John Passmore (1914–2004) was the most famous of John Anderson’s students at the University of Sydney. However, although he always acknowledged his debt to Anderson, he forged his own distinctive philosophical career. His philosophical output was huge: twelve substantial books on very diverse topics ranging from Hume’s empiricism, the idea of human perfectibility, our responsibility for the natural environment, the philosophy of science, aesthetics, and government. In addition, he published more than 200 articles in academic journals and books, and a similar number of essays in popular journals. He once said that philosophy was a ‘joyous’ activity, and he certainly took a great deal of pleasure in going to conferences, accepting invitations from universities around the world and generally being a philosopher at large.
Passmore’s own philosophical stance was a kind of critical and open-minded empiricism which eschewed crude positivism and phenomenalism. He rejected an ‘optical’ or observational view of consciousness, which sees consciousness as recording what is immediately presented to it. This is, he said, to misunderstand the nature of our ordinary attitude to the world: ‘Man is not a recording demi-angel, but someone who has to make his way in the world, to cope with it’ (Passmore 1970: 295). It was because of this that he attached a great deal of importance to the history of crucial ideas such as human perfectibility, nature and, indeed, the idea of philosophy itself.
In his early work, Hume’s Intentions (1952), Passmore claimed that Hume was ‘pre-eminently a breaker of new ground, a philosopher who opens up new lines of thought, who suggests to us an endless variety of philosophical explanation’ (1952: 153), and it is clear that Passmore followed the great Scot in this.
Throughout his career Passmore was interested in the nature of philosophical thinking—the kind of activity it is, how it has changed, and its future prospects. His books A Hundred Years of Philosophy (1957), Philosophical Reasoning (1961), Recent Philosophers (1985) and Contemporary Concepts of Philosophy (1993) are examples of this interest. He was, in fact, one of the very few Australian philosophers in the 1950s and ’60s who took European philosophy and its meta-philosophical tendencies seriously. The sections in the second edition of A Hundred Years of Philosophy on phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty) and existentialism (Sartre and Marcel) are remarkable for their sympathetic spirit, as compared with those Anglo-American philosophers, such as A. J. Ayer and others, who dismissed European philosophy in toto as ‘bad poetry’.
A good deal of Passmore’s work was in the form of intelligent commentary on other thinkers of his time, but a number of his writings are still relevant to contemporary philosophers. This is certainly true of The Perfectibility of Man (1970) and of the later book Man’s Responsibility for Nature (1974). The work on the idea of human perfectibility displays extraordinary erudition in tracing the idea from the Greeks and various early Christian views, through nineteenth-century anarchists, Marx, Darwin and modern Darwinians such as Teilhard de Chardin, to twentieth-century utopians and dystopians and the ‘new mystics’ such as Aldous Huxley, Norman Brown and Alan Watts. Passmore does not, perhaps, sufficiently take into account that ideas are received, and interpreted by those who receive them, in very different ways so that it is formidably difficult to say what ‘the Homeric’ view of perfectibility, or ‘the Platonic’ view, or ‘the Christian’ view, or ‘the Darwinian’ view really is. We have to take account not only of what Homer or Plato said, but also of what their audiences thought they said. However, The Perfectibility of Man is an impressive piece of work and is still worth reading.
In his polemical work Man’s Responsibility for Nature Passmore attacks the views of some of the ‘deep ecologists’ who, so he claims, have a ‘mystical’ (i.e. non-scientific) view of nature (wildernesses, features like the Great Barrier Reef, etc.). He agrees that we do have some kind of responsibility for natural phenomena and that we do have some kind of obligation with regard to them. But he rejects the arguments used in support of the ‘green’ position which often appeal to moral (non-negotiable) absolutes that cannot be justified by ‘principles which are so decisive that we should surrender every other objective in order to adhere to them’ (1974: viii). Passmore’s work was sharply criticised by some ecological philosophers, but he steadfastly maintained that he opposed the pollution of the planet and that we have an obligation to future generations to leave the natural world in good shape. Nevertheless, it is important that we use the right arguments for our ecological beliefs and actions. Resorting to non-scientific ‘mysticism’, he thought, will not in the long run help the environmental cause.
However, it is not entirely clear what Passmore’s own arguments about such issues as the logging of forests, the preservation of wildernesses, the mitigation of global warming, and controlling over-population amount to. Many environmentalists of a non-mystical persuasion resort to simple-minded utilitarian arguments: we should attempt to mitigate global warming because, unless we do, the planet will become unlivable for humans in the future. Passmore dismisses these arguments on the grounds that ‘we cannot really calculate the probable effects of any policy concerned with the future … How confident can we be that in attempting to cut down on growth in order to save the biosphere we would not provoke social and political upheavals of the first order … culminating perhaps in the setting up of a rigidly totalitarian state?’ (1974: 84–5).
Instead of appealing to formal principles of an absolute kind we must, Passmore argues, employ quite informal and commonsense considerations. He therefore writes: ‘When men act for the sake of a future they will not live to see, it is for the most part out of love for persons, places and forms of activity, a cherishing of them, nothing more grandiose’. For example, ‘to love a place is to wish it to survive unspoiled’ (1974: 88). In the same way, we ought to act humanely towards animals simply because they can suffer and not because, as animal liberationists hold, animals have interests ‘which make notions of justice and rights applicable to them’ (1974: 88).
Passmore’s minor works are a mixed bag. His book Serious Art (1991) is an interesting examination of standard ideas about the serious arts—as distinct from the entertainment and propagandistic arts—but it does not advance our knowledge of what kind of meaning those works of art have. It might, for instance, have been worthwhile for Passmore to examine how contemporary Australian indigenous art has a double meaning, one of a religious kind in paying homage to the ancestor spirits of the artist’s ‘country’ and the other of a purely aesthetic kind accessible to the non-indigenous viewer in Paris or New York.
Similarly, Passmore’s small book The Limits of Government (1981) takes a fairly narrow view of political power and says very little about the issues that now beset liberal democratic societies: how to deal with terrorism which attempts to subvert the rule of law, and how to maintain liberal values in religiously and ethically diverse societies?
In a lecture given on his 80th birthday, Passmore rejected fashionable talk about ‘the end of philosophy’ promoted by those who envisage the natural sciences taking over the whole terrain once occupied by philosophy, and in a different way by some postmodernists who claim that what we know as ‘philosophy’ is a transitory cultural epiphenomenon which has outlived its usefulness. Philosophy, Passmore says, will always have an indispensable task since humans argue with each other about a vast range of issues and we need to have a discipline that is concerned with assessing good and bad arguments about human perfectibility, responsibility for nature, God, freedom and immortality, serious art and even philosophy itself. ‘The controversial nature of philosophy’, he concludes, ‘is not a defect; it is precisely why, for all her faults, I love her still—over sixty years after my first acquaintance with her’ (1996: 18).
Carole Pateman was born in Maresfield in Sussex, England in 1940. She left school at 16, but as an adult received a university education at Oxford where she was a student first at Ruskin College and later at Lady Margaret Hall. Her first book, Participation and Democratic Theory, appeared in 1970, and during 1970–72 she was Mary Ewert Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford. In 1973 she took up an appointment in the Department of Government at the University of Sydney. It was while at Sydney and during a period as a visiting fellow in the Research School of the Social Sciences (RSSS) at Australian National University (ANU) that she wrote her next book, The Problem of Political Obligation (1979). Both these early books examine the divide between classical liberal theories and participatory theories of democracy. Pateman’s early political philosophy was profoundly influenced by Rousseau’s theory of participatory democracy, and she argued in these early works that only within a participatory democracy can the problem of political obligation be coherently solved.
During the 1970s the focus of Pateman’s interest in political theory shifted, and she developed a feminist critique of mainstream political thought, suggesting that even radical theories of participatory democracy suffer from the fact that they fail to acknowledge ‘the problem of women’s standing in a political order in which citizenship has been made in the male image’ (Pateman 1989: 14). From the perspective of the feminist critique of democratic theory, Rousseau’s political philosophy appears deeply problematic, for he quite explicitly asserts that women ought to be passive citizens who confine their social contribution to the private sphere of the family. He famously declaimed, ‘never has a people perished from an excess of wine; all perish from the disorder of women’. In influential papers such as ‘“Mere Auxiliaries to the Commonwealth”: Women and the Origins of Liberalism’, written with Teresa Brennan, ‘The Disorder of Women’ and ‘The Fraternal Social Contract’ (collected together in The Disorder of Women, 1989), Pateman developed her feminist critique of contract theory. The first of these exposes the radical nature of Hobbes’ contract theory, a task continued in ‘“God Hath Ordained to Man a Helper”: Hobbes, Patriarchy and Conjugal Right’ (1991). The third argues that the social contract is a fraternal contract. It is ‘a modern patriarchal pact that establishes men’s sex right over women’ (Pateman 1989: 52). Building on the theories of Genevieve Lloyd and Susan Bordo, according to which reason and mind have been constructed as masculine attributes in contrast to feminine emotion and body, Pateman asserts that ‘the civil individual has been constructed in opposition to women and all that our bodies symbolise, so how can we become full members of civil society or parties to the fraternal contract?’ (Pateman 1989: 52).
Pateman’s feminist critique of social contract theory culminated in her seminal book, The Sexual Contract (1988). This book mounts a substantial critique of contract theory from a variety of perspectives. She argued that although historically contract theory is represented as involving the overthrow of patriarchy—epitomised by Locke’s critique of Filmer’s Patriarchia—in fact ‘there is a missing half of the story that reveals how men’s patriarchal right is established through contract’ (Pateman 1988: 2). Here one might accuse Pateman of exploiting an ambiguity in the concept of patriarchy which she nevertheless acknowledges (Pateman 1991: 56–9). What Locke objected to was a theory of the state which justified political authority as similar to, and as natural as, the authority of a male parent over his children. What Pateman finds lacking in contract theory is that, while the sovereign is no longer thought of as a father, nor male citizens represented as children, women continue to be subordinate to men. Pateman claims that in the stories that contract theorists write (with the exception of that told by Hobbes) ‘women naturally lack the attributes and capacities of individuals’. Women are not party to the contract, but are the subjects of the contract, ‘which is the vehicle through which men transform their natural right over women into the security of civil patriarchal right’ (Pateman 1988: 6, 178). This truth is demonstrated by Freud who, in his account of the original contract—set up after a hypothetical parricide at the origin of civilisation—makes it clear that this is a fraternal contract that will bring sexual access to women (Pateman 1988: 103).
The Sexual Contract is not merely a critique of the fact that most stories of the foundation of political authority in a social contract are told in a way which obscures this patriarchal commitment to an individual citizen who is male; it is also a critique of the theory of free contract within modern capitalist society. Taking a good deal from Marxist critiques of the employment contract as establishing, in effect, wage slavery, Pateman argues that other contracts, such as marriage or prostitution or surrogacy contracts, which are represented by contract theorists as freely entered into by individuals, are, like employment contracts, mechanisms for creating relations of domination and subordination and are ‘tainted by the odor of slavery’ (Pateman 1988: 230). She is thus critical of feminist contractarians who see emancipatory promise in the idea that women should be treated ‘as sexually neuter “individuals”’, represented as ‘owners of the property in their persons’ (Pateman 1988: 153). This she describes as ‘the political defeat of women as women. When contract and the individual hold full sway under the flag of civil freedom, women are left with no alternative but to (try to) become replicas of men’ (Pateman 1988: 187).
The aim of The Sexual Contract is to expose the internal contradictions and tensions in contract theory, but it is vague as to what is to be put in its place. It is clear that Pateman thinks that there is a need to recognise sexual difference: ‘To take embodied identity seriously demands the abandonment of the masculine, unitary individual to open up space for two figures; one masculine, one feminine’ (Pateman 1988: 224). It is less clear what is to fill this space. Pateman seems to think that we need to go beyond contractualism. ‘A free social order cannot be a contractual order. There are other forms of free agreement through which women and men can constitute political relations … If political relations are to lose all resemblance to slavery, free women and men must willingly agree to uphold the social conditions of their autonomy’ (Pateman 1988: 232). Yet willingly agreeing to uphold the social conditions of autonomy sounds remarkably like a purified social contract in which all subjects of the contract are willing and autonomous participants in its architecture. This criticism has been levelled by one of Pateman’s friends, Charles Mills, author of The Racial Contract, a book deeply influenced by Pateman (Pateman and Mills 2007: 14–24; Mills 1997). Mills suggests that the difference between ideal contractualism and Pateman’s positive view may be semantic. But Pateman in fact seems to want to insist that both contractarianism and contractualism are incoherent because, in different ways, they each propose both that there exist no rights prior to contract (the individual is free to make any contract) and that at the same time there does exist a pre-contractual right to enter into any contract. Another way of putting her objection to contract theory is that the contractualist either consistently, but implausibly, sees society as involving contracts all the way down, and even as underpinning the unequal relations of parent and child, as Hobbes did, or he grounds his contract theory on an under-theorised doctrine of relations of natural subordination, as did Locke and Rousseau, thus contradicting the assumption of the equal liberty of contracting individuals.
