W. R. Albury & R. W. Home
The journal Metascience was launched by the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) in 1984. Papers from the AAHPSSS annual conferences had previously been circulated as unedited typescripts in the Association’s ‘Proceedings’, but with the advent of Metascience a vehicle was created for the publication of members’ research in a peer-reviewed and professionally edited format. Since the AAHPSSS membership fee included a subscription to Metascience, the journal also provided a tangible benefit to members and contributed to the expansion of the Association’s membership beyond those whose principal focus was the annual conference.
Much of the impetus for the founding of Metascience came from Ian Langham (University of Sydney), and it was originally expected that he would serve as co-editor with W. R. Albury, professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). But the tragic death of Langham in 1984 left Albury as sole editor, a position which he held until the end of 1990. At various times during that period Ditta Bartels (UNSW) and David P. Miller (UNSW) also assisted as deputy editors.
Metascience appeared annually from 1984 to 1987, and then biannually from 1988 to 1990. During these years it published thirty articles and discussion papers by Australasian scholars in the history, philosophy and social studies of science (HPSSS), and by international visitors to conferences held in the region. A book review section was added in 1985, which gradually became a leading feature of the journal.
With the proliferation of journals in the HPSSS field in the late 1980s, many of which were well-resourced by commercial publishers linked into international distribution networks, it became difficult for a self-funded local journal like Metascience to attract high-quality research articles. On the other hand, AAHPSSS members regarded the book review section of Metascience as a valuable resource, and it was noted that there was no journal in the field specifically devoted to reviewing recent books. With this in mind, Albury recommended to AAHPSSS when he relinquished the editorship in 1990 that Metascience become exclusively a review journal. By moving into this niche, it might then be possible to place the journal with an international publisher.
In 1991, under a new editor, Michael Shortland (University of Sydney), Metascience adopted the review format, aiming to serve as ‘a guide to recent publications and a forum for the critical appraisal of new and important works of scholarship’. Shortland also introduced ‘review symposia’ featuring multiple reviews of the same work together with the author’s response. The next editor, John Forge (Griffith University), who began in 1996, successfully arranged for the journal to be published by Blackwell from 1998. Under subsequent editors Nicholas Rasmussen (UNSW), 2001, and Stephen French (University of Leeds), 2004, Metascience has continued with commercial publishers, first Kluwer and currently Springer, though its subscription base remains small. Now independent of AAHPSSS but still with strong Australasian connections, Metascience enjoys an excellent reputation, providing timely reviews for an international readership of the latest work across the entire HPSSS field.
Modal logic has been described as the formal logic of necessity and possibility, of ‘must be’ and ‘may be’. That was probably the sense in which C. I. Lewis understood it in his work beginning in 1912 (Lewis 1912). Lewis of course was reacting to the theory of implication that he understood to be presented in Whitehead and Russell 1910. However, by the middle years of the century it had become apparent that the operators ‘it is necessary that’ (‘it must be that’), written L (or ), and ‘it is possible that’ (‘it might be that’), written M (or ), could be used to study a wide variety of such notions. One of the earliest logicians to see this was A. N. Prior, whose work in the mid 1950s looked at the possibility of interpreting L as ‘it is and will always be the case that’, with M, correspondingly, as ‘it is or will one day be the case that’ (Prior 1957). Prior was born and brought up in New Zealand, and was appointed professor of philosophy at the then Canterbury University College, in Christchurch, New Zealand; and it was almost certainly this fact that is primarily responsible for the early development of modal logic in Australasia.
Prior’s story is an interesting one. Originally intending a theological career, he became intrigued with the problem of how, in a non-deterministic universe, any being could have complete knowledge of the future. Prior’s Logic and the Basis of Ethics (1949) is not a work which involves formal logic, but it is clear that Prior was always concerned about the implications of logic in philosophy, and it is perhaps a mark of the ‘flavour’ of logic in Australia and New Zealand that it has been concerned with the application of formal methods to philosophical problems. In Prior (1957), the published version of his 1956 John Locke Lectures at Oxford, we have the first sustained exposition of the application of modal logic to issues of time. One of Prior’s concerns was to understand an argument put forward by Diodorus Chronos to the effect that everything is necessary, including facts about the future. The argument goes like this. Begin with the view that everything that has already happened is necessary, that what has already occurred is now unpreventable. Take anything which is now in fact so. If it is so now, then it was always true in the past that this thing which is in fact so was going to be so, and therefore, being a past truth, must have been unpreventable. From this it seemed to follow that whatever happens is necessary. Prior realised that to study such arguments as these you needed the precision found in formal logic. But not the formal logic which then dominated philosophy—the logic of Russell and Frege. What was needed is a logic which studies propositions which can change their truth value with the passage of time. Copeland (1996b) writes:
In 1949 he had learned from Geach’s review of Julius Weinberg’s Nicolaus of Autricourt: A Study in 14th Century Thought [Geach 1949] that for the scholastics an expression like ‘Socrates is sitting down’ is complete, in the sense of being assertable as it is, and is true at certain times, false at others. Prior had been brought up on the view—prevalent even today—that such an expression is incomplete until a time-reference is supplied, and hence that one cannot speak of the truth-value of the expression as altering with the passage of time. This was a crucial discovery for Prior: the idea that propositions which are subject to tense-inflections are liable to be true at one time and false at another was to become central to his philosophy.
Interpreting L to mean ‘it is and always will be the case that’, Prior conjectured that the logic of future time was a system which C. I. Lewis called S4 (Lewis and Langford 1932). It was subsequently shown that the correct system was stronger than S4, and the study of questions like this enabled Prior to consider how different systems of modal logic might reflect different views about time and modality. As far as logic is concerned, Mary Prior has described her husband as an ‘autodidact’. It is true that Prior credits his interest in what has come to be called tense logic to J. N. Findlay (Findlay 1941), the professor of philosophy at the University of Otago when Prior was a student, but it seems equally true that it was Prior himself, from his own work, and through his students in Christchurch and his colleagues elsewhere in New Zealand, and in turn their students, who, even after he moved to England in 1958, is the biggest single cause of the interest in modal logic in New Zealand.
