necessitation’ that obtains between the universals F and G—typically symbolised ‘N(F,G)’. The obtaining of this relation necessitates the truth of the regularity ‘All Fs are Gs’, but the obtaining of the regularity is not a sufficient condition for the obtaining of the necessitation relation.
This theory promises to avoid many of the problems that beset the regularity theory, because it posits a genuine difference in ontology between cosmic regularities and laws. However, the exact mechanism by which a higher-order relation between universals could necessitate a regularity in all the instances of those universals remains notoriously obscure—and this point is the basis of criticism by empiricists (van Fraassen 1989: ch. 5; Lewis 1983: 40).
Armstrong also claimed that his metaphysical theory of laws had implications for epistemology which addressed the original issue of Humean scepticism about induction. According to Armstrong (1983b: 103–6), a regularity theory dooms its proponent to inductive scepticism, but the higher-order relation theory allows one to justify an inductive generalisation via an inference to the best explanation. Having observed a regularity which appears robust under counterfactual intervention, one can infer that the regularity is backed by a law. The law thus serves as an explanation of the observed sample, but it also entails the truth of the universal generalisation. So by inference to the best explanation, one could make a justified inference to the existence of the law, and thereby obtain a justification for the universal generalisation also.
While Armstrong and Tooley developed the higher-order relation theory of laws, David Lewis (1973: 73–4) developed a version of the regularity theory which he attributed to F. P. Ramsey. The Lewisian account of laws defines a law as a theorem in an optimal systematisation of contingent fact. By a systematisation, Lewis means a deductively closed set of sentences that has been organised into an axiomatic system. Numerous such axiomatic systems are possible, and they can be graded on two key dimensions: simplicity and strength (or information content). The deductive closure of an encyclopaedia would fare very well for strength, but would fare poorly for simplicity. In order to achieve greater simplicity, it will often be necessary to sacrifice strength. For a systematisation to be optimal, it must strike the best balance between simplicity and strength. Lewis made later refinements to the theory, so as to accommodate problems such as gruesome predicates (Lewis 1983: 41–2) and probabilistic laws (Lewis 1994: §4).
Lewis’ theory constituted a huge advance for the regularity theory, because it was no longer subject to such compelling counterexamples as had been raised against less sophisticated regularity theories. In conjunction with Lewis’ theory of counterfactual semantics, it appeared to sustain the claim that laws are robust under counterfactual inference. Moreover, because lawhood required something far more demanding than mere truth and logical form, his theory gave a more plausible account of what sort of evidence is required to suggest that a proposition is a law.
However, the Lewisian account, like earlier regularity theories, is unable to vindicate the idea that laws ‘govern’ their positive instances. Instead, they appear to be useful summaries of their instances. Moreover, critics of the Lewisian theory remain unconvinced that it properly distinguishes between coincidental regularities and lawlike ones (Armstrong 1983b: 66–73).
A much more recent innovation has been a revival of interest in an essentialist theory of properties which lends itself neatly to an account of at least some laws of nature. Brian Ellis and Caroline Lierse (Ellis and Lierse 1994; Ellis 2001) defend the theory that universals have dispositional essences. Mass, for instance, is essentially such as to confer the causal power to resist acceleration. A law such as F = ma can then be interpreted as a compact summary of a disposition conferred by all masses as a matter of metaphysical necessity.
This leads to the principal objection to an essentialist account of laws of nature: it seems to give them too much modal strength. While a regularity theory seems to treat laws as implausibly fragile truths, an essentialist theory suggests that counterlegal conditionals, such as ‘Had the law of gravity been a touch different, the Milky Way would not have been as stable’, are vacuously true (Bigelow 1999). This is disturbing, since counter-legals of that sort seem to be perfectly intelligible, and scientists sometimes make reference to counter-legal circumstances as an integral part of developing thought experiments.
When in the mid 1960s David Lewis attended seminars in Harvard given by the visiting J. J. C. Smart from Adelaide, the consequences were to be greater than he could have anticipated. First, he was to meet Stephanie (‘Steffi’), his future wife. Second, the contact with Smart was to lead to his invitation to Adelaide as a Gavin David Young lecturer in 1971, initiating what was to be a lifelong relationship with Australasia, with profound impact on philosophy in the region.
From the time of this first visit until his untimely death in 2001 from complications of diabetes, Lewis was to visit Australasia almost annually during the summer teaching break in Princeton. Undoubtedly, a primary attraction for him was a highly congenial intellectual atmosphere. To begin with, Maxwell J. Cresswell in Wellington was a fellow devotee of the philosophical deployment of possible worlds, having like Lewis been influenced by the seminars of Richard Montague at UCLA. Again, in the philosophy of mind, Lewis subscribed to the identity theory of mind, the ‘antipodean heresy’ of U. T. Place, J. J. C. Smart, D. M. Armstrong, Brian Medlin, and many others. Last, but by no means least, Lewis had come to turn from his early interest in the philosophy of language to systematic metaphysics, approached head-on rather than studied as the shadow cast by language, whether that be the vernacular of the folk (as conceived by Austin and Ryle) or the austere vehicle of science (in the manner of Quine). This message was welcome in an Australasia where those party to the heritage of John Anderson viewed with jaundiced eyes the foreign linguistic trend then laying siege to their stronghold.