In other recent works Pateman has turned towards arguing for a basic income (Pateman 1997, 2003, 2004). While such a proposal is hardly radical when represented as a ‘safety net’ for the least advantaged, Pateman’s views hark back to her earliest ideas, according to which every member of a polity ought to be given the means to participate actively in the political process. Contracting out of one’s right to full participation in the polity as an autonomous equal ought not to be an option, but it is an option allowed by actual historical contract theorists. This insight appears as a connecting thread through all Pateman’s political philosophy.
Two figures stand out as major contributors to the philosophy of perception in Australasia: D. M. Armstrong and Frank Jackson. Armstrong’s classic book in perception is his Perception and the Physical World (1961). This work provides the basis for his considered view of perception, which was expanded—most notably to cover bodily sensations, as in Armstrong (1962)—and refined in later works, e.g. Armstrong (1968, 1980b, 2004b). In the earlier work, Armstrong provides a defence of (cognitive) direct realism, and does so in the context of an examination of a triad of competing theories of perception: direct realism, representational realism, and phenomenalism.
In this book, Armstrong shows how a careful statement of the argument from illusion leads to either representationalism or phenomenalism. This result leads Armstrong, in turn, to re-examine the argument from illusion, and to challenge one of its key premises—its account of sensory illusion. His influential and controversial analysis of sensory illusion, in terms of the acquisition of belief or inclination to belief, is extended to cover sense-impressions and perception itself: perception is held to be nothing but the acquiring of beliefs about the nature of the world. Much later, he expressed the wish that he had never used the concept of belief in this analysis. His later view is that the concept should be replaced by that of information, so that having a sense-impression is nothing but the acquiring of a state with a certain propositional content.
Right from the beginning, Armstrong acknowledged that the greatest problem for the theory—a problem for which he did not have an adequate answer—was presented by secondary qualities such as colours, tastes, sounds, smells, etc. The problem is that if we aim to provide a realistic interpretation of physics, ‘we can give no account of what we mean by saying that a surface is coloured red in terms of objects that have a real existence’ (Armstrong 1961: 172). In a later work (Armstrong 2004b), written in response to John Foster (2004b), Armstrong admits that the problem of secondary qualities is still the major obstacle for his fully developed view, but he is now much more confident of solving the problem. (Foster, in a reply [2004a], is more sceptical.)
Frank Jackson’s book, Perception (1977b), is another classic text in the philosophy of perception. In this book, Jackson disputes many of the central theses advanced by Armstrong. Jackson provides a defence of the representative theory of perception, and with it, a theory of sense-data. Both theories had fallen into disfavour among philosophers at that time. Besides answering the objections, brought by Armstrong and other philosophers, to the representative theory, Jackson presents a positive case for its acceptance.
Jackson would probably admit that though few could challenge his arguments for sense data, hardly any were convinced. It is worth noting that although Jackson explicitly rejects the classical argument from illusion as being of little value, he argues for a principle that, as other philosophers have recently pointed out (e.g. A. D. Smith 2002) is central to the argument. A major plank in Jackson’s argument for the existence of sense-data is the principle that when something appears to a subject to have certain properties, then—at least for a certain class of properties, the sensible properties—there exists something that has these properties.
Quite apart from its main thesis, Jackson’s book was remarkable for several other features. One is his extended discussion and analysis of three different uses of ‘looks’: the phenomenal, the (perceptual-)epistemic and the comparative. This discussion has been very influential, being widely cited (see Hyslop 1983, and Maund 1986 and 2003, for comments on the discussion). A second is his defence of a subjectivist view of colour, which plays a pivotal role in the argument. A third is the chapter on mental objects, in which he produces novel and apparently devastating arguments against the adverbial analyses of (all) sensory experience. Since this time, adverbialism has tended to be replaced by intentionalist theories of perceptual experience, as the standard rival to sense-data theories.
It is important to note that, in his later work (Jackson 2004b) Jackson came to reject his earlier defence of the representative theory (and of sense-data), and to revise his views on colour, now defending an objectivist view of colour (Jackson 1996). It is also interesting that, while the issue of colour plays a significant role in both Jackson’s and Armstrong’s work, it has been the focus of attention for a number of other Australian philosophers: Keith Campbell (1969), J. J. C. Smart (1963), and Barry Maund (1995).
Armstrong acknowledges his debt to one of his earliest philosophy teachers at the University of Sydney, John Anderson. Some of the influences, in perception, can be detected in an early paper (Anderson 1926–27). Here (as elsewhere, see Anderson 1962) Anderson defends direct realism, which he views as a form of empiricism, but one that is very different from the other varieties popular among philosophers at the time. Anderson has a detailed and critical examination of C. D. Broad’s famous discussion of the round penny, which is supposed to look elliptical when viewed from varying positions. In terms that become familiar in Armstrong’s work, Anderson argues that ‘an elliptical appearance’ in respect of the penny can only mean a false belief—about the penny.
One of the most influential pieces in the philosophy of perception is a chapter by Alan Chalmers (1976). Here, Chalmers employs a persuasive set of examples to illustrate the thesis that ‘the subjective experiences that they [observers] undergo, when viewing an object or scene, is not determined solely be the images on their retinas but depends also on the experience, knowledge, expectations and general inner state of the observer’ (Chalmers 1976: 23–24). Chalmers, like many of us, has spent a large part of his subsequent career trying to convince hosts of students that this thesis does not have the radical conclusions that they are tempted to draw from it.
One important aspect to Australasian philosophy of perception concerns historical approaches to the subject. Some of this has been in significant journal articles, e.g. Grave (1964) on Berkeley, and Candlish (1996) on Wittgenstein and kinaesthetic perception. Grave’s paper on Berkeley’s theory of the mind and its ideas concerns the possibility of reconciling Berkeley’s claim that the mind and its ideas are entirely distinct with the principle of the identity of an idea with the perception of it—given their implications for the perception of objects. Candlish’s paper concerns Wittgenstein’s challenge to the claim made by generations of psychologists and philosophers that kinaesthetic sensations are essential for kinaesthetic perception.
Several books on the history of perception are outstanding. One is Armstrong’s work, Berkeley’s Theory of Vision (1960). This is a thorough-going, critical examination of Berkeley’s text, a book that had tended to be neglected by philosophers (though it had been extremely influential in psychology). Armstrong devotes great attention to Berkeley’s celebrated premise, that distance, of itself and immediately, cannot be seen, showing first how its implications have been widely misunderstood (though not by Berkeley), and second that it is highly dubious.
Another significant historical text is Selwyn Grave’s The Scottish Philosophers of Common Sense (1960). This book has been under-valued—perhaps because of its title, which is unfortunate, given that the dominant figure in the study is Thomas Reid. Given the revival in Reid’s philosophical fortunes in recent times, Grave’s book is worthy of closer attention. Grave corrects a common misunderstanding of Reid’s theory of perception, by pointing out that Reid’s distinction between sensation and perception is the difference between a sensation per se and a sensation functioning as a natural sign.
A more recent work in this tradition is Peter Anstey’s Philosophy of Robert Boyle (2000). This book has a detailed discussion of Boyle’s account of the sensible qualities, such as colour, taste, smell, etc., of their perception, and their ontological status. Anstey skilfully charts the connections, and differences, between Boyle and both Descartes and Locke.
(Further reading: Bogdan [ed.] 1984.)
Philip Noel Pettit (b.1945) was professor of philosophy and social and political theory at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University from 1983 to 2002, when he became the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University. He retains his connections with Australia through visiting professorships at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.
His work spans a broad range of areas in philosophy, combining themes in the philosophy of mind and language with moral and political philosophy. He is perhaps unique in extending from this broad philosophical base to make important interdisciplinary contributions in economics and politics, including the history of political theory and social science. The range of this work stems from the relevance across disciplines of fundamental philosophical issues concerning the nature of normativity and rationality which have been the focus of Pettit’s research. Perhaps another reason for the interdisciplinary scope of his work was his central role in the Research School of Social Sciences, which during the period of his tenure consolidated its worldwide reputation for work in philosophy and social sciences.
In the philosophy of mind Pettit is associated with the development of a commonsense functionalist characterisation of mental states. This work derives from Frank Ramsey and David Lewis on the definition of theoretical terms and also finds important expression in the work of Frank Jackson. This form of functionalism identifies a mental state (such as a belief or desire) with the causal role it plays in a network of causally related mental states. These causal roles are defined by a tacit theory embedded in folk psychological knowledge about the relationship between mental states and behaviour. Important features of this theory are its holism (a mental state is defined by its relations to others) and a distinction between the functional role of a theoretically defined mental state and its realisation or implementation. This distinction between role and realisation for multiply realisable properties explains how mental states supervene on computational and physical states, and how the same mental state can be realised in different computational systems.
This version of functionalism is important in debates in the philosophy of mind about mental causation, content and consciousness, and in debates in the philosophy of science about levels of explanation. Pettit also extended these conceptual tools to fundamental questions raised about explanation and ontology in the social sciences. A role property such as a high crime rate can be shared by different societies even though that property is differently realised (ratios of burglary to vandalism might differ between societies, for instance). The distinction between role and realisation also illuminates the way in which norms discernible at the macro level, such as moral or legal norms, are acquired and enacted by individual agents whose actions constitute the realisation of a social norm.
Crucial strands of Pettit’s thought concern the way in which individual agents, responding to local incentives, can acquire and replicate social norms. Pettit has made distinctive practical and theoretical contributions to understanding this topic centred on the idea that rational agency is itself a discursive phenomenon—something constituted in the process of argument and justification. An agent is more than a preference ranking system, but someone who can defend and justify the rationale for those preferences. The agent must be able to represent the relations among her states and grasp their normative justificatory relationships. Creatures whose behavioural dispositions coincide with a norm as a contingent feature of their computational engineering are not agents. Higher-level awareness of, and government by, norms is required, and here language as a medium of metarepresentation of first order states plays a crucial role. (In this instance, Pettit’s insights coincide elegantly with recent work on the neuroscience of cognitive control, or executive function as it is known, which gives symbolic representation a crucial role). Pettit has defended a view of language which has it that the representational nature of symbols is grounded in their role in the discursive practices of a community. These themes are synthesised in Pettit 1993 and 2002.
Applied to social, moral and political philosophy, elements of this package of ideas have been extremely influential at both theoretical and practical levels. For example, in The Economy of Esteem (2004) Pettit and co-author Geoffrey Brennan showed how individuals concerned to establish and maintain their individual reputation or standing in the opinion of others can generate and sustain socially beneficial norms. Similar work at the intersection of economics and philosophy is pursued in his collaboration with Christian List in a field known as ‘judgement aggregation theory’. This work addresses an intriguing and socially important question: Under what conditions can social groups such as corporations or governments be agents? Often they are deemed to be agents for practical purposes and the concept of a modern state inherits the status of sovereign agency vested in an individual ruler. Nonetheless, these practices rest on the philosophically dubious assumption of a continuity between the intuitive notion of rational agency we impute in folk psychology or decision theory and the norm-guided action of groups.
Clearly Pettit’s work is ideally placed to articulate the connections between individual and collective agency, and he has done this formally and informally. Agency depends on the ability to metarepresent the rational relations between one’s own attitudes in order to detect and reconcile inconsistencies. We can justify and explain ourselves to others, but equally we can metarepresent our own attitudes and rationally endorse or reject them as bases for decision. As Pettit points out, however, this condition is not met in social groups understood as mere aggregations of individuals.
The problem is not just that (as in prisoner’s dilemmas) individual agents acting in their own rational self-interest produce a collectively irrational outcome. Nor is it the problem familiar to economists of the intransitivity of social preferences. Pettit and List have shown that aggregating the conclusions of individuals who each use the same rule of reasoning to reach a conclusion about the conjunction of propositions which are not unanimously endorsed can produce a ‘discursive dilemma’. For example, in a population of three people (x, y, z) reasoning about the conjunction of three propositions (A, B, C), each individual might disbelieve one proposition: x might disbelieve A, y B and z C. Thus none of x, y, z believe A&B&C. Yet, since each proposition commands a majority, the ‘socially rational conclusion’ ought to be A&B&C, which is what logic recommends and which is in fact the rule being applied by individuals. A rational agent ought to be able to recognise and resolve this inconsistency by reflecting on the role of the relevant norm.