What then of Australia? One of the few workers in modal and tense logic in Australia at the time was Charles Hamblin at the University of New South Wales, with whom Prior corresponded. In looking at the history of modal logic it is important to bear in mind two features of philosophy in the mid twentieth century. One was the influence of ‘ordinary language philosophy’, with its perceived bias against any kind of formal logic. This view finds expression in such dicta as P. F. Strawson’s claim that ‘ordinary language has no exact logic’ (Strawson 1956). While the influence of the ordinary language movement was felt in both Australia and New Zealand, it is arguable that its strength in Australia, notably in the Wittgensteinianism of Melbourne, may have inhibited the development of logics of the sort that interested Prior. The other feature, of course, was the influence of W. V. Quine. One of the most powerful features of Quine’s philosophy was undoubtedly his antipathy to modal logic (for instance Quine 1947, 1953), perhaps in reaction to his teacher, C. I. Lewis, at Harvard. For whatever reasons, Quine was able to portray modal logic as somehow not philosophically respectable, particularly to those who saw the importance of philosophy in clarifying the logic of scientific discourse.
In Australia Quine’s philosophy was represented most strongly in the work of J. J. C. Smart (Smart 1987b), and it is possible that Quine’s anti-modal views, which Smart enthusiastically endorsed, discouraged the development of modal logic in Australia. Prior (1957) certainly linked Quine and Smart together as authors whom he respected, but whose views on time and modality he profoundly disagreed with. The Quine/Smart attack was on two grounds. One was the argument that modal logic was conceived in the sin of confusing use and mention, a charge that did not go away until the possible-worlds semantics for modal logic was fully appreciated. When it was appreciated, the claim was that possible worlds are metaphysically disreputable. In some moods Quine and Smart even appear to go so far as to say that modality itself is disreputable. The Quine/Smart view of time, as Prior called it, is that all times are equally real. (The analogous view of possible worlds has described them as like ‘raisins in a pudding’.) Given a view like that of Quine and Smart, it was held that if you are to discourse reputably about such things you have to replace talk about the past, present and future with ‘tenseless’ talk about truth or falsity at a time.
Prior influenced many students in Christchurch: Robert Bull, Hugh Montgomery and Jonathan Bennett, to name just a few; and his legacy is currently being kept alive there by Jack Copeland. Montgomery subsequently moved to Auckland, where an interest in modal logic had been encouraged in the 1960s by Ray Bradley. A colleague influenced by Prior was George Hughes, whose appointment as professor of philosophy at Victoria University College (later the Victoria University of Wellington), in 1951 was almost contemporaneous with Prior’s obtaining the chair in Christchurch. Hughes was strongly influenced by Wittgenstein and Wisdom at Cambridge, to the point, one often felt, of supposing that progress in philosophy was not really possible, and the that true philosopher’s mission should be to inculcate a method which would enable philosophical worries to disappear. To Hughes formal logic may have seemed a way out, an area where progress was possible. The tradition of logic in Wellington spread to the mathematics department, particularly with Rob Goldblatt, whose work encouraged mathematicians and computer scientists to take an interest in it. That work, however, is outside the purview of the present article.
One of the Wellington undergraduates in the 1950s was Richard Routley (later Richard Sylvan), who moved to Australia on his return from Princeton University. Routley, with Len Goddard, set up the M.A. in formal logic at the University of New England (UNE). Early students of this course included Malcolm Rennie, who went to Auckland and was greatly influenced by Prior and the New Zealand modal logic ethos. Rennie then took modal logic to Queensland, influencing Chris Mortensen and Rod Girle. Mortensen moved to Adelaide and Girle eventually to Auckland. Rennie imparted a special interest in weak systems like S0.5 and S1—an interest which is almost exclusive to Australasia.
It may say something about the different attitudes to philosophy in Australia and New Zealand to see how modal logic developed in Australia under Routley’s influence. New Zealand philosophy has always prided itself as not being ‘special’, as not having any distinctive ‘style’ other than to be as good as it can. Once in Australia, Routley argued strenuously that Australasia should have a distinctive style of logic—by which he seemed to mean any logic which rejected classical principles of reasoning—and on his move to Canberra he was able to make the Australian National University one of the centres of what is called ‘relevance logic’. Relevance logic rejects such principles of standard modal logic as that a contradiction entails every proposition. It rapidly became apparent that to avoid what seemed to many an unwelcome conclusion, you had to be able to imagine what would happen if a contradiction were actually true. It was then a short step, taken by Graham Priest, to thinking that perhaps at least some contradictions are true, and so Australia, though not New Zealand, became one of the leading centres of what is called ‘paraconsistent’ logic. Such logics are outside the scope of this survey.
Another area of modal logic influenced by Prior was modal predicate logic (or quantified modal logic: QML). Prior 1956 was one of the earliest to criticise a principle he called the ‘Barcan Formula’, used in Ruth Barcan’s pioneering work with Fitch at Yale in the 1940s (Barcan 1946, 1947). QML was an area which came in for particularly harsh criticism from Quine, and is still under-represented in research in modal logic. One of the graduates of the UNE logic program was Alan Reeves, who took to Adelaide an appreciation of how a careful use of Russell’s theory of descriptions could solve problems in the interpretation of quantified intensional logics. In the 1970s, the arrival of Pavel Tichý at the University of Otago, a Czech emigré, trained in the logical tradition in Eastern Europe, a tradition Prior had had strong connections with, reinforced this development, and Tichý established a number of results in modal predicate logic. The connection between QML and metaphysics was strengthened by the association which developed between Australasia and David Lewis, whose counterpart theory attempted to address the problems of QML in a way which was at least technically more congenial to Quine’s view of it (Lewis 1968). A crucial technical issue here was the question of the expressive power of QML, and early results, using the technique of what has been called ‘double indexing’ or ‘two-dimensional modal logic’, were obtained at UCLA by, among others, Frank Vlach (1973), who subsequently joined Hamblin’s department at the University of New South Wales. It was also taken up by Krister Segerberg, though before he moved to the University of Auckland as professor of philosophy in the late 1970s. The modal version in the form of actually operators formed the basis of an article by John Crossley and Lloyd Humberstone (1977), Monash University logicians who helped foster modal logic in the Melbourne area. Another of Prior’s connections was with Pittsburgh, which was one of the few U.S. philosophy departments not under the spell of Quine’s anti-modalism. One of Pittsburgh’s exports was Allen Hazen, who brought modal logic to the University of Melbourne. Hazen later became interested in the expressive capacity of QML.