D. M. Armstrong was one senior figure with whom Lewis struck an immediate rapport, as much because of the new work of both in general metaphysics as past shared doctrine in the philosophy of mind. So, for example, Armstrong’s views on universals provoked Lewis to a critique and an articulation of an alternative view of their significance (Lewis 1983b), whilst Lewis’ modal realism led Armstrong to frame his alternative account of possibility (Armstrong 1997). But perhaps the most important influence Lewis was to exert was on a member of the next generation to Armstrong’s, Frank Jackson. Already a major figure on the Australasian scene, Jackson was at La Trobe University, then Monash University when Lewis’ antipodean visits began; and in 1986 he became Head of the Philosophy Program at the prestigious Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University (ANU). Jackson quickly picked up on Lewisian themes, particularly in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics; his dialogue with Lewis profoundly shaped the thought of both. Through Lewis’ continuing contributions to the national conference and to seminars at individual universities, through the influence of leading figures on the scene such as Armstrong and Jackson, and through the increasingly powerful role of the RSSS in setting the themes of Australasian research, a plethora of younger philosophers were to have their research parameters deeply affected by Lewis’ ideas. For a list intended as representative rather than exhaustive, we may note John Bigelow, Linda Burns, David Coady, Antony Eagle, Peter Forrest, Alan Hájek, Allen Hazen, Mark Johnston, Rae Langton, Peter Menzies, Daniel Nolan, Denis Robinson, and Barry Taylor. Ever generous with his time, Lewis spent hours in informal discussion with all of these; in the case of many of them, he acted as a mentor, with advice and assistance concerning their future careers.
Lewis’ visits were almost entirely informal, and self-financed. In a typical trip, he and his wife Steffi would spend a week attending the annual mid year conference of the Australasian Association of Philosophy. This would be followed by a week or so of holiday socialising and travel with Steffi, who would then return home to her job. David would then travel to Melbourne, using the University of Melbourne as his base. There he lived simply, staying in backpacker accommodation (his spare blanket being stored from year to year in the university’s Department of Philosophy). Refusing offers of a visitor’s office, he worked alongside undergraduates in the department’s small Gibson Library. From this base he made many forays to read papers across Australia, and often in New Zealand as well; but Melbourne remained his spiritual home in the antipodes. He developed a typical Melburnian passion for Australian Rules football, and became a fanatical supporter of Essendon. (Most Melburnians regard this as his greatest failing. These are all and only those who support a rival club.) His Melbourne connection was formally recognised by the award in 1995 of an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne.
What were the attractions of the antipodes which led Lewis to return so regularly? Undoubtedly the congeniality of the intellectual environment, already adverted to, was one; and through it Lewis made many friendships. Another was its isolation from the pressures of life in his home university; huddled in the Gibson Library in Melbourne, he could devote himself fully to his work, untroubled by persons from Porlock—the more so since his convenient Luddism sheltered him from disturbance by email. Those of us who knew him here, however, would find it hard not to think that there was more to it than this, and that Lewis had a genuine affinity for the informality and egalitarianism of the antipodean way. When he died, a mean-spirited and ignorant obituary in the New York Times sneered at his possible worlds realism. At the same time, the tabloid Melbourne Herald-Sun ran a simple but dignified tribute under the headline ‘Great Thinker Loved Our Footy’. The contrast may explain part of what Lewis found attractive.
Philosophy has a short and fragile history at Lincoln University. Lincoln is a former agricultural college located on the Canterbury Plains, twenty minutes drive from Christchurch (on the South Island, New Zealand). The inclusion of philosophy at the university began only in 1994, where it was introduced as a core element of the Bachelor of Social Science degree taught within the then Human Sciences division. Papers in introductory philosophy, logic and critical thinking, moral philosophy, environmental ethics, and philosophy of science were offered initially. Stan Godlovitch and Glenys Godlovitch were responsible for the teaching of philosophy from 1994 until their departure in 2002. Grant Tavinor was appointed lecturer in philosophy in the following year. In 2006 the current Vice-Chancellor proposed to disestablish the teaching of philosophy at Lincoln University, citing the sustainability of the university in the rationale for what was only one of a number of cost-cutting proposals. The proposal to disestablish philosophy was initially fended off in the consultation stage, and as of 2009 philosophy is still taught at Lincoln University, though in an attenuated form.