According to Pettit and List (forthcoming), there is no solution to this problem if we treat the group as an aggregate of agents. Under such conditions groups cannot meet the rationality requirement for agency. Pettit and List point out that a group cannot function as an agent unless it is able to metarepresent to itself the relevant rule and its conditions of application. This suggests at least that agency cannot emerge in the absence of executive control which can explicitly represent rational norms and understand how collective inconsistencies can be generated. A commitment to this type of process is as essential to group agency as a commitment to standards of justification for individual agency.
This abstract treatment of the concept of collective agency finds practical echoes in Pettit’s influential theories of Neo-Republican Freedom (Braithwaite and Pettit 1990; Pettit 1997a). Here Pettit provides a rigorous philosophical foundation for ideas advanced by Quentin Skinner in his discussion of the conception of liberty found in Renaissance and early modern political theorists such as Hobbes. A contrast between purely negative liberty (the contingent fact of freedom from interference) and positive liberty (the presence of enabling social structures) is inadequate to capture the nature of genuine political freedom. Pettit shows that a variety of neorepublican theorists entertained an idea of freedom as the resilient absence of constraint. Citizens need to be able to reliably lead their lives without the fear of arbitrary interference or subjection. Republicanism, as Pettit understands it, is the form of government required to bring about that state of non-domination. These ideas are synthesised in a series of works on the concept of freedom itself (Pettit 2001), and on the practical consequences for legal systems and theories of punishment (Braithwaite and Pettit 1990). In a recent book on Hobbes, Pettit draws connections between his views on the need for symbolic resources in the construction of agency and the nature of freedom in providing a context for the reinterpretation of Hobbes’ ideas (Pettit 2008).
Political philosophy is always the expression of a moral philosophy and Pettit has made a distinctive contribution to contemporary moral theory. He defends a consequentialist view of ethics which draws an influential distinction between honouring and promoting a goal (Baron, Pettit and Slote 1997; Jackson, Pettit and Smith 2004). Non-consequentialists are distinguished from consequentialists not by the values they endorse but by the fact that they apply those values in every case irrespective of overall consequences. Consequentialists are those who evaluate a policy or action according to whether it promotes a pattern of value instantiation overall, irrespective of the particular value. Once again this builds in a connection between agency and morality since it requires the disposition of an individual or group to evaluate whether the application of a norm in a particular case is an instance of honouring or promoting.
At the time of writing Pettit remains one of Australia’s most distinguished philosophers. He has produced a vast and increasingly influential oeuvre whose uptake extends well beyond the academy. His theories of government, for example, have been incorporated in the platform of the Zapatero government in Spain.
Although Hegelians and Husserlians often repudiate one another’s usage of the term ‘phenomenology’, an account of the history of phenomenology in Australasia in fact needs to take into account not only the Australasian reception of the specifically Husserlian program of phenomenology, but also the context of this reception as formed by the Kantian-Hegelian tradition within which it arose. This is seen most clearly in the case of W. R. Boyce Gibson (1869–1935), chair of philosophy at the University of Melbourne from 1911 to 1936, whose translation into English of Husserl’s Ideas I in 1931 was a significant landmark in the reception of Husserl’s philosophy not just in Australia but throughout the anglophone world. As Spiegelberg puts it in The Phenomenological Movement, Boyce Gibson ‘belonged to an older generation of British Idealists’ (1982: 253). Hegel’s phenomenology of mind as the account of the inner experience of the unfolding of spirit, and Husserl’s description of pure appearance freed from all ontological commitment by the phenomenological reduction, are differing but related attempts to find ways to describe what Kant called homo phenomenon (the mind in the world as it appears to and is known by us), without recourse to the Kantian faith in an unknowable and indescribable nous.
Barzillai Quaife (1798–1873), John Woolley (1816–1866) and Charles Badham (1813–1884) were the teachers of the Sydney school of Idealism which prevailed in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the newly formed colony at Botany Bay. Quaife followed Hamilton’s Kantian version of Reid’s Hegelian philosophy, and was professor of mental philosophy and divinity in John Dunmore Lang’s ‘Australian College’ from 1850 to 1854, publishing The Intellectual Sciences from his lecture notes in two volumes in 1873. John Woolley, a platonist, was the foundation professor of classics at the University of Sydney in 1852 and also taught philosophy, but he drowned in a shipwreck in the Bay of Biscay on a visit to Britain in 1866. Woolley was succeeded by the Plato scholar Charles Badham, who reflected the influence Hegel had had on Jowett, and did much for the study of Plato in Australia. He was succeeded in 1888 by Francis Anderson (1858–1941), a student of Edward Caird’s, who himself had been a student of Jowett’s at Oxford.
The University of Melbourne was founded in 1853. In 1873 Frederick Joy Pirani (1850–1881) graduated, and began lecturing in mathematics and logic, then becoming professor of logic and natural philosophy at the University of Melbourne in 1875, a position he held until August 1881, when he died after falling from his horse. His successor, Henry Laurie (1838–1922), was born in Edinburgh, and schooled at the University there in Hegel and Kant through the philosophies of Reid and Hamilton, studying mental and moral philosophy from 1856 to 1860. Laurie arrived at Melbourne University to replace the late Pirani after first running several newspapers in Warrnambool, with the printer and journalist William Fairfax, from 1867 until 1881. Laurie was an Idealist in both the metaphysical and the common senses of the word, and this early connection of philosophy at Melbourne with Idealism in the broader sense of the word is not insignificant. For unlike New South Wales or Tasmania, the colony of Victoria had been established by free settlers and the mood was one of Idealism. From the colony’s first Governor, Charles LaTrobe (1801–1875), an ardent Idealist who carried a volume of Rousseau on his journeys throughout the colony he governed in the 1840s, to Alfred Deakin (1856–1919), the erudite politician who read hundreds of volumes of philosophy throughout a career as a barrister and journalist which culminated in his prime-ministership at the turn of the twentieth century, Melbourne’s intellectual climate has always struck a note of Idealism. This stands in contrast to the tenor of a culture pragmatically emancipating itself from its penal past, as was the case in the prison colonies of Sydney to the north and Hobart to the south. The Idealism of Melbourne shaped the way the colonists experienced their new world and interpreted their own presence in it and impact upon it.
William Ralph Boyce Gibson (1869–1935) had studied in Glasgow, Oxford, Jena and Paris in the 1890s, and was especially influenced by Rudolf Eucken in Jena, publishing two books expounding Eucken in 1906 and 1909. His essay in Henry Sturt’s anthology, Personal Idealism: Philosophical Essays by Eight Members of the University of Oxford from 1902 aligns him closely with F. C. S. Schiller, and it was Schiller who wrote the strong letter of recommendation for his application to Melbourne in 1911 which secured Gibson’s appointment (Grave 1984: 31). Gibson brought to the University of Melbourne a strong interest in Bergson as well as Eucken, together with a burgeoning interest in Husserl, and his first appointment in 1912 was the candidate second in the running for his own appointment, J. McKellar Stewart.
Stewart (1878–1953), Australia’s first native-born philosopher, was the son of a Scottish farming family at Ballangeich, near Warrnambool. He entered Ormond College at the University of Melbourne in 1903 where he studied under Henry Laurie, graduating in philosophy with first-class Honours in 1906. After lecturing at Ormond College, he went to the University of Edinburgh and submitted a D.Phil. thesis on Bergson’s philosophy in 1911, and then went on to the University of Marburg to further his researches on Kant. The result was his book, A Critical Exposition of Bergson’s Philosophy (1913), this being a Kantian critique of Bergson. Thus when he joined Gibson at Melbourne in 1912, Stewart brought with him not only shared interests in Bergson, Kant and Husserl, but also knowledge of another new development on the German scene. This is evidenced by his lecture on ‘Nietzsche and the Present German Spirit’, delivered in the University of Melbourne’s War Lectures series of 1915. The lecture was a cautious but not entirely unsympathetic account of Nietzsche set in the contrasting context of Kant and Hegel, Goethe and Schopenhauer. In 1923 Stewart moved from Melbourne to the University of Adelaide, and was replaced at Melbourne by a fellow of the University of Liverpool, J. Alexander Gunn (b. 1896). Gunn published Bergson and His Philosophy (1920), Modern French Philosophy (1922), Benedict Spinoza (1925), and The Problem of Time (1929), along with many other publications on topics as diverse as relativity theory and economics. It is an indication of the enduring relevance of Gunn’s philosophical works that they have all been reprinted in various new paperback editions between 2004 and 2008.
Gibson’s paper ‘The Problem of Real and Ideal in the Phenomenology of Husserl’ (W. Gibson 1925c; also refer to 1925a) read before the second annual conference of the Australian Association of Psychology and Philosophy in Melbourne in May 1923 was probably the first many in the audience had heard of Edmund Husserl. Like Gibson, Husserl had come to philosophy from mathematics, and Gibson initiated a correspondence which eventually lead to him spending a sabbatical semester with Husserl in Freiburg in 1928. They discussed Dilthey and Frege, met with Levinas and Heidegger, and debated Gibson’s central criticism of Husserl—that the self is not to be resolved into its ‘unitative function’ (Spiegelberg 1972, 1982: 110, 151; cf. Grave 1984: 42). Gibson’s parallel interest in the science of the day is also indicated by his presidential address to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in 1931, ‘Relativity and First Principles’. His set of articles for the Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy in 1933–35 on the ethical thought of Nicolai Hartmann is a significant contribution to the phenomenological literature, as is his translation of the first volume of Husserl’s Ideas (published in 1931). Gibson also contemplated translating Sein und Zeit, and discussed with Levinas the possibility of a visit to the University of Melbourne, unfortunately neither project eventuated before the political situation in Germany worsened. In his final years, Gibson was dismayed when the Eucken Society in Germany, of which he was a prominent member, sent him Nazi propaganda in the mail, and he immediately resigned from the society in protest. Like Husserl himself, his premature death on the eve of World War Two saved W. R. Boyce Gibson from having to experience first hand the horrors about to unfold.
From 1923 to 1950 J. McKellar Stewart held a chair of philosophy at the University of Adelaide, publishing a pair of articles on Husserl in 1933 and 1934; sadly, the manuscript of his book on Husserl was destroyed in a house fire in 1939, never to be rewritten. Stewart served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1945 to 1948, then died in 1953 (see Miller 1929, 1954). When W. R. Boyce Gibson died in 1935, he was succeeded by his son, Alexander (‘Sandy’) Boyce Gibson (1900–1972). Maintaining his father’s pluralistic spirit, Sandy Gibson appointed a balanced and diverse collection of philosophers, including a branch of the newly formed ‘analytic’ school of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, through the appointment in the 1940s of the student of Wittgenstein, A. C. (‘Camo’) Jackson. Although Sandy Gibson published on existentialism (A. Gibson 1948), phenomenological and Idealistic thought moved temporarily into the background at Melbourne in the post-war era, to be later revived by Max Charlesworth when he completed his doctoral studies in Leuven and returned to teach at Melbourne in 1958. Charlesworth introduced the question of indigenous perspectives into his uniquely Australian take on phenomenology, his lectures and radio appearances attracting a large following (Harney 1992: 141). He was also the first to apply the label ‘Continental’ to his courses as an ideological rather than merely geographical designation, teaching not only Husserl, but also Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, Camus and de Beauvoir (Bilimoria 1997: 40). Mary McClosky, Graeme Marshall, Jan Srzednicki and Andrew Theophanous continued the strong Kantian tradition at Melbourne, while Catherine Berry and Maurita Harney joined Brenda Judge in maintaining Melbourne’s phenomenological tradition throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Berry completed a Masters degree on the question of the body in Merleau-Ponty at Melbourne in 1962, and also edited the collection of essays Ten Lectures on Contemporary Continental Philosophy that year (Berry 1962; cf. Harney 1992: 134).
The focus on Idealism and phenomenology thus divided between McKellar Stewart in Adelaide and Charlesworth in Melbourne. Stewart’s successor at the University of Adelaide, J. J. C. Smart, added an analytic flavour to a syllabus including Kant’s first Critique and Husserl’s Ideas in Gibson’s translation (Grave 1984: 111). Among the students produced by this department in the 1950s was Max Deutscher (b. 1937), who after graduating from Adelaide in 1959 studied and lectured at Oxford, Johns Hopkins and U. C. Irvine, and then became foundation professor of philosophy at Macquarie University in 1964, where he was subsequently joined by Luciana O’Dwyer. Deutscher’s initially analytic approach gradually evolved into the unique blend of phenomenology, existentialism and a robust commonsense characteristic of the later Wittgenstein, which he presented in Subjecting and Objecting (1983) and Genre and Void (2003). Jeff Malpas and Henry Krips are two more graduates of the Adelaide department, Malpas going to the University of Tasmania via the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New England (UNE), and Krips to the University of Melbourne Department of History and Philosophy of Science before moving to the U.S. in the 1990s, and both working extensively on Husserl and Heidegger.