This essay has ignored the large amount of philosophical work by philosophers in Australasian philosophy departments who have used modal logic, but would not so much be regarded as practitioners. Hopefully, however, it has given something of the flavour of research in this area of philosophy in this part of the world.
The quarterly refereed journal Monash Bioethics Review began life in 1981 as the newsletter Bioethics News. This newsletter publicised the research and community engagement activities of the Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics, which was established the previous year by Peter Singer. Bioethics News was edited by Helga Kuhse, and provided news and discussion of current issues in bioethics, both in Australia and overseas, during a time of considerable public debate about ethical issues raised by new reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilisation. Published several times a year, Bioethics News soon began to include some original articles, along with reprints of key articles from international bioethics journals likely to be of particular interest to Australian readers.
There were major changes to the journal from the January 1994 issue (vol. 13, no. 1), when it moved to a new, expanded format, with a greater proportion of original articles and the new title of Monash Bioethics Review. Editor Helga Kuhse also put in place a refereeing process, and the journal continued to be published by the Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics. These changes boosted the circulation and profile of the journal both nationally and internationally, and the submission rate of papers to the journal also began to increase. A popular feature of the journal has always been the Ethics Committee Supplement, containing original articles and news items on issues of particular interest to members of human research ethics committees. Many of these committees in Australia have been longstanding subscribers to the journal.
Udo Schüklenk took over as editor of Monash Bioethics Review in 1999, and introduced further improvements, including the appointment of an international editorial board and the involvement of a broad range of referees. From that point onwards, the reprinting of articles from other journals ceased and all articles published in the journal were original articles. Schüklenk also put together several special themed issues of Monash Bioethics Review, containing symposia with invited papers on topics such as the ethics of genetics and biotechnology. These special issues proved very popular with subscribers.
The editorship of the journal passed from Udo Schüklenk to Deborah Zion and Merle Spriggs in 2001. Zion and Spriggs also introduced many innovations, including Ethics Committee Reflections, invited debates, and review articles. Justin Oakley subsequently replaced Merle as co-editor from 2003. In the following years, Monash Bioethics Review published a number of articles by prominent international commentators on topics including the over-prescription of anti-depressant medications, the ethics of research involving indigenous people, and the treatment of asylum seekers.
From the March 2009 issue (vol. 28, no. 1), Monash Bioethics Review began to be published by Monash University ePress, in both hard copy and electronic forms. Also, Linda Barclay took over from Deborah Zion as co-editor of the journal with Justin Oakley, and the publication months moved to March, June, September, and December each year. Themed issues continued, on topics such as the clinical implications of recent brain imaging research with patients in persistent vegetative states.
As Australia’s oldest peer-reviewed bioethics journal, Monash Bioethics Review has done much over the years to promote community awareness and discussion of emerging issues in reproduction, biotechnology, and clinical and research practice. In these ways, the journal has helped to improve policy in these areas, and so, it is hoped, the experiences of patients, research participants, and practitioners in these fields.
Monash University was the first of the ‘new universities’ founded in the 1960s; philosophy was included from the beginning. Hector Monro, the foundation professor, took up his appointment in 1961 and teaching began the following year. Monro had come to Monash from the University of Sydney and the structure of the undergraduate program he put in place in the early years followed closely the example set in Sydney under J. L. Mackie.
Growth in the first years was rapid. By 1965 there were eleven tenured staff—the professor, an associate professor (Ken Rankin), and nine lecturers or senior lecturers, There were, in addition, five full-time tutors who had fixed-term contracts. Two years later a second professor (A. C. (‘Camo’) Jackson) had been appointed and the full-time staff had risen to seventeen; it was to peak at nineteen in 1968.
Monro was primarily interested in ethics and history of ideas. His Empiricism and Ethics was published in 1967; there was a later book on Mandeville (1975) and the occasional (and unusual) flourish of verse in the philosophy journals. Ken Rankin worked in and taught mainstream philosophical logic and epistemology. John McGechie, another early appointment, specialised in logic and philosophy of mathematics. Other staff appointed in the early 1960s included Yogendra Chopra, Len Grant, Bill Joske, Harry Stainsby, John Williamson, Max Deutscher, John Mackenzie, Jenny Teichman, Tony Palma, Bruce Heron, Rusi Khan and Aubrey Townsend—a mixed bunch, from Melbourne and Oxford backgrounds, Sydney and New Zealand. Deutscher, still an analytical philosopher, was the dominant figure in the early years; but he left in early 1966 to take up an appointment as professor at the newly established Macquarie University. Williamson, Palma, Teichman, Chopra and Heron all left within a few years. The others, with the addition of Edward Khamara, were to remain on staff for twenty years or more. For years to come, therefore, change was to be almost exclusively at tutor level.
The course structure in the 1960s was based on a model under which Arts students took four subjects at first-year level—in different disciplines, like philosophy or history—three at second-year and two at third-year; all subjects involved year-long courses typically of two lectures and a tutorial weekly. Honours courses began in second year and continued to fourth year when students read usually just one discipline but might combine Honours in two. Two of the best students from the 1960s, Martin Davies and Laurie Splitter, both took double Honours in philosophy and mathematics.