Genevieve Lloyd is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and research associate in philosophy at Macquarie University. She has done more to shape Australian philosophy than any other woman philosopher. Her first book, The Man of Reason: ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Western Philosophy, is a canonical feminist text. Lloyd gained a B.A. from the University of Sydney and then a D.Phil. from Somerville College, Oxford University. She worked at the Australian National University (ANU) until 1987 when she became the first appointed female professor of philosophy in Australia. While a professor at UNSW, Lloyd taught a number of significant female philosophers including Penelope Deutscher, Robyn Ferrell, and Catriona McKenzie.
Lloyd’s scholarship has advanced the fields of feminist philosophy, history of philosophy, philosophy and literature, and Spinoza studies. She creatively intervenes in established philosophical procedures by reading philosophical texts ‘forwards’, using them to glimpse what we might have been and still could become (Lloyd 2000). Lloyd analyses the literariness of philosophical texts in order to reveal the historicity of philosophical arguments. Her scholarship demonstrates that philosophers inevitably absorb the language, imagery and ideologies of their respective cultures. Theoretical distinctions, combined with modes of expression and associative thinking, can work to reinforce and, in some cases reactivate, cultural prejudices. Lloyd describes this as the ‘passive’ imagination, which she distinguishes from the ‘reconstructive’ or ‘active’ imagination.
The pervasive presence of the ‘passive’ imagination necessitates philosophers to be just as attentive to how they write and read as they are of what they write and read; for the how and what of philosophy are inextricably connected. Philosophers should do this, not by transcending culture in an effort to become something that they are not—the persona of the passionless, disembodied and intellectual philosopher—but by developing an awareness of their own social positioning as they engage with the perspective of others. Employment of the ‘reconstructive’ or ‘active’ imagination will allow new generations of philosophers to insert themselves into the philosophical tradition; providing modern re-workings of old themes and introducing new ones. Lloyd’s scholarship does just this and is distinguished by a sense of the drama that informs all philosophical inquiry, irrespective of whether it is our desire to come to terms with grief, mortality or what we find the most fulfilling life.
The Man of Reason was published in the mid 1980s when feminism was becoming the subject of serious academic attention. In it, Lloyd reviews how canonical Western philosophical texts inadvertently describe the social status of women and thus determine our feminist reactions. She argues that philosophical discourse has unconsciously assimilated certain cultural images of masculinity and femininity. For example, reason came to be represented as a uniquely human achievement in the seventeenth century, largely due to René Descartes. Rationality was associated with maleness and constituted a move aware from nature and, by association, femininity. Despite Descartes’ egalitarian intent, the representation of reason as an achievement only served to further isolate women from humanity’s supreme accomplishment. Lloyd’s feminism is also elaborated in contributions to anthologies and her edited volume, Feminism and the History of Philosophy. She views feminist philosophy as an evolving set of self-reflective reading strategies characterised by attentiveness to the negative effects of dichotomous thinking and a desire to correct the imbalance by focussing on emotional, imaginative, and social relations.
In the book, Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature, Lloyd challenges the postmodern caricature, arguing that traditional philosophers and modern novelists do not assume a unified self; instead they forge a unified self against the threat of fragmentation by relying on such concepts as consciousness (Augustine), God (Descartes), memory (Proust), judgment (Kant) and eternal return (Nietzsche). Lloyd seeks to reactivate such dynamic and complex conceptions of the self in an effort overcome the dichotomy between the modern (unified) and postmodern (fragmentary) self. Being in Time is an eloquent plea for reconsidering the relationship between philosophy and literature. For Lloyd, it is not the case that philosophy has sovereignty over truth. Philosophy does not simply discover the truth, just as literature is not pure invention. Truth is discovered and invented by the different unifying function of both philosophy and literary. Each in its own way—one through concepts the other through characters—seek to meaningfully respond to what is genuinely problematic in human experience.
During the 1990s Lloyd turned her attention to Benedict de Spinoza’s ontological doctrine that undermines the dichotomous relations of the Cartesian tradition. Spinoza claims that the mind is an idea of the body. He argues that the eternity of the mind is achieved only when an individual realises that his or her being is finite and entirely dependent on substance. Spinoza’s philosophy does not posit a self that is distinct from the external world. He does not encumber philosophy with problems of skepticism and other minds. His philosophy allows for the legitimate consideration of the various existential dilemmas that have dominated human history. In Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present, Lloyd and Moira Gatens use Spinoza to reflect on the question of collective responsibility, in particular that of non-indigenous Australians for atrocities against indigenous Australians.
Lloyd draws widely from the philosophical tradition and beyond. Her analysis of Augustine, Immanuel Kant and Spinoza, is frequently informed by such unorthodox thinkers as Giles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricoeur. Over and above these contemporary influences, Lloyd’s natural affinity is with the stoics. Although Lloyd is not a scholar of the Stoics, she shares many of their ideas. She remains interested is in how philosophical and literary thinking can reconcile us to the difficulties and pain of human life. She does this in part by the pleasure that her writing generates, and also through her abiding interest in time and our relationship to it. Her most recent publication, Providence Lost, explores the history of providence in Western philosophical thought.