Although he is not usually classified as a phenomenologist, the influence of Nietzsche must also be included in this sketch of the history of phenomenology in Australia. Nietzsche’s realisation in Twilight of the Idols that ‘the inner world is an appearance too’; his incisive meditations on our concepts of appearance, being and becoming as evidenced in Human All Too Human (I, §§15–18), Gay Science (§354) and Genealogy of Morals (II, §16); his ‘pleasure in foregrounds’ (Human All Too Human preface, §1); these and many other passages locate Nietzsche’s thought squarely in the field of phenomenology demarcated by the attractions and repulsions operating between Kant and Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. This is significant, for as S. A. Grave puts it, ‘From the end of the nineteenth century, for thirty years or so, Nietzschean ideas were in the heads of poets, painters and novelists’ (1984: 2); ideas showing them new ways of seeing their world and interpreting themselves in it. The influence was focussed upon Norman Lindsay’s Creative Effort: An Essay on Affirmation (1920), his son Jack Lindsay’s Dionysos: Nietzsche Contra Nietzsche (1928), and the Fanfrolico Press edition of P. R. Stephenson’s 1928 translation of Nietzsche’s Antichrist, illustrated by Norman Lindsay (see J. Lindsay 1948, Stephensen 1954, Macainsh 1975). Nietzsche increasingly gave Australian philosophers, poets and artists a new experience of the inextricable entanglement of appearance and reality, of the inseparability of being and becoming, and of the interaction of the way a story is told, with the reality it tells of. His influence cannot be ignored if the specifically Australasian developments in phenomenology are to be brought into view. Paul Crittenden at the University of Sydney and Robin Small at the ANU were two notable Australian academic philosophers working on Nietzsche.
The University of Tasmania was founded in 1890, and the classicist R. L. Dunbabin was foundation professor of mental and moral science from 1902, followed by E. Morris Miller (1881–1964), who arrived from the University of Melbourne in 1913. Miller was a working-class man who had won a scholarship to Wesley College thanks to help of the Moonee Ponds Mental Improvement Society (Franklin 2003: 120n.33), and began at the University of Melbourne as an undergraduate in 1900. He was taught Kant by Henry Laurie, and also came under the influence of John Smyth, principal of the Melbourne Teacher’s College, author of Truth and Reality (1901) and also close associate of Alfred Deakin, then prime minister (Grave 1984: 34). Miller published four works on Kant’s moral theory between 1911 and 1928, and was a significant figure in Tasmanian public life. In 1952, Sydney Sparkes Orr filled the chair vacated by the retiring Miller, a controversial choice as J. L. Mackie had also applied for the job, he then going instead to Dunedin in New Zealand. The controversy deepened as Orr became embroiled in controversy only one year after arriving there (see Franklin 2003: ch. 3), and as a result philosophy at the University of Tasmania fell into abeyance and the chair remained vacant, with the machinations of the Orr affair continuing until Orr’s death in 1966 : a situation not entirely remedied until the appointment of Jeff Malpas to the chair in Hobart many years later. After doing postgraduate work as the ANU, Malpas went to the University of Tasmania in the 1990s via stints at U.C. Santa Cruz, the University of New England, and Murdoch University, and his early work on Davidson’s holism has dovetailed into his extensive subsequent work on Heidegger (see Malpas 1992, 1999, 2006; Malpas and Wrathall 2000).
A chair in philosophy was among the foundation chairs at the University of Western Australia, and in 1913 P. R. Le Couteur travelled from Melbourne to take up the position. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and a Rhodes scholar to Oxford, he had also spent 1910–11 in Bonn studying under Külpe, a student of Wundt. Le Couteur resigned in 1918, and a disciple of Anderson’s from Sydney was appointed, a dominance that lasted until 1960 and ensured the decline of phenomenology and Idealism there. This was also the case at the University of Queensland, founded in 1910, with Elton Mayo being foundation professor, one of Mitchell’s students from Adelaide. Anderson’s analytic influence also dominated in Canberra, where his disciple Percy Partridge was appointed professor of social philosophy in preference to Karl Popper in the Research School of the Social Sciences at ANU. Quentin Gibson, younger brother of Sandy Gibson, was the first full-time lecturer in philosophy at ANU on the teaching side, this school pioneering the approach of divorcing teaching from research ‘centers’. Teachers with a phenomenological interest included Genevieve Lloyd, William Ginnane, Kimon Lycos, Maurita Harney, Richard Campbell, Robin Small, Ros Diprose, Penny Deutscher, and Claire Colebrook.
Scottish Idealists held the chair of philosophy at the University of Otago at Dunedin on New Zealand’s south island from its foundation: Duncan McGregor from 1871 to 1886, William Salmond from 1887 to 1913, Salmond then being succeeded by another Scot, Francis Dunlop, in 1913. Dunlop was also a student of Eucken’s from Jena, and he taught at Otago until his premature death from heart attack in 1932, when he was succeeded by the South African born Oxford graduate J. N. Findlay (1903–1987). Arriving in Dunedin in 1934, Findlay had done his doctorate at the University of Graz with Ernst Mally, the student of Meinong, and translated Husserl’s first work, the two volume Logical Investigations. He published a major study of Hegel, and also contributed an extensive forward and long post-script ‘Analysis of the Text’ to A. V. Miller’s translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, and also published works on Kant, Meinong, Wittgenstein and Plato. When Findlay moved to a chair in the U.K. at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1945, interest in Idealism shifted to Auckland on New Zealand’s north island, when K. B. Pflaum moved from Europe and Clive Pearson moved from Australia to teach phenomenology and existentialism at the University of Auckland in the 1960s. As attested by their extensive bibliographies of works on Heidegger, on Nietzsche and on Schopenhauer, Julian Young and Robert Wicks, together with Matheson Russell continue this strong focus in Auckland today.
The post-war era was a time of growth in Australia, and along with Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) had been founded in 1949, and in Melbourne, Monash University in 1959 and La Trobe University in 1964. S. A. Grave (1984: 205–6) reports that A. M. Ritchie had been writing on existentialism before he came to the University of Newcastle in 1950, work carried on by William Doniela there in the 1970s after studying at Freiburg for his dissertation, while Ritchie moved to UNSW. Philosophy was established at the University of Wollongong in 1975, and has been taught at UNE since before the war, although like Perth, Canberra and Sydney itself, Anderson’s dominance had had a stultifying influence. At La Trobe University, the students of Lukacs’, Agnes Heller and Ferenc Feher joined the Icelandic emigré Johann Arnason, a student of Habermas’, as professors of sociology, arriving in Australia in 1977 after fleeing the fall of Hungary to the Soviet totalitarians (along with György and Maria Markus, who went to Sydney). The study of Hegel and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School found new life in Bundoora, until Heller in 1986 took up the late Hannah Arendt’s chair at the New School for Social Research in New York. Out of this milieu arose major figures of the Australian sociological scene such as Peter Beilharz, Julian Triado, Alistair Davidson, Leslie Bodie, Jillian Robinson, David Roberts, and John Rundell. Charlesworth moved to Deakin University (Geelong campus) in 1977, and worked there with Jocelyn Dunphy and Purushottama Bilimoria. Dunphy had studied hermeneutics with Ricoeur in Paris, while Bilimoria brought a concern for Indian and comparative studies to bear upon phenomenology. In line with phenomenologists such as J. N. Mohanty and Don Ihde, Bilimoria has explored the significance of the multicultural nature of Australian society, which has in fact been multicultural ever since 1788, a phenomenon not effaced despite the various efforts to promulgate the insidious myth of a ‘white Australia’.
In the 1980s, phenomenology and Idealism moved out of the background and back into the foreground at the University of Melbourne, through the teaching of Brenda Judge, Kimon Lycos, Marion Tapper and Damien Byers in the philosophy department, and of Geoff Sharpe, Henry Krips, Kevin Hart and later John Rundell in the Ashworth Program for Social Theory, housed in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Kevin Hart’s 1988 Melbourne Ph.D. ‘The Trespass of the Sign’, supervised by Kevin Presa, led to his founding Monash University’s Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in the early 1990s with Elizabeth Grosz, before both Hart and Grosz left in the mid 1990s for positions in the U.S. The centre continues to flourish under the direction of Andrew Benjamin, bringing together a diverse group of thinkers and writers all of whom, together with Karen Green, Robert Sparrow and Nick Trakakis in Monash’s School of Philosophy and Bioethics, pursue interests related to the phenomenological and Idealistic traditions in philosophy.
Phenomenology and Idealism are alive and well today across many Australian universities, thanks to the efforts of Jeff Malpas, Marcelo Stamm, Undine Sellbach and Ingo Farin in Tasmania; Robin Small, Fiona Jenkins, Bruin Christensen and David West at the ANU; Toula Nicolacopoulos, George Vassilacopoulos, Jack Reynolds and Phillipa Foot at La Trobe; Stan van Hooft, Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe at Deakin; Lubica Ucknic at Murdoch in Perth; Julian Young, Robert Wicks and Matheson Russell in Auckland; Aurelia Armstrong, Michelle Boulous Walker and Marguerite La Caze in Brisbane; Paul Patton, Moira Gatens, Paolo Diego Bubbio, Simon Duffy, Justine McGill, Damien Byers and John Grumley in Sydney; Paul Redding, James Phillips, Rosalyn Diprose, Simon Lumsden, Joanne Faulkner, and Miriam Bankovsky at UNSW; Robert Sinnerbrink, Nick Smith, Jean-Phillipe Deranty and Catriona Mackenzie at Macquarie; and Marion Tapper and the lecturers of the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy at Melbourne, founded by David Rathbone, Cameron Shingleton, Matt Sharpe and Jon Roffe in the summer of 2002, with courses on Hegel, Nietzsche, Zizek and Deleuze. As this long list indicates, new generations of philosophers have arisen throughout Australasia who aim to combine an awareness of the importance of the two-and-a-half thousand year tradition in Idealism with an understanding of the significance of the phenomenological movement as it evolved throughout the twentieth century, and a firm grasp of the imperative to remain relevant to the actual experience of both the wider community of scholars in the academy, and to twenty-first century Australia as a whole.
Andrew Brennan & Y. S. Lo
Methodology is understood here to include methods, approaches, and styles, which are not always easy to separate. This article deals with all three, focussing on ones that have been influential in Australasia, or have developed there, through the efforts of thinkers who have either been born in Australasia, or trained or worked there for a significant period.
A combination of several methodological trends characterises much of recent Australian philosophy. A prominent one is conceptual analysis, a core component of the ‘Canberra Plan’ championed by a leading group of Australian National University philosophers in the 1990s (Jackson and Pettit 1995; Jackson 1998; and for a summary see Eagle 2008 and compare Braddon-Mitchell and Nola 2009). The method involves identifying a wide range of ‘folk platitudes’ about a concept to be investigated. These are statements that typically locate the concept in question within a larger network of other concepts, and are regarded as undeniable by competent users of the concept. For example, suppose we are interested in the concept of memory. The instruction for conceptual analysis will be to locate the concept by collecting folk platitudes about it in relation to such other concepts as knowledge, truth, the past, experience, testimony, and imagination. This collection of folk platitudes may then support a certain analysis, in the form of a definition or a characterisation, of memory. A good conceptual analysis should capture the core platitudes about the concept under investigation, and it should be able to distinguish the concept from other closely related or easily confounded ones. But the analysis that best captures the folk platitudes about a concept might still not give rise to the best theory about the thing that the concept is supposed to capture, all things considered. For folk platitudes might be naive, unjustified, or erroneous. Furthermore, a good theory needs to cohere with the wider body of knowledge we have about other things.
The technical aspect of conceptual analysis (particularly its treatment of folk concepts in a similar way to how meaning is given to theoretical terms in philosophy of science) resonates with work by Frank Ramsey and David Lewis (1970, 1972). The appeal to folk platitudes, however, is reminiscent of the Wittgensteinian ‘use theory’ of meaning and the ‘ordinary language’ school in post-war Oxford. The teachings of G. A. Paul, who was a student and follower of Wittgenstein and was marooned in Melbourne during World War Two, along with the teachings of A. C. (‘Camo’) Jackson (also a student of Wittgenstein), made a significant impact on students and a swathe of Melbourne-trained philosophers, several of whom rose to prominence in academic positions outside Australia.