The main first-year philosophy subject had two components, ‘Problems in Philosophy’ and ‘Logic’. The problems course initially followed Sydney in using a book by John Hospers, but soon changed to a text-based design, including Descartes’ Meditations and the Meno. Controversy raged over the Logic component. Stainsby insisted on a traditional Aristotelian course with a Jesuit text; Heron, who had worked with A. N. Prior, would only teach in Polish notation; Townsend following Sydney tradition preferred Copi-style natural deduction. So the style and character of the course varied from year to year and those who opposed logic anyway had an easy target. There were two other first-year subjects, ‘History of Ideas’ and ‘Scientific Thought’, but they could not be counted as the basis for a major sequence in philosophy.
Philosophy 2 and Philosophy 3 subjects comprised a core unit and a range of options, covering most areas of philosophy but with historical courses (on empiricism, Kant, Plato and Aristotle, Russell and Moore) given some preference. Most important was what was expected from Honours students: they took two full-year subjects in second year, three in third year and four plus a thesis in fourth year. Though there was some scope for choice, students graduating with Honours in philosophy acquired a common background, including some logic, metaphysics and epistemology, philosophical logic, Descartes, the eighteenth-century empiricists and rationalists, Kant and Greek philosophy. It was a very solid and demanding program. Martin Davies, who went from Monash to Oxford, remarked on how well his Monash experience had prepared him for what he encountered there.
There was a regular staff seminar from the beginning, attended by all staff; and there were meetings of the Australasian Association of Philosophy held at Melbourne.
Things changed somewhat in the 1970s. Staff numbers started to shrink, from an average of eighteen in the late 1960s to fourteen in the early ’70s, though student numbers were still growing, as was the number and diversity of subjects. So workloads were increasing way beyond the very comfortable loads of the first Monash decade, and that became a continuing concern. There were some changes to the course structure too, especially at first-year level, where the design moved to a core plus options structure—lots of options, designed to attract numbers, with logic just one among them. This had repercussions all down the track, for it was no longer the case that Honours students could be assumed to have a knowledge of logic or a substantially common background.
By the mid 1970s there was an air of depression, worries about the entrenching of mediocrity, and, as one visiting philosopher remarked, Monash had become a ‘sleepy hollow’. Hector Monro and Camo Jackson both retired at the end of 1976. Peter Singer was appointed to replace Monro in 1977, and Frank Jackson was appointed to his father’s old chair in 1978. The department was refreshed and enlivened, and not just by the appointment of two new and exciting professors. Lloyd Humberstone had been appointed to a lectureship in 1975, and there was also a crop of new tutors between 1975 and 1979, among them Ismay Barwell, Laurie Splitter, John Bishop, Knud Haakonssen, André Gallois and Tom Karmo. David Lewis made his first prolonged visit in 1979. Martin Davies was also around. It was a time when Monash was a lively philosophical community, surely to be ranked near the best in Australia. Michael Smith, who did both a B.A. and an M.A., was a notable student in this period; there were many more.
Things barely changed through the 1980s. There were no new appointments at lecturer level, but frequent changes at tutor level continued to liven the mix: Chris Cordner, Libby Prior, Frank Snare, Michael Smith, Pamela Tate, John Burgess and John Collins all had appointments in this period. The community of researching philosophers flourished. But drastic changes were happening to the course structure, mostly triggered from outside the department. There was a shift to semester courses in place of the old full-year subjects. At second and third-year level, this meant that courses that had run with one lecture and tutorial all year now ran for thirteen teaching weeks, usually with two lectures and a tutorial or a two-hour lecture-seminar. Inevitably there was a reduction both in course content and in the time over which a student’s understanding of an area could grow. The department opposed these changes, but could not win. With the semester system went a new point scheme for determining the weighting of subjects in the degree: first-year subjects were valued at 6 points and later year subjects normally at 8 points. Thus a major in philosophy came to comprise subjects totalling 12 points at first year, 16 points at second year, and 24 points at third year, though it was always possible to do more than the minimum requirement. At the same time, a second major change involved the abandonment of the old Honours program in favour of one where Honours was just a fourth year tacked on to a normal major (with minimum entry standards, of course). Intending Honours students could be encouraged to take extra subjects, but increasingly the decision to go into Honours was made late and without preparation either by taking additional subjects or by a constrained choice of subjects. And because the number of subjects being offered had grown, the idea of a structured and common preparation for the Honours year disappeared. Bit by bit too, the demands of the Honours year were relaxed and content reduced. These changes were exacerbated by changes to come in 2002, when the 8-point second and third-year subjects were re-valued to 6 points, with consequent further cuts to content and assessment requirements. By then the academic content of the Honours degree had been cut to less than half what it was in the first period of the University—what remained was a lightweight Honours program that provided a much weaker foundation for postgraduate work.
Frank Jackson resigned to move to the Australian National University (ANU) in 1986 and about the same time Peter Singer moved to establish the Centre for Human Bioethics, still at Monash but independently of the Department of Philosophy. There followed a period of some upheaval. Robert Pargetter was appointed professor of philosophy in 1989 and was able to arrange two immediate new appointments, Michael Smith to a senior lectureship and Frank Jackson to his old chair. Jackson found the changed Monash environment uncongenial and returned to the ANU almost immediately; Smith stayed on until the ANU also recruited him in 1992. Pargetter was seconded to become Dean of the Faculty of Arts after only six months as Head of Department, but continued to exert a powerful influence until 1992. John Bigelow was appointed professor in 1991, initially for a five-year period, but made permanent in 1992 after Pargetter had resigned. Rusi Khan, John Mackenzie and John McGechie retired in 1994; Harry Stainsby died about the same time. Karen Green, Rae Langton and Richard Holton were appointed to lectureships in the early 1990s; but Langton and Holton also were seconded to the ANU in 1997. Ten Chin Liew was promoted to a personal chair in 1994 (he finally resigned in 2000). Jeanette Kennett and Dirk Baltzly were appointed to lectureships in 1995; Kennett leaving for Canberra (not the ANU) before the end of the decade. Graham Oppy was appointed, initially as a senior lecturer in 1996 and later promoted to a personal chair. There had been more changes in a five-year period than had occurred in all the preceding twenty years. But despite ongoing staff cuts and some stress, the department continued to provide a lively and vigorous environment for research in philosophy, with a large and strong graduate school. When the department was reviewed in 1996, the report recorded a remark by one external member, ‘that he had come to Monash believing this to be the best teaching philosophy department in the country and he was going away with the same impression’.