Reflective equilibrium is a second method widely used in Australian philosophy, particularly in the area of ethics. Popularised by John Rawls (1999), ‘narrow’ reflective equilibrium is the requirement that our endorsement of a general theory must cohere with our judgments on particular cases. For example, if we endorse a moral theory of maximising overall happiness come what may, then, to be coherent, we must judge it to be morally acceptable to torture innocent people if doing so would maximise overall happiness, even if we find this particular moral judgment abhorrent. Likewise, if we decide to reject the judgment, then, to be coherent, we must also abandon or at least revise the general theory accordingly, even if we find the general theory itself appealing. According to this picture, neither the theory nor the set of particular judgments is taken to be the foundation of moral knowledge. Rather, coherence between the two is the criterion for knowledge. However, by reaching our own narrow equilibrium between the general theory we endorse and the particular judgments we make, we have not yet reached a theoretically satisfactory situation. For others may likewise be able to reach narrow equilibrium between an alternative general theory and their particular judgments. Narrow or individual equilibrium provides no means of comparing competing theories. So, ‘wide’ reflective equilibrium aims to correct this deficit by looking for comprehensive principles that apply to the choice of theory and to the procedures for harmonising theory and data. To reach wide equilibrium, we need to find some higher-order principles with which others would also agree and which will generate a theory that is likely to be accepted by as many other people as possible, including those who hold competing theories.
The search for such wide equilibrium draws from classic methodologies in philosophy of science and epistemology, for example Hempel’s (1967) hypothetico-deductive method, Goodman’s (1979) approach to the problem of induction, and Quine’s account of how consistency is achieved in the web of beliefs that we collectively share (Quine and Ullian 1978). All of these accounts have a holistic orientation, or involve a broad form of reflective equilibrium. For example, Quine’s naturalised approach to epistemology and science sets out higher-order principles for managing competing theories within our webs of beliefs. Seen in this way, Rawls’s appeal to reflective equilibrium in moral theory is an application of a method which has its roots in epistemology and philosophy of science.
Naturalism is a third popular approach which—while by no means a universal methodological commitment—certainly characterises a great deal of Australian philosophy. There are at least two ways in which philosophy can be naturalistic. First, whatever theory we propose has to be able to stand without assuming the existence of anything supernatural or magical. Second, any puzzling or apparently non-natural property is reducible to something natural. Such a reductive form of naturalism is typified by J. J. C. Smart’s (1963) defence of the view that consciousness is nothing but a brain state. Smart’s ‘scientific realism’ involves looking for ways to identify and reduce all properties to those that can be deemed ‘real’ in a natural scientific sense. Likewise, for David Lewis (who was a frequent visitor to Australia and widely admired member of the Australasian Association of Philosophy) facts about values are nothing more than empirical facts about our psychological dispositions, while Michael Smith regards facts about values as nothing more than facts about the desires of fully rational agents, naturalistically understood (Smith 1994). Other examples of reductive naturalism include Brian Ellis’ scientific materialism (1990).
The combination of conceptual analysis and naturalism can lead to interesting results, for example J. L. Mackie’s ‘error theory’ of moral properties (Mackie 1977). These properties turn out on analysis to be ‘queer’ in that their supposed objective existence combined with their supposed ‘to-be-pursuedness’ seem to resist scientific explanation and are at odds with a wider naturalistic outlook on the world. So Mackie declares that the folk understanding of value properties is an error, moral concepts correspond to nothing real in the world, and therefore all moral claims are arguably false.
A further salient feature that characterises much contemporary Australian philosophy is a certain hard-headedness and unorthodoxy in style. The radicalism in Australian philosophy can be seen as a maverick rejection of British commonsense philosophy combined with a willingness to embrace what commonsense might regard as absurd conclusions. Smart’s defence of materialism, Mackie’s error theory, and Lewis’ modal realism are all examples of this style. Likewise, a widespread tendency to utilitarianism in ethical theory (Smart and Williams 1973), and a willingness to embrace its radical implications for animals, euthanasia, abortion and sexual ethics in general (Singer 1976, 1993; Tooley 1972) have been distinctive in the work of a number of Australian writers. The same maverick character is also reflected in an openness among logicians in both Australia and New Zealand to explore non-classical systems, particularly in relevant and paraconsistent logic (for example, Routley, Plumwood and Brady 1982;and Priest 2008).
Many of these contemporary features can be traced back to the influence of John Anderson’s scientific empiricism. Anderson taught at the University of Sydney from 1927 until 1958 when D. M. Armstrong, his former student, succeeded him as Challis Professor of Philosophy. Anderson’s rejection of religious or supernatural metaphysics yielded a strong form of empiricism (an early version of reductive naturalism), which was subsequently championed by Armstrong (1968). Anderson’s empiricist rejection of G. E. Moore’s non-naturalistic account of goodness bore fruit in the error theory of Mackie, also a former student, although Mackie’s career took him also to New Zealand and the U.K. Anderson’s stolid rejection of religion and advocacy of individual freedom contributed to a cultural climate in the 1940s and 1950s from which emerged the radical social movement, the ‘Sydney Push’. Later developments of the movement in the 1960s saw the appearance of a range of libertarian public intellectuals and social reformers such as the feminist Germaine Greer, and sowed the seeds for critical feminist philosophies (for example, Gatens 1996; Grosz 1995; Plumwood 1993).
While Paul spread the doctrine of Wittgenstein to Melbourne in the 1940s and Anderson created an increasingly strong empiricist climate in Sydney between the 1930s and 1950s, the presence of Karl Popper at the then Canterbury College from 1937 to 1945 meant that a kind of Popperianism became well established in New Zealand and flourished up to the 1980s. New Zealand thinkers influenced by Popper’s emphasis on ‘falsifiability’ as the criterion of empirical significance, later extended their attention to the study of what it is for a theory to be ‘truthlike’. The broad debates about the scope and applicability of the notion of truth as verisimilitude was for a time the central focus of some work in New Zealand (for example, Oddie 1986). Contemporary scientific realism in New Zealand shares many features in common with Australian realism, but with a Popperian twist (Musgrave 1999). Under the influence of Australasia’s first formal logician, A. N. Prior (1955), logic took a central place in both teaching and research in New Zealand, and logicians contributed to developments in classical and modal logic and their applications (Prior 1957; Hughes and Cresswell 1968). One of the important Australasian Relevant logicians, Richard Routley (later known as Richard Sylvan), was born in New Zealand and did his undergraduate work there. Less inclined to adopt the maverick posture of its Australian counterpart, New Zealand philosophy can be said to be generally less radical in its conclusions.
Both Australia and New Zealand have been home to a variety of other kinds of philosophical methodologies apart from the ones discussed here. Although analytic approaches have dominated the methodology of much Australasian philosophy, a distinctively Australian form of hermeneutics has emerged as a result of reflecting on and reacting against the highly reductivist and modernist character of parts of the local tradition. Adopting a self-reflective, historically situated and holistic stance, Australian hermeneutics has engaged closely with important thinkers of the past, finding in them sources of philosophical insight and guidance. For instance, Paul Redding’s attempt to provide an account of ‘mutuality’ in understanding subjectivity and inter-subjectivity—one where the individual is not understood atomistically but essentially in a network of mutual relationship with others—draws on a form of Hegelian holism (Redding 1996). Likewise, Jeff Malpas’ work on Heidegger, Davidson and the topology of concepts defends the view that concepts can never be properly understood except in a wider network of other concepts, a network that itself has historical dimensions (Malpas 2007). Such approaches are traceable to the Hegelian and Marxist influence of György Markus (who arrived as a refugee from Hungary in 1977, at the same time as Agnes Heller), and his insistence that philosophy is irreducibly historical (Markus 1986). Despite their apparent differences, both the dominant analytic and the minority hermeneutic approaches seem to share an optimistic assumption that philosophical progress is best achieved through tackling the conceptual by way of a priori reasoning.
There are many other contributions to epistemology, ethics, phenomenology, history and philosophy of science, and political and social philosophy that have been made by writers from a wide variety of different methodological traditions. For reasons of space, this entry has focussed on what is currently most distinctive in the methodology of contemporary Australian and New Zealand philosophy, and hence has inevitably neglected much that is philosophically interesting and distinguished in the work carried out in both countries.
‘A well-known British philosopher said to A. C. Jackson who was in England at the time [the 1950s]: “What’s happened to [J. J. C.] Smart? I hear he is going about saying that the mind is the brain. Do you think it might be the heat?”’ (Grave 1984: 112). In analytic philosophy of mind, and the sub-discipline sometimes referred to as ‘philosophical psychology’, a more dramatic turnaround can hardly be imagined. These days, it is those who espouse dualism whose brains—and therefore minds, of course—are more likely to be thought addled.
Although similar views were being developed in the U.S. (especially by Herbert Feigl; see, e.g. Feigl 1958), the claim of mind-brain identity, often called ‘Australian materialism’, is possibly Australasia’s single most important contribution to contemporary philosophy because it signalled a sea change in thinking about the metaphysics of mind. It also ushered in a new period in the interactions between analytic philosophy, on the one hand, and psychology and neuroscience on the other. Australian philosophers initiated this change and continue to be among the leaders in the current scene.
The identity theory was developed by the psychologist U. T. Place (see Place 1956) and J. J. C. Smart (see Smart 1959b), both British expatriates working in Adelaide in the 1950s, in collaboration with C. B. Martin, also then at Adelaide. Its central hypothesis was that sensations—paradigms of conscious experience—could be reduced to brain processes. It thus anticipated the concern with consciousness that is the most active area of philosophical psychology today. The other pillar of Australian materialism is found in the work of D. M. Armstrong (see Armstrong 1961, 1962, 1968), which provides a systematic account of mental concepts in physicalist terms.
The materialism of John Anderson is sometimes thought to have had an influence on the development of Australian materialism, but this seems unlikely given what is known about the details of Anderson’s views. More importantly, Smart was not a student of Anderson’s, and Armstrong seems to have moved away from Anderson before the development of his own views (Franklin 2003).
The identity theory ceded its dominance to ‘functionalism’ as first proposed by Hilary Putnam (see Putnam 1960), although the views are much closer than is often thought. Here too, however, an Australian influence was felt. Armstrong developed a version of functionalism which emphasised the causal roles played by mental states. That these states are realised by brain states is the basis on which mental states and brain states can be identified (at least within species, assuming a neural uniformity therein). This view was independently developed by the American philosopher, David Lewis (1966, 1983), whose connection to, and influence on, Australian philosophy is well-known. (Lewis was a student of Smart’s at Harvard and made annual visits to Australia until shortly before his death.)
Debates about materialism—or ‘physicalism’ as it has come to be called more commonly—remains front and centre in the philosophy of mind in Australia and elsewhere, though Australia is justifiably as famous for the backlash against physicalism as for its invention. Frank Jackson’s 1983 paper, ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’, presented one of the most important arguments against physicalism which turns on the idea that ‘qualia’, the phenomenal properties of experience, cannot be reduced to the physical. This article is a contemporary classic and continues to stimulate significant debate and substantial literature.
David Chalmers’ book The Conscious Mind (1996) represents the other most significant assault on physicalism. It develops a powerful modal argument against physicalism which has, like Jackson’s, been highly influential. Nevertheless, physicalism (of a non-reductive variety) remains the dominant position in analytic philosophy of mind and continues to be defended by Australian philosophers, including Frank Jackson himself (Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson 1996), who went on to reject his earlier anti-physicalist position. It is noteworthy that these anti-physicalist works also represent some of the most important contributions to consciousness studies, which has undergone an explosive resurgence in the last twenty years.
In the fifty or so years since the establishment of this ‘scientific’ conception of the mind, the philosophy of mind remains central to Australian philosophy and retains its interest in the psychological and brain sciences.
Following Armstrong, perception—and, in particular, colour perception—became an active area of philosophical research. Frank Jackson’s Perception: A Representative Theory (1977b) remains an important contribution to the contemporary debate. The topic of colour perception, in particular, has benefited from significant Australian contributions. Smart himself presents a physicalist conception of colours which he attributes to David Lewis (1975). Keith Campbell’s early paper ‘Colours’ (1969) has had a powerful and long-lasting influence in the field, and a book by Barry Maund (1995) develops an important ‘anti-realist’ theory of colour. Armstrong’s own views on colour foreshadow the most important version of contemporary colour realism, that of David Hilbert (1987), according to which colours are to be identified with the surface spectral reflectance of opaque objects.