The early 1990s were a period of deep structural change in the university. Following the Dawkins ‘reforms’, Monash became a huge multi-campus university, with campuses at Caulfield, Frankston, Gippsland and Berwick added to the main Clayton campus. And, beginning around 1993 and initiated by Pargetter who was then a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there was also an expansion into distance education. Monash acquired a Distance Education Centre with the Gippsland campus and took a leading role in the Open Learning Initiative. It also began a VCE Enhancement program offering first-year university subjects in Year 12 at secondary colleges. These were big changes made at a time of increasing cuts to university funding: the university was betting, as few others did, that its future would depend on success as a large and diverse institution.
The Department of Philosophy chose, amid much controversy at the time, to participate in all these changes. It established programs at Caulfield, Frankston, Berwick and Gippsland—all campuses where philosophy had not been taught prior to the amalgamations, and in each case a minor sequence was offered. The department developed a distance education program, initially funded by Open Learning, and by 1998 was offering a full major sequence in distance mode. It also participated enthusiastically in the VCE Enhancement program. Some of these initiatives failed: the faculty chose to pull out of the Frankston campus, severely cut back in Berwick, and finally put an end to the Open Learning project—for ideological rather than economic or academic reasons. But the Caulfield, Gippsland, distance education and VCE Enhancement programs remain.
The expanded programs depended on the development of an elaborate resource base of teaching materials, both in print and online, that could be used for distance teaching but also enabled teaching on other campuses to be undertaken by a team mostly of graduate students working on a casual basis. Aubrey Townsend had oversight of the preparation of materials, which were paid for by a succession of major grants, and Monima Chadha was appointed to coordinate the teaching and marking program. A condition imposed by the department was that the project had to run without negative budgetary impact and with the involvement of Clayton staff only on a voluntary basis. Still it grew, and by 1996 was contributing 16% of total student load and 12% of income, a percentage that has continued to grow. The review committee in 1996 accepted the view of some members of the department that the new programs were unwise at a time of excessive workloads and not really proper work for academic philosophers. But within a year the Faculty of Arts was in financial crisis, forced to a drastic restructuring involving significant staff cuts and the grouping of departments into larger budgetary units (or schools). Because philosophy was then in a sound budgetary position and had a growing enrolment across several campuses, it escaped relatively unscathed: there were no further staff cuts beyond those that had occurred prior to 1996, and the new School of Philosophy, Linguistics and Bioethics was not too grotesque. Within a couple of years Linguistics moved to another school and the School of Philosophy and Bioethics, though small, was a coherent academic structure.
In the period since 2000, the School of Philosophy and Bioethics has had to adapt to an increasingly difficult institutional situation. There have been staff changes: Townsend retired in 2006; Toby Handfield and Jakob Hohwy were appointed to lectureships in 2006 and 2007. In research, the school has remained very productive: there have been books by Baltzly (2006, 2009), Green (2009), Handfield (2009), Howhy (2009), and Oppy (2006a, 2006b). But maintaining adequate student numbers has proved difficult. In the first years of the new century, research success helped maintain a strong philosophy program, for in this period the budgetary model in the faculty favoured schools that were successful in research. But in later years research success has been less rewarded and funding has come to depend on building student numbers, with requirements for viable class sizes growing ever more demanding. The resulting pressures, which have led to greatly increased teaching loads and a need to change course offerings, have become a greater threat than has been faced at any time in the history of the department. One has to be worried about the future.
The Centre for Human Bioethics, Australia’s first research centre in bioethics, was established by Monash University in October 1980. The important developments in life-support technology, organ transplantation, and particularly in vitro fertilisation during the late 1970s raised challenging new ethical issues, many of which crossed traditional disciplinary boundaries. Monash University, whose scientists helped pioneer IVF techniques, set up the centre to promote research on these and related ethical issues, and to develop educational programs in bioethics. The centre also aimed to raise the level of public debate and improve community understanding of these issues by providing an advisory and resource centre for government, professional, educational, and community groups. Peter Singer was the centre’s founding director, and the first research fellow, Helga Kuhse, was appointed in early 1981. Kuhse became director of the centre in 1992, and Justin Oakley, who was appointed lecturer in 1990, has been director since 1999.
Based from the outset at Monash’s Clayton campus, the centre joined the Faculty of Arts in 1990 and has been a constituent part of the School of Philosophy and Bioethics since 2002. The centre has become known for its practical and non-sectarian approach to ethical issues, with a number of its projects drawing extensively on empirical research to challenge aspects of existing medical practice and familiar assumptions in debates about reproduction. Singer and Kuhse, in particular, have been trenchant critics of a reliance on sanctity-of-human-life views by health professionals and lawmakers in justifying medical decisions at the beginning and end of life.