As the cognitive and neural sciences have become better known by philosophers, Australian philosophy has engaged with a variety of topics of mutual concern to philosophy and psychology. Australian philosophers have also taken up the methods of ‘neurophilosophy’ and investigated questions in the philosophy of mind which overlap with cognitive neuroscientific research. The materialist and scientific orientation of philosophy established by Smart, Armstrong and others thus continues to characterise a great deal of Australian philosophical psychology.
Philosophical interest in drama and literature occupies a small but noteworthy part of the landscape of philosophy in Australasia. In addition to the more than fifteen academics currently researching, publishing and teaching on philosophy and literature, the region produces two international refereed journals and sponsors a number of distinctive activities that are academic and community oriented.
Philosophy and Literature is an internationally renowned refereed journal founded by Denis Dutton at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. It is now published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Since its inception in 1976, Philosophy and Literature has been concerned with the relation between literary and philosophical studies, publishing articles on the philosophical interpretation of literature as well as the literary treatment of philosophy. Philosophy and Literature has sometimes been regarded as iconoclastic, in the sense that it repudiates academic pretensions, insidious jargon and institutional vogue. Dutton, who remains the editor, still writes a regular column. A distinctive feature of Philosophy and Literature was the annual Bad Writing Contest, held from 1995–98, which sought to identify (and publish) the ‘most stylistically lamentable passages’ of academic prose, often to great amusement.
Literature and Aesthetics is a refereed journal, published from the University of Sydney since 1991. It was the creation of first editor and foundation president Catherine Runcie (University of Sydney), whose aim was to bring together works of philosophy, literature and creative writing. Literature and Aesthetics publishes papers in philosophical aesthetics on any of the arts, on literature and literary theory, and includes ‘Hands On’ work in the form of short poems, stories, essays, and black-and-white art. The ‘Hands On’ section is a distinctive feature of the journal, providing international exposure for Australasian writers and artists. It has been acclaimed in the British Journal of Aesthetics and the International Association of Aesthetics Yearbook. Literature and Aesthetics is currently edited by Associate Professor Vrasidas Karalis.
The nexus between philosophy and drama was explored by the acclaimed Philosophy Nights series, begun at Steki Taverna in Newtown, Sydney by Eugenio Benitez, Lloyd Reinhardt and Edward Spence, all at that time of the University of Sydney. The Philosophy Nights presented philosophical ideas in dramatic form, often accompanied by an academic talk and dialogue with the audience. The program ran for ten years, from 1997 to 2007, and was produced by Edward Spence (Charles Sturt University). Over the course of its lifetime, more than eighty original ‘Philosophy Plays’ were performed. Some of these were featured in segments of Insight (SBS Television) and Lateline (ABC Television); they received critical attention in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian newspapers, as well as in The Journal of the Philosophy Society (U.K.). The Philosophy Plays have been performed in the Sydney Festival, the Greek Festival of Sydney, the Adelaide Festival and elsewhere.
Another community event that merges philosophy with literature is the Byron Bay Writers Festival, which has operated annually since 1997. Although the focus of the festival is on Australian writing, events and workshops encourage intelligent discussion of wider issues, including ethics and the philosophy of life. Workshops on ethics have been part of the festival since its inception, and speakers have included philosophers Peter Singer and Raimond Gaita.
Finally, in 2008, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (with sponsorship also provided by La Trobe University) hosted the International Association for Philosophy and Literature Conference, with the theme of ‘Global Arts, Local Knowledge’.
Among those academics in Australasia who specifically list philosophy and literature (or near equivalent) as a research interest are: Paolo Bartoloni (University of Sydney), Ismay Barwell (Victoria University of Wellington), Stuart Brock (Victoria University of Wellington), Diego Bubbio (University of Sydney), George Couvalis (Flinders University), Steven Davies (University of Auckland), Denis Dutton (University of Canterbury), Robyn Ferrell (University of Melbourne), John Holbo (National University of Singapore), Michael Levine (University of Western Australia), Aditya Malik (University of Canterbury), Justine McGill (University of Sydney), Timothy O’Leary (University of Hong Kong), James Phillips (University of New South Wales), and Michelle Walker (University of Queensland).
Laurance J. Splitter
Laurance Splitter first encountered ‘Philosophy for Children’ (P4C) during a sabbatical in the U.S., in 1982. Meeting with Matthew Lipman and, later, Ann Sharp, he quickly realised that they had hit several nails on the head: creating a series of carefully crafted stories as vehicles for bringing the joys of philosophy to children; addressing the elusive question of how to teach thinking skills in a meaningful context (by modelling them in the narrative dialogue); and constructing classroom environments based on care, respect and a shared sense of our common humanity. The core idea was to work with classroom teachers to help them transform their classrooms into ‘communities of inquiry’ as the students pick up the philosophical ideas and begin to think critically about them, creating their own dialogue out of that modelled in the stories.
Returning to Australia, Splitter began to ‘spread the word’, visiting schools, giving classroom demonstrations from grades K through 10, and setting up teacher workshops—first, in Sydney, where he was then living, and later, in all capital cities—based very much on the Lipman model. He learned several things the hard way, including: the futility of approaching administrators and bureaucrats (top-down) in order to explain the merits of including philosophy in the curriculum before getting teachers on-side (bottom-up); the reluctance of Australian teachers simply to embrace an American ‘program’, and a corresponding desire to make P4C their own; a fairly clear division between educators who had an appreciation of philosophy and the ‘Socratic’ model of dialogue exemplified in the community of inquiry, and educators for whom this was, at best, just another thinking skills program that would eat into an already crowded curriculum; and the gap between the ideal of fifteen eager students sitting in a circle engaged in meaningful dialogue, and the reality of twenty-five easily distracted kids who did not know how to combine open discussion with respectful and caring behaviour, and who were often willing to express their own views but rarely willing—or able—to engage in the hard meta-cognitive work of connecting their ideas, reasoning, challenging, self-correcting, etc.
From 1988 to 2001, Splitter was Director of the Australian Centre for Philosophy with Children and Adolescents within the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). He acknowledges an enormous debt to the then-Director of ACER, Barry McGaw, who went against the grain within the tradition of educational research to hire a philosopher (which worked well until the money ran out!). The centre became one part of a growing network of individuals and associations (under the then-Federation of Australian Philosophy for Children Associations or FAPCA) committed to bringing philosophy and the community of inquiry to children across Australia and, later, to New Zealand and the Asia–Pacific region (the name and structure of the emerging regional network is currently under discussion). There were—and are—challenges a-plenty; for example, the task of constructing an ‘outcomes-based’ curriculum framework for philosophy, and a professional development model that recognised the dual contributions of teachers and philosophers, to name a couple. But there have been great achievements as well. Both primary and secondary schools are starting to take philosophy more seriously; and a generation of teachers, students, parents and philosophers no longer raises its collective eyebrows incredulously when ‘philosophy’ and ‘children’ are mentioned in the same sentence.
Those in control of educational policy and funding are not easily persuaded that children have as much right to explore the ‘big questions’ and ideas that arise in philosophy, as they do to develop competencies in literacy and numeracy. But we live in uncertain and problematic times, and we need citizens who are both willing and able to respond to them with enthusiasm, creativity and skill. These are among the attributes that philosophy, taught as collaborative inquiry, seeks to cultivate.
‘Philosophy for Children’ (P4C) is an internationally practiced approach to enabling young people from five to eighteen years old to engage in philosophical thinking. Its principal pedagogical tool is the ‘Community of Inquiry’ in which the students generate their own questions in response to philosophically rich stimulus materials, and then collaboratively propose, explore and test their own answers to those questions. They are assisted by their teacher who ensures that the resulting inquiry is characterised by caring interaction, rigourous thinking and reflective practice. Most children delight in exploring the ‘big questions’ in their own terms, and they typically gain confidence and a range of important cognitive and social skills.
P4C was first introduced to Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1990 by James Battye (Philosophy, Massey University) and he was joined in later years by fellow P4C practitioners and trainers Vanya Kovach (Philosophy, University of Auckland), Clinton Golding (now in Education, University of Melbourne), Anne-Maree Olley (Mercury Bay Area School, Whitianga) and Marilyn Stafford (Mangere Bridge School, Auckland). From very small beginnings in a few classrooms, P4C has grown to include whole schools who commit to regular philosophical inquiry for all age levels. P4CNZ, the New Zealand associate of FAPSA (Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations) was set up in 1999, and this organisation offers training to teachers and schools.
Philosophical inquiry is an activity which is appropriate for students of all abilities and backgrounds. This is reflected in the mix of state and independent schools that adopt the process. In the last few years in New Zealand, schools have been required to offer special education for gifted students, and P4C has become a much-used approach in this area, as well as in mainstream classrooms.
The Community of Inquiry fits easily into New Zealand school culture, where critical thinking and inquiry-based learning are enshrined in curriculum documents, and where collaborative learning is valued. It also seems to sit well within Maori culture. Teachers of Maori and Pacific Island children report that philosophical inquiry is particularly welcomed by their students, because it offers opportunities to question, because it creates greater connections between students, and because these cultures have a tradition of caring deeply about questions concerning value. The very first P4C-style philosophical community of inquiry (that we know of) conducted entirely in Te Reo Maaori (the Maori language) occurred in Finlayson Park School in South Auckland in 2006. Mauri ora ki a koutou! (Life and health to you all!)
Publication of P4C material by New Zealanders has been limited, but of excellent quality. Connecting Concepts by Clinton Golding (2003), which is a collection of conceptual exploration exercises, has been a great resource for countless classrooms, along with his Thinking With Rich Concepts (2005). Anne-Maree Olley has produced for primary school classrooms: Time to Think 1 & 2 (2003, 2006c), Thinking about Picture Books 1 & 2 (2006a, 2006b), and the Thinking about Journal Stories series (2001a, 2001b, 2002), which provides philosophical support for selected stories in the New Zealand School Journal.
In recent years philosophy has made its way into primary education in Australia. As in many other countries, this development has been inspired by the work of the American philosopher and educationalist Matthew Lipman and his colleagues at the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children in New Jersey (Lipman 1980). From the early 1970s, Lipman began publishing philosophical programs for use in schools, and these were taken up by a small number of schools in Australia in the 1980s. Lipman’s work struggled to gain a foothold in our secondary schools, but it was far better received in the primary sector. As interest spread during the early 1990s, organisations offering training programs that were largely targeted at primary school teachers began to appear in many parts of the country. This was soon followed by the development of Australian materials for use in primary schools, the start of research, and attempts to find a place for philosophy in the curriculum (Sprod 1993; Cam 1995).
Lipman’s approach to what he called ‘Philosophy for Children’ owes a great deal to the educational thought of John Dewey (Dewey 1916), and this may serve to explain much of its appeal to primary school teachers. Lipman placed the development of thinking at the heart of education, where Dewey said it belongs, and he followed Dewey in conceiving of the classroom as an open and inquiring community, as befits education in a democratic society. These conceptions resonate with current approaches to teaching and learning that especially appeal to primary teachers.
The philosophical exploration of open questions and significant concepts through discussion in the classroom provides a means of fulfilling the educational desire for intellectual inquiry and student dialogue. It develops the art of questioning and provides students with reasoning and conceptual tools, while helping to make them more open-minded and reasonable in their dealings with one another. These are significant educational outcomes for primary education that are increasingly seen to be as basic as traditional forms of literacy.
Although many primary school teachers have been attracted to philosophy, it is still exceptionally rare for it to be integrated into the teaching program across the school, let alone to find the scope and sequence that exists for most areas of the standard curriculum. Where philosophy has been integrated into the program, however, there is evidence that it improves both academic and social outcomes, and this is beginning to encourage systematic research into the contributions that philosophy may make to primary education (Hinton 2003).
Anna Corbo Crehan
‘Professional education’ can refer to a range of courses and qualifications; however, it will be limited here to those offered by universities. While debate is ongoing about the nature of a profession and the occupations that should be identified as professions, the focus here will be broad, taking into account all those occupations which now require a university qualification. Included, then, are the ‘traditional’ professions such as medicine and law, but others too such as journalism, policing and allied health (e.g. occupational therapy, physiotherapy, etc.).
Philosophers are involved in a number of areas of professional education. These include business, medicine, nursing and other allied health areas, law, journalism, defence (military ethics), and environmental science. While it is difficult to be specific, it appears that this move of philosophers into areas of professional education began in Australia in the 1980s, with the earliest date mentioned being 1982. In most instances, philosophers working in professional education are based in a philosophy department and undertake professional education via some sort of arrangement with the relevant professional school. A few philosophers are employed solely in the relevant professional school, rather than in a philosophy department. Less often, philosophers hold a joint appointment in both a philosophy department and a professional school. These individuals most usually have dual qualifications, one in the professional area and one in philosophy.