The novel ethical issues raised by IVF were a major focus of the centre’s early research, in the context of groundbreaking work by Monash IVF researchers Carl Wood and Alan Trounson. The centre’s projects on the ethics of IVF and embryo research resulted in some of the first published work on these topics, including Walters and Singer (1982) and Singer and Wells (1984) (see also Singer et al. 1990). Subsequently, Kuhse and Singer investigated the ethics of end-of-life decision-making, producing an innovative and controversial study into the justifiability of withholding treatment from infants born with severe disabilities (Kuhse and Singer 1985; see also Kuhse 1987; Kuhse 1994). Notable publications drawing on the centre’s empirical research during the 1990s include a study of physicians’ and nurses’ views on voluntary euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions (Kuhse et al. 1997a), and a study of partialist and impartialist approaches to ethical reasoning by health professionals (Kuhse et al. 1997b). Many of these and other projects were supported by grants from the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
During his time at the Centre for Human Bioethics, Singer produced some of the most widely-used textbooks and anthologies in applied ethics and ethical theory, including Practical Ethics (2nd ed. 1993), Applied Ethics (1986), A Companion to Ethics (1991), Ethics (Oxford Readers Series 1994b), along with several anthologies edited with Helga Kuhse, including A Companion to Bioethics (1998, 2nd ed. 2009), and Bioethics: An Anthology (1999, 2nd ed. 2006). Many of these and other works by centre staff have been translated into a number of foreign languages. Singer left Monash in mid 1999 to take up a chair in bioethics at Princeton University’s Centre for Human Values. Kuhse retired from her position at the end of 2000, remaining as an honorary researcher thereafter.
From the late 1990s onwards, centre staff published books taking broader perspectives on medical and nursing practice, such as Kuhse’s (1997) book on ethics and nursing, and Oakley and Cocking’s (2001) book applying virtue ethics to professional roles, along with books on the ethics of health care resource allocation (McKie et al. 1998), and on clinician accountability and informed consent (Clarke and Oakley 2007). (Oakley and Clarke  includes contributions discussing the arguments in ‘Informed Consent and Surgeons’ Performance’ [Clarke and Oakley 2004], for which the authors were awarded the nationally competitive 2004 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics.) In recent years Rob Sparrow has published influential work on disability rights critiques of pre-birth testing (Sparrow 2005) and on reproductive ethics (Sparrow 2006). Previous academic staff at the centre include Stephen Buckle, John Burgess, Lynn Gillam, Dean Cocking, Julian Savulescu, David McCarthy, John McKie, Udo Schüklenk and David Neil, along with research assistants on various projects, and administrative officers Heather Mahamooth and Melva Renshaw.
The centre has promoted bioethics research through the prestigious journal Bioethics, established by Singer and Kuhse in 1987 and edited at the Centre until 2000. It also publishes a quarterly journal, Monash Bioethics Review, edited by Deborah Zion and Justin Oakley, which began as Bioethics News in 1981. Also, Singer and Kuhse founded the International Association of Bioethics in 1994, whose governing body includes many representatives from developing as well as developed countries. Members of the centre have also done much consultancy work for various government bodies, and have played an influential role in public debate and law reform in many areas, including legislation governing assisted reproduction, surrogate motherhood, and end-of-life decision-making.
Centre staff have supervised many Masters by research and Ph.D. theses addressing a wide variety of ethical issues, including the ethics of biomedical research in developing countries (see Schüklenk and Hogan 1996; Schüklenk 1998; Zion 2002; Ballantyne 2005), end-of-life decision-making (see Olver 2002; Bailey 2002), and the role of patient autonomy in clinical decision-making (see Spriggs 2005; Biegler forthcoming). In 1989 the centre developed one of the world’s first Master of Bioethics programs, which has produced several hundred graduates over its twenty year existence. One particularly notable graduate is intensive care nurse Toni Hoffman, who became the whistleblower in the scandal involving surgeon Dr Jayant Patel at Bundaberg Base Hospital during 2003–2005, for which Toni was named Australia’s ‘local hero’ in the 2006 Australian of the Year awards (see also the ABC TV program, Australian Story, 26 June 2005). The centre’s students and members of its steering committee played a leading role in the establishment of the Australasian Bioethics Association, which holds an annual conference. Many of the centre’s doctoral and Masters graduates have become highly successful bioethicists in their own right, including Julian Savulescu, Udo Schüklenk, Deborah Zion, Lynn Gillam, Merle Spriggs, Leslie Cannold (see her 1998), Angela Ballantyne, Paul Biegler, and Russell Blackford. The centre has also attracted many international visitors, research fellows and exchange students over the years.
In 2005 the centre began teaching undergraduate bioethics subjects, which have been popular with students from arts, science, law, and medicine, and Bachelor of Arts students can take a Minor sequence in bioethics. The appointments of Rob Sparrow in 2004, Jo Asscher in 2005, and Linda Barclay in 2007 helped the centre expand and strengthen its offerings at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
The centre held an annual conference in each of its first fifteen years, and each year since the mid 1980s the centre has run a week-long Intensive Bioethics Course (normally held at Mt Buffalo Chalet in north-east Victoria), dealing with ethical issues in human research and clinical practice of direct concern to health professionals and members of human research ethics committees.
The Centre for Human Bioethics is part of a new international network established by the University of Tokyo Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, to further develop collaborative research and teaching links between eight of the world’s leading bioethics centres. Other members of the network, which will involve an annual bioethics summit at Tokyo University, include the Hastings Centre in New York, the National Institutes of Health Department of Bioethics in Washington DC, and The Ethox Centre at Oxford University.
The bioethics agenda has always been responsive to the latest developments in medical and nursing practice, genetics, research on humans, and reproductive technologies, but the field has grown remarkably to encompass a very broad expanse of issues in a way that was perhaps difficult to envisage when the centre was founded thirty years ago. Through its research output and its many graduates, the centre has been at the forefront of this field, and it continues to play a key role in driving the bioethics agenda.
Moral psychology, as I here construe it, is an investigation of the psychological structures necessary, on conceptual grounds, for people to count as moral agents. This involves a number of distinct projects concerning, for instance, the nature of moral judgement and moral knowledge, the nature of moral emotion, the sources of moral motivation, and the nature of both weakness and strength of will. Due to limitations on space, I will focus exclusively on the last topic—weakness and strength of will—where Australians have made particularly prominent contributions.