Philosophers teach in a range of both undergraduate and postgraduate level subjects. Two key areas of involvement are ethics (applied ethics, professional ethics) and practical reasoning more generally. A few philosophers are also involved in the teaching of leadership subjects, particularly where leadership is understood to have a specifically ethical bent. While practical reasoning subjects are not uncommon in professional education, they are considerably less common than ethics subjects. Importantly, however, many of the latter incorporate a practical reasoning component, introducing students to some basic principles of argumentation which are then applied in the subject to ethical issues relevant to the respective profession. Additionally, at least one university (at the time of writing) includes philosophers teaching history and philosophy of science subjects to science and engineering students.
Common to all of the professional ethics subjects is engagement with the problems of practice. This engagement occupies more or less time in the subject, depending on a number of factors such as where the subject is placed in the respective course (e.g. a level 1 subject or a level 3 subject) and the academic background of students undertaking the course (some professional courses recruit students who would not normally have obtained entry into a university course). In some of these subjects, the problems of practice drive the whole subject, with theories and concepts being introduced as needed to resolve these problems. In others, some of the main moral theories are introduced upfront, usually along with some basic principles of argumentation, and these then inform the later engagement with specific professional issues.
Teaching arrangements for philosophers in professional education vary. Some philosophers are involved in professional education via a joint teaching arrangement with the relevant professional course. This may be in the form of a teaching team which includes a mix of philosophers and non-philosophers teaching the subject, or it may be that the philosophers themselves deliver the respective subject in its entirety. As well as those directly teaching in areas of professional education, still other philosophers interact with staff from the respective professional area during the development stage of the subject, contributing their expertise to determining subject content and teaching strategies.
Notwithstanding this involvement of philosophers in professional education, a number of universities offer professional ethics subjects taught by faculty from the respective course (the situation regarding practical reasoning subjects is less clear). Most often, these non-philosophers are practitioners turned academics, and while some consult with philosophers on an ad hoc basis, this appears to be the exception. These types of situation seem to be prompted by one of two broad pragmatic considerations: the link between student numbers and funding, and therefore the financial impact of schools using faculty from another school to teach on ‘their’ subjects; and the view that those with the relevant professional background and experience are best placed to teach all and any subjects in a professional course. Interestingly, this latter consideration appears to weigh more heavily in areas which might best be termed emerging professions, perhaps reflecting the various degrees of cultural change and transformation being undertaken.
Two interesting points about philosophers’ involvement in professional education warrant special mention. Firstly, in some universities with cohorts of international students (particularly students from various parts of Asia), philosophers are revising their professional ethics subjects to include less about Western values and more about Confucian and other Eastern ethical perspectives. Secondly, when philosophers are involved closely with practitioners in a professional education context, compromises often need to be made in relation to what counts as a technical issue and what counts as an ethical issue. Similarly, many students of professional ethics subjects need to be ‘steered away’ from the purely technical aspects of an issue to be able to engage with its ethical aspects. While this can be a source of both tension and frustration, it also has the potential to contribute to professional education more broadly by developing the profession’s own sense of the ethical dimensions of their practice.
This entry documents some of Australia’s most prominent public philosophers and highlights the benefits and opportunities for further engagement by the philosophical community in public spaces.
Australia’s first philosophy professor, Henry Laurie, was a journalist by trade and owned the Warrnambool Standard. It was his own successful campaign for extended teaching of philosophy and the establishment of a chair of philosophy that led to his appointment first as lecturer in logic at the University of Melbourne and subsequently to the newly created chair of mental and moral philosophy in 1886. Laurie engaged the public in philosophical and other issues throughout his academic career, writing several articles for the Australasian newspaper during the 1890s and delivering public lectures.
In 1895 Sir William Mitchell took up the chair in English language and literature and mental and moral philosophy at the University of Adelaide. Mitchell considered himself primarily a philosopher, and in his first public lecture he emphasised the importance of analysis, criticism and the development through philosophy of understanding and interest in one’s daily work. Mitchell rose to public prominence through his contribution to education.
John Anderson was professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney and an influential figure in Australian political and cultural life through his lectures between 1927 and 1955. As Tony Coady (2004) has noted, ‘Anderson’s early radicalism (he began as a communist sympathiser and ended as a Cold Warrior), his critique of religion and advocacy of free love gave him a certain public notoriety and saw him censured in the New South Wales parliament in 1943 for attacking religious education’. Anderson’s emphasis on critical thought influenced his students, many of whom went on to become leading philosophers in their own right (including D. M. Armstrong, David Stove, J. L. Mackie and John Passmore) and some to become poets and prominent public figures.
The professionalisation of academia and philosophy throughout the twentieth century meant that Australian philosophy began to focus its efforts on its technical aspects. The capacity of philosophers to hold complex arguments in view at any one time requires a technical expertise built over a lifetime of research and debate with other technically proficient colleagues. Thus the focus of contributing to public debate can easily become less urgent.
As the last century progressed, philosophical work continued to retreat from public view and became increasingly concerned with professional activities. From the 1950s onwards, philosophers were more interested in the analysis of concepts and returned to traditional fields of inquiry rather than engaging the public on matters of practical ethics. With few exceptions, philosophers did not take philosophy out into the world, by either placing their work under the critical public eye or demonstrating the importance of what philosophy does and how it could contribute to the wider community’s concerns.
There is no question that technical rigour produces well reasoned and sound philosophy on all manner of metaphysical and ethical questions. However, for philosophical projects to have meaning, they must contend with ‘important’ issues. Philosophers must consistently confront the difficult question, Why is it important to know this?. Without a well formulated answer, the philosophical project is in serious doubt. This notion of importance points beyond the academic environment to the wider society. Two prominent Australian philosophers who have taken up this challenge are Raimond Gaita and Peter Singer.
Gaita is perhaps best known to the public through the recent success of his book, Romulus, My Father (1998), and the subsequent award-winning film based on the book. Gaita details a childhood of terrible events, and transforms these tales to demonstrate the profound influence his father’s example of integrity has had on his own values and perspectives as a moral philosopher. Gaita is also well known to the public through his regular opinion and editorial pieces on political issues.
Currently the best known Australian philosopher is Peter Singer. Through his extensive publications, newspaper articles, interviews and public lectures he has engaged the public in many high profile ethical debates, including his arguments concerning speciesism, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, various bioethical concerns and world poverty. Singer’s general aim, as he describes it in his intellectual autobiography, is that of ‘reaching beyond professional circles in order to encourage a public debate on important ethical questions’ (Singer unpublished 2009a: 74).
There is a legitimate role for philosophers to enter the public intellectual sphere with the dual aim of influencing current debates and, perhaps more importantly, actually shaping debates. Singer’s career is a clear example of both these agendas. However, his widespread success has not been without controversy. His writings and public career have been accompanied by public protest campaigns and boycotts, which highlight the power that contested philosophical views, especially moral perspectives, can have on the public imagination.
With the expansion of higher education to larger sectors of the population, the public is now increasingly interested in engaging with questions of a theoretical and philosophical nature. The continuous supply of publicly available intellectual products includes popular books that deal with theoretical and philosophical content, television series that deal with the findings and theories of academics, and public lectures. There is a role for philosophers in guiding the public in their own philosophical projects, demonstrating that philosophy does not require technical expertise but is a disposition in the world, or a way of engaging with ideas and handling them carefully. People’s inner lives and life experiences are rich and full of potential points of contact with philosophy. The purpose of these public dialogues and ruminations is both meaningful discussion and the discussion of meaning.
Some philosophers have sought to meet these needs and to offer individuals the ideas and tools with which to develop and examine the thoughtful part of their lives. John Armstrong, who while British by birth has adopted Australia as his home, has sought to make philosophical ideas accessible through his popular books and lectures. As Armstrong puts it,
… philosophy is an extension of what happens when ‘ordinary’ people begin to wonder about the world and their place in it. Philosophy is the name for a basic human activity: wondering, thinking, having opinions, justifying opinions, speculating, and holding your experience in some sort of framework. This activity has origins in a widespread normal human behaviour that is linked to conversation, exploration, and knowledge. Philosophy is the extension of something that happens anyway. (Quoted in Irving 2008)
Over the last decade Edward Spence’s ‘Theatre of Philosophy’ plays introduced philosophy to the general public through drama and audience participation and discussion. The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) has an explicit agenda to engage in public debate. Many of the centre’s philosophers give public lectures and work with local communities to promote philosophy. One such member of CAPPE is Steven Curry, who has worked with the Mornington Peninsula Shire over several years to engage the public in philosophical conversations shaped by local community issues, including environmental ethics, and notions of community, tolerance and diversity.
Also, the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) has made a concerted effort to take philosophy to the public. For example, the AAP awards an annual media prize to the best philosophical piece published by a professional philosopher in the popular media in Australasia. In 2007 the AAP, in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria, hosted a series of public discussions at the gallery. The focus of this activity was small group discussions about cutting edge philosophical issues led by philosophers, enabling an interface between philosophy, public art and the wider community.
Increasingly the community is extending invitations to philosophers to speak and work in public spaces. A case in point is Alan Saunders’ radio program, ‘The Philosopher’s Zone’, a weekly show on ABC Radio National which features interviews with philosophers on both historical and topical issues. Other examples include the Blackheath Philosophy Lecture, and the smattering of philosophy cafés, philosophy dinners, and philosophy and film events throughout Australia. These forums and events also provide individuals with the opportunity to belong to a community of thoughtful people, thus creating an interface between philosophers’ projects and the broader public.
For philosophy to have sustained and ongoing relevance in society, it must continue to reach beyond the bounds of the academy. Philosophers are the custodians of the history of ideas and guides for using philosophical tools for serious contemplation. There are opportunities for philosophers to engage and influence the public through their work on important moral and metaphysical debates. There is also a critical role for philosophers to engage the public in the practice of philosophy, to tease out arguments through discussion with the public rather than just lecture at an audience. This enables the philosophical community to expand, to include those with an interest in the practical application of philosophical ideas to their everyday lives and societal concerns. At a time in Australia when university funding and the structure of academic philosophy are under threat, public support can be a significant factor in philosophy’s survival.
The challenge for philosophy is to recognise the ways in which people become interested in philosophy and to build on this interest through public activities.
By the first decade of the twenty-first century philosophy had been introduced into the senior years of secondary school in all Australian states, with the support of the respective Departments of Education.
In 1994 in New South Wales, a Distinction Course for exceptionally gifted and talented students was offered at Higher School Certificate (HSC) level. These courses required a minimum of 120 hours study time and were well above the usual HSC standard, being comparable with a first-year university course. The course was delivered by the University of New England in Armidale and covered metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy. In addition to the Distinction Course, some schools offered the subject Philosophy and Theory of Knowledge as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, and some private schools taught philosophy as a separate subject, usually as part of a gifted and talented program.
In 2001, philosophy was added to the suite of Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) subjects. This study consists of four units delivered over two years: Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry, Philosophical Issues In Practice, The Good Life, and Mind and Knowledge. Extensive benchmarking was undertaken against courses around the world, including the IB, and the initial curriculum was influenced somewhat by the Ontario course in Canada. The curriculum was reviewed in 2006 for teaching over 2008–2012. In 2004, in Victoria, philosophy was also formally included as one of the subject areas in the Key Learning Areas (KLAs) called ‘Studies of Society and the Environment’ (SOSE) in the Victorian Curriculum and Standards Framework (CSF) delivered during the period of compulsory schooling (Years Preparatory to Ten). However, philosophy is not an explicit domain with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) that replaced the CSF in 2005. Philosophy as an approach to thinking has some very clear links with VELS Thinking Processes and in particular the reasoning, processing and inquiry dimension. The Philosophy for Children (P4C) program also has links with the Interpersonal Development domain. Philosophy has a potential place in the curriculum across a range of disciplines, but its uptake will depend on teacher interpretation of the curriculum.
South Australia introduced philosophy into its upper secondary ‘Society and Environment’ strand in 2003. The first stage of the course required students to become familiar with ‘community of inquiry’ methodology, thus allowing students to familiarise themselves with key philosophical ideas amd strategies and to apply philosophy to specific issues. In stage two, illustrative programs provided by the state Senior Secondary Assessment Board built a community of inquiry into the pedagogy (SSABSA Philosophy Assessment Report 2004).