(The term ‘moral psychology’ is sometimes used in other ways. For instance, on one prominent construal, ‘moral psychology’ consists of an investigation of the moral implications of psychological research. See Doris and Stich 2006. While relatively few Australian philosophers have engaged with empirically informed moral psychology, there is a growing list of exceptions. For instance, Levy (2007) undertakes a wide-ranging examination of the implications of recent neuroscientific research on various moral concepts.)
Frank Jackson (1984b) argues that agents are weak-willed when they irrationally change their desires. It is rational to change one’s desires, moreover, only when this change is prompted by the acquisition of new knowledge. For example, a smoker may rationally abandon the desire to smoke upon discovering that smoking causes cancer. Because the smoker had desired to smoke only on the condition that smoking doesn’t cause cancer, changing desires on the basis of this new knowledge is perfectly rational.
Two aspects of Jackson’s proposal may be distinguished. First, the account of the rational smoker (above) suggests that the acquisition of new information is a necessary condition for the rationality of desire-revision. Secondly, Jackson suggests that any revisions that don’t occur in this way are irrational and, in particular, weak-willed. Updating desires without new information is thus a necessary condition for an agent to count as weak-willed. A non-smoker, for instance, may irrationally revise her desires in the following way: Imagine that this non-smoker believes that smoking causes cancer, and that she desires not to get cancer more than she desires to smoke. However, occasionally, the non-smoker experiences a craving for cigarettes which causes these preferences to reverse so that she temporarily prefers smoking over the avoidance of cancer. Insofar as this reversal of preferences is not caused by any change in belief, Jackson’s view generates the plausible result that the non-smoker, in this case, is irrational in revising her intentions; she is weak-willed.
It follows that agents may be weak-willed, on Jackson’s view, even when they act in accordance with their all-things-considered better judgements and that they may be strong-willed even when they flout these judgements. The crucial factor concerns how agents update their desires, not whether their desires align with their better judgements.
However, both of Jackson’s claims meet with counterexamples. First, consider the following counterexample to Jackson’s first necessity claim. Christopher Cordner (1985: 277) presents the case of the scholar who has devoted his life to his studies and desires, among other things, to work every day from nine to five. One day the scholar falls in love and, without changing any of his beliefs about the pleasures associated with various activities, nor any other views, re-evaluates his priorities, and stops desiring to work on weekends. Intuitively, the scholar’s revision of desires is not weak-willed despite the fact that the scholar doesn’t acquire any new information. This undermines Jackson’s claim that, in order for a change of desire to be rational, it is necessary that agents acquire new information. Cordner’s scholar seems perfectly rational despite updating his desires ‘for no reason’. In other words, it is not irrational to be weak-willed in Jackson’s sense. Thus, Jackson’s account fails to offer a normatively significant conception of weakness of will.
Secondly, John Bigelow, Susan Dodds and Robert Pargetter (1990: 42–3) present a counterexample that appears to show, contra Jackson, that weakness of will doesn’t necessarily involve an irrational change in desire. Indeed, they argue, agents may be weak without changing their desires at all. Consider the case of a coward who opts to avoid pain rather than do the right thing. While this seems to be a clear case of weakness, the coward’s behaviour may be a function of desires that he was born with: he had always desired to avoid pain more than he desired to do the right thing. Bigelow et al. suggest, given this, that the normatively significant aspect of weakness of will must involve some conflict within an agent, at one time. But Jackson’s account fails to capture this insofar as it construes weakness as essentially diachronic.
John Bigelow, Susan Dodds and Robert Pargetter
Both Bigelow et al. and Jackson see weakness as involving a conflict among desires. However, according to Bigelow et al., the conflict is synchronic, not diachronic. They distinguish between levels of desire (following Jeffrey 1974 and Frankfurt 1971), and analyse ‘temptation’ as the desire to do something when one desires not to act on such a desire. Thus, second-order desires are privileged insofar as strength of will involves their dominance and weakness of will involves their subordination.
Bigelow et al. argue that their account maps onto the same plausible cases that Jackson employs, at least when the stories are filled out appropriately. However, they claim, their account correctly states that there is no weakness if we stipulate that, in the relevant cases, there is no real conflict between first- and second-order desires. For example, consider Jackson’s non-smoker (who lacks even a conditional desire to smoke, were a craving to arise). If such an agent nevertheless comes to form an effective desire to smoke upon experiencing a craving to smoke, it may seem that this agent is irrational. Bigelow et al. argue, however, that this is plausible only as long as we assume, further, that (at all relevant times) the smoker desires that she not act on any desire to smoke. Without this assumption, while the smoker’s change of desires might seem arbitrary, it is not obviously irrational. Similarly, while Cordner’s scholar seems to undergo an arbitrary change of desire, this change will seem irrational only if we assume, further, that the scholar has a continuous desire not to act on any desires contrary to his scholarly pursuits.
Bigelow et al. (like Jackson) hold that weakness does not necessarily involve a conflict between moral judgement and desire. Agents may be weak-willed (and hence irrational) even in cases where they believe they ought to be acting as they do. For instance, Bigelow et al. mention the case of an agent who believes that he ought, at least once, to do something which he judges to be seriously wrong. Suppose the agent decides to commit a murder, but finds himself unable to go through with it. If we stipulate that the agent wants to act on this desire, then this agent counts as weak-willed, according to Bigelow et al., despite the fact that he succumbs to the temptation to act rightly, by his own lights.
Jeanette Kennett (1991) suggests that the agent who desires to act on an immoral desire may seem irrational in failing to act immorally only because he judges that he ought to be acting immorally. It is consistent with the case that the irrationality of weakness of will derives from a failure to cohere one’s desires with one’s moral judgements, not (necessarily) with one’s second-order desires. Kennett goes on to present the case of an agent who dislikes strawberries, but wants to like them nevertheless. This agent would seem to be rational even if she failed to conform her first-order desires with her second-order desires. Kennett argues that, to the extent that one’s second-order desires are merely arbitrary, there is no rational requirement to confirm one’s first-order desires with them.
Jeanette Kennett, Michael Smith, Philip Pettit
Drawing on Frankfurt (1971), Bigelow et al. claim that second-order desires are closely associated with one’s self. Because one ‘identifies’ with one’s second-order desires, weak-willed behaviour involves ‘letting oneself down’, and perhaps constitutes a failure of integrity. (See also Bigelow and Pargetter 2007.) Thus, weakness of will is irrational, on this view, because it involves a failure of autonomy (self-rule). Like Kennett, Philip Pettit and Michael Smith (1993) reject this account of the normative requirement violated by weak-willed agents. They argue that weakness involves a failure, rather, of orthonomy (right-rule). Agents are orthonomous (and, to that extent, rational) when they conform their behaviour to ‘the right’ (as they see it). This account explains why Kennett’s strawberry-eater is not intuitively weak-willed despite manifesting a failure of autonomy (as construed by Bigelow et al.). Similarly, this account explains our intuitions about Cordner’s scholar. Because the scholar experiences a shift in judgement about what he ought to do, orthonomy requires him to update his desires in light of this shift. (The scholar would have been weak-willed had he failed to update his desires. The plausibility of this thought thus puts further pressure on Jackson’s account.)
Kennett and Smith (1994, 1996) argue that any plausible account of weakness must explain the distinction between weak-willed agents (who retain the capacity to exercise self-control, despite their failure of orthonomy) and compelled agents (who lack orthonomy precisely because they are unable to exercise control). That is, weak-willed agents must be able to desire to do what they judge to be best, even in cases where their strongest desires are to act contrary to their better judgements. But the capacity for self-control appears to be paradoxical. How is it possible that, at the very moment one most wants to act wrongly, one also successfully resists this desire, by exercising self-control? On the one hand, if the desire to act wrongly is, in fact, one’s strongest desire then self-control would appear to be impossible; but on the other hand, if one successfully resists the temptation to act wrongly, then the desire to act wrongly couldn’t have been one’s strongest desire, after all (Mele 1987). Kennett and Smith defuse this paradox by arguing that self-control does not necessarily involve performing an action (despite appearances). Rather, self-control may involve the disposition to have certain thoughts which indirectly change the weight of one’s desires. For instance, if an agent is tempted to eat too many cookies, contrary to her better judgement, she may be said to possess the capacity for self-control if she possesses the disposition to think of cookies as lumps of fat at appropriate moments of temptation. Such thoughts, we may assume, will normally have the effect of reducing the agent’s desire for cookies. (The possession of such a disposition must, however, be compatible with the disposition failing to manifest on certain relevant occasions. Otherwise, weakness of will would be impossible. See Smith (2003) for further discussion of the dispositional structures that distinguish weak-willed agents from compulsives.)
Founded in 1974 with the aim of providing a fresh approach to learning that favoured interdisciplinary studies, Murdoch University initially eschewed a traditional structure of discipline-centred departments and faculties. As a result, foundation appointees, Patsy Hallen and Michael Booth—joined in 1975 by David Kipp—developed philosophically based units within the School of Social Inquiry. Units on the history of ideas, existentialism, self and society, relations between science, technology and society, and environmental ethics were linked with social and political theory more generally. In 1987 philosophy was nominally given more prominence through the establishment of a course entitled ‘Politics, Philosophy and Sociology’. But when Jeff Malpas was appointed lecturer in philosophy in 1990 it had become apparent that philosophy required a stand-alone course. With the squeeze on the humanities in Australia under way such aspirations were truly remarkable. However, due to Malpas’ extraordinary energy and vision, and the unwavering support and drive of the professor of English, Horst Ruthrof, this well-nigh miraculous change in philosophy’s status was achieved.
In 1993 students were offered a degree in philosophy for the first time at Murdoch. Core units were developed in metaphysics, moral philosophy, epistemology and philosophy of language, with electives emphasising connections with other disciplines, such as social sciences, linguistic theory, history, education, cultural theory, science, technology and the environment. One of the highlights of these early years was the philosophy of language unit, ‘Meaning and Interpretation’, in which students revelled in the robust debates between joint coordinators, Jeff, the philosopher, and Horst, the semiotician.
The subsequent fifteen years have seen the department (or in current Murdoch parlance, the Philosophy Program) consolidate its position at Murdoch University and in the wider philosophical landscape in Western Australia. Units draw on all traditions of philosophy and are offered in both on-campus and off-campus modes. Undergraduate offerings have been particularly attractive to mature age and distance students who welcome the opportunity to study a wide-ranging set of units in an interdisciplinary context. In 1995 the program made history by winning a large government infrastructure grant, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia, for the development of the library collections in philosophy at both institutions.
Murdoch philosophers have also fostered a strong research environment in areas including phenomenology, existentialism, moral psychology and feminist philosophy. Notable books by staff include Malpas’ Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning (1992) and Place and Experience (1999), Peta Bowden’s Caring: Gender-Sensitive Ethics (1997), Ruthrof’s Semantics and the Body (1997) and The Body in Language (2000), Paul MacDonald’s Descartes and Husserl (2000), and most recently his two-volume History of the Concept of Mind (2003, 2006). The annual Philosophy Colloquium, established and hosted by Murdoch University since 2005 through the initiative of Lubica Ucnik, and attended by over one-hundred participants each year, provides a showcase for student and staff research, and a focus for academic philosophy in Western Australia.
Established against the grain of the dominant educational culture, philosophy at Murdoch University has had to struggle throughout its lifetime to maintain its position. However, the combined enthusiasm and commitment of staff and students has ensured that it continues to offer important opportunities for study and research in philosophy in a vibrant and intimate environment that fosters links with other disciplines.