In 2004, the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA) offered ‘Philosophy and Reason’ as a strand of the Mathematics syllabus. The three main areas of study were: Critical Reasoning, Deductive Logic, and Philosophy. The emphasis was on the development of rational thought and the skills of analysis, argument presentation and rational justification. In the philosophy unit, students studied three options from a range including philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, moral philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of human nature, philosophy of education, history of Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy. The syllabus sought to ‘provide a vocally interactive classroom’ (Queensland Studies Authority 2004: 26).
In 2005, ‘Religion and Philosophy’ was added to a pre-existing Studies in Religion syllabus for the Tasmanian Certificate of Education, to create the subject ‘Religion and Philosophy 5C’. The style of learning philosophy described in the syllabus (‘doing philosophy’) was influenced by the P4C program methods. Large parts of the syllabus were also quite similar to the IB Diploma Philosophy course, including the five themes: Introduction to Traditions, Comparative Studies in Religion, Contemporary Issues in Religion and Philosophy, Christian Perspectives on Religious Issues, and Ways of Knowing.
The Western Australian course in Philosophy and Ethics was trialled in 2006 with a view to full implementation in 2008. This course of study was made available as a choice for all upper secondary students, whether they were heading for university, the workplace or further technical education. It fits within a restructured statewide curriculum framework based on the principles of Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) that is mandated for all schools. The Western Australian course has four outcomes as well as required content. The outcomes are: Philosophical Inquiry, Philosophical and Ethical Perspectives, Philosophy and Ethics in Human Affairs, and Applying and Relating Philosophical and Ethical Understandings. Key players in the Western Australian P4C movement were part of the reference group writing the new course, which embedded the requirement that students demonstrate that they can engage in philosophical communities of inquiry (Millett 2006).
(Research for this article was based in part on email interviews with Monica Bini, Tim Sprod, and Alan Tapper.)
Philosophy of biology is a thriving area of research in Australasia, and it is very much part of the philosophical mainstream. Philosophy of biology is taught in almost all of the larger Australasian philosophy departments, and the annual conferences of the Australasian Association of Philosophy typically include a philosophy of biology stream, as do the conferences of its New Zealand division. Perhaps because philosophy of biology has such a high profile in Australasia, much Australasian work in other areas of philosophy such as philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of art and applied ethics is biologically informed.
J. J. C. Smart published ‘Can Biology Be An Exact Science?’ in Synthese in 1959 (Smart 1959a), but philosophy of biology did not gain momentum in Australasia until thirty years later. To a large extent the recent flourishing of Australasian philosophy of biology is due to the influence of Kim Sterelny. Sterelny began as a philosopher of mind and language. His first encounter with the philosophy of biology occurred when he became involved in the supervision of Karen Neander’s La Trobe Ph.D. thesis (completed in 1983) on functions in biology, but it was not until another of his students, Peter Godfrey-Smith, lent him a copy of The Extended Phenotype (Dawkins 1982) that he became a convert. In the late 1980s he co-wrote two articles with Philip Kitcher, ‘The Return of the Gene’ and (also with C. Kenneth Waters) ‘The Illusory Riches of Sober’s Monism’, both of which appeared in The Journal of Philosophy, and since then his output of books and articles in the philosophy of biology has been prodigious. Sex and Death (1999), an opinionated overview co-written with Paul Griffiths, remains one of the standard textbooks in the area. Thought in a Hostile World (2003) presents an account of the evolution of human cognition which provides an alternative to the claim (advanced by most evolutionary psychologists) that the mind is massively modular. More recently Sterelny has been researching the evolution of culture (Sterelny 2006a, 2006b). Sterelny took up a position in the philosophy department at Victoria University of Wellington in 1988, which became part-time in 2001 when he took up a fractional appointment in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at Australian National University; he is now full-time at the RSSS. For some years Sterelny has been editor-in-chief of the premier journal in the field, Biology and Philosophy.
Former students of Sterelny’s are active, and indeed eminent, in philosophy of biology throughout Australasia and beyond. Karen Neander (now at Duke University) explicates and defends an etiological account of functions (Neander 1991a, 1991b), defends a biological account of mental representation (Neander 1995a), and also writes on explanation and classification in biology (Neander 1995b, 2002; Neander and Rosenberg forthcoming). Peter Godfrey-Smith (now at Harvard) writes on, amongst other things, natural selection (Godfrey-Smith and Lewontin 1993; Godfrey-Smith and Kerr 2002; Godfrey-Smith 2007a, 2009a) and the concept of information as it is used in biology (Godfrey-Smith 2000, 2004b, 2007b; Godfrey-Smith and Sterelny 2007). Paul Griffiths, who now divides his time between the University of Sydney and the University of Exeter, ranges widely in his work in the area: he writes on innateness (Griffiths 2002, 2009; Griffiths and Machery 2008), gene concepts (Griffiths 2006; Griffiths and Neumann-Held 1999; Griffiths and Stotz 2004a, 2004b, 2007), the emotions from a biological point of view (Griffiths 1997, 2004a, 2004b), and functional explanation (Griffiths 1993, 1994). With Russell Gray, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, Griffiths has also written on developmental systems theory, according to which genes are just one developmental resource among many (Griffiths and Gray 1994a, 1994b, 1997, 2004, 2005). James Maclaurin (at the University of Otago) works on innateness (Maclaurin 2002, 2006) and on biodiversity (Maclaurin and Sterelny 2008); John Wilkins writes on species concepts (Wilkins 2003, 2006, 2007); and Brett Calcott is currently working on the evolution of complexity and has recently published on the evolution of cooperation (Calcott 2008) and on explanations of how biological mechanisms change (Calcott 2009).
Not every Australasian philosopher of biology is a former Sterelny student. Exceptions include Karola Stotz (currently a research fellow at the University of Sydney) who writes on genes (see Griffiths and Stotz references above; also Stotz 2006, 2008), and Derek Browne (University of Canterbury) who writes on instincts and on animal cognition (Browne 2004). But the exceptions are few: it is striking how many Australasian philosophers (at home and abroad) belong to the same philosophical lineage.
In spite of this, there is nothing particularly distinctive about the views of Australasian philosophers of biology as a group—there is not, on any of the big questions in philosophy of biology, an Australasian view. (Compare ‘Australian materialism’ in the philosophy of mind: although the view was not shared by all Australian philosophers of mind, many identified with the label and the association was strong in the eyes of the rest of the philosophical world.) Perhaps the variety within Australasian philosophy of biology is not surprising: like most areas of philosophy in the twenty-first century, the philosophy of biology is international. What is most striking about philosophy of biology in Australasia is the quality of the work being produced and the sense of a thriving and exciting philosophical community: both of these things encourage students to work in the area and encourage expatriates to return.
Philosophy of education comprises one of the many sub-disciplines of traditional Western philosophy. Canonical philosophers—like Plato, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant and John Dewey—address education as it relates to epistemology, aesthetics, ethics and other sub-disciplines. They think philosophically about education’s aim and methods, the nature of learning and thinking, the character and status of knowledge, and the nature of educational responsibility. They address questions that have come to define philosophy of education: what is teaching and who is the teacher? What is it to become a better human being? And, what is the character of maturation from childhood into adulthood? Philosophers’ answers to these questions define key periods in the history of philosophy of education such as the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Democratic, Postmodern and Critical.
Contemporary professional philosophers tend to specialise in one of philosophy’s sub-disciplines. The profession includes ethicists, political theorists, philosophers of art and philosophers of education. Philosophical activity within a sub-discipline is likely to wax and wane over the years due to a range of mitigating factors. Recent developments in technology, globalisation and environmental instability have created an urgent need for innovative ethical and political thought. This has led to a renaissance in moral and political philosophy which, in turn, has fuelled interest in philosophy of education. Philosophy of education is important when we recognise that our aspirational values—our views on how we should live—do not emerge de novo but must be cultivated in individuals; education is the means by which a society renews and improves upon itself.
Philosophy of education became a recognisable academic discipline in the U.S., with the inception of the John Dewey Society in 1935. This society was formed by academics committed to creating a role for education in the reconstruction of American society. As teacher education expanded to meet the escalating demand for elementary and secondary teachers after World War Two, it integrated philosophy of education into its programs. In 1941 the Philosophy of Education Society (PES) was founded. In England, the integration of philosophy of education into teacher education was inspired by R.S. Peters (1983) in the mid 1960s. Australia followed suit in the early 1970s, with the founding of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA) in 1971, just two years after the launch of the journal, Educational Philosophy and Theory.
Philosophers of education generally work in colleges of education. Their audience is principally teachers, teacher educators, school administrators, policy makers and other philosophers of education. The marginal position of philosophy of education—as a field made up of philosophers working in, and for, professional schools of education—sometimes causes suspicion: academic philosophers question the field’s philosophical rigour and purity; and teacher educators question its relevance and application. In the 1950s, analytic philosophers of education, like Paul Hirst, R. S. Peters, Israel Scheffler and Denis Phillips, responded to their field’s marginal status by carving out its new role to: overcome confusion, ambiguity and self-contradiction in educational theory and research by clarifying concepts and dispelling logical fallacies. This role had two components: the application of general philosophical theories such as freedom, punishment and authority to educational contexts; and the analysis of such educational concepts as knowledge, teaching, and learning. Analytic philosophy of education achieved some success in clarifying the limits of education and educational research. Despite its success, however, analytic philosophy of education precipitated its own demise. The analytic preoccupation with logical and conceptual groundwork diverted philosophical attention away from significant, substantive issues engulfing schools and society such as: increasing cultural and linguistic diversity; the achievement gap; the digital divide; urban schooling; as well as social, racial and economic inequalities.
From the 1980s, philosophers of education became inspired by the politicisation of knowledge and identity that occurred with Marxism, the Frankfurt School, and some postmodern strands of contemporary philosophy. They wanted to shift the emphasis in teacher education from reasoning and truth to justice and equity. Foundations courses in philosophy of education and/or critical thinking were replaced by courses on diversity, multiculturalism and social justice. Philosophers of education returned to reckoning with education’s implications in broad sociopolitical issues. Their work was enriched by advances in feminism, critical theory, queer theory and race theory. Indeed, educational theory has become much more multi-disciplinary, with particular advantage for the disciplines of anthropology, sociology and political science. Teachers are being prepared to be more ‘cultural responsive’, to beware of oppressive curricula and pedagogy, and to prepare their students to be agents of social change.
Two inter-related disadvantages of anti-foundational philosophy of education are: first, that it can develop into value relativism; and second, that it often loses sight of the importance of reason and other methods of inquiry that aim at objectivity. Some philosophers of education have responded by reconstructing analytic theories and methods of critical thinking. For example, bell hooks (1994) articulates a theory of critical thinking as a collective liberatory practice; Matthew Lipman (2003) has a tripartite conception of critical, creative and caring thinking; and Barbara Thayer-Bacon (2000) incorporates pragmatist, analytic and feminist epistemologies into her theory of ‘constructive thinking’. These approaches view critical thinking not as a discrete set of universal and value-neutral skills and procedures, but as methods of discourse useful for certain, limited culturally valued operations. They emphasise dialogue as the ideal discursive format for critical thinking.
Given that an innovative aspect of the critical thinking movement in the 1970s was that to bring some aspects of philosophical practice not only to teachers but also to students, it is noteworthy that Australia has had considerable success in introducing philosophy into primary and secondary schools. This success has given Australia a leadership role within the international community involved in the teaching and development of pre-university philosophy. Inspired by the curriculum and pedagogy of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) at Montclair State University, Professors Laurance Splitter and Phillip Cam did much to disseminate the program in Australia, and to train teachers in the 1980s and 1990s. The Philosophy for Children (P4C) program is designed to expose children to central philosophical concepts as they learn how to reason cooperatively and make sense of their experience. Its successful implementation in schools created the need for curriculum to support the teaching of philosophy in an Australian context—a need to which Phil Cam, Gilbert Burgh and Timothy Sprod responded by developing materials for the teaching of philosophy and values. Today, the commitment to practicing philosophy with children has strengthened and diversified.
Philosophy of education continues to flourish despite the pressures of diminishing teacher education programs, and increasingly career-oriented students. While the 1990s saw an interest in feminist epistemologies and ethics, pragmatism and identity politics, contemporary philosophers of education elucidate the importance of postmodern theory (most notably that of Giles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault) and turn their attention to philosophers not traditionally associated with education (Martin Heidegger, Hans-Gorg Gadamer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Emmanuel Levinas). Although theories of teaching and learning remain significant, the horizons of philosophy of education are expanding in new and illuminating ways.
Philosophy of education is a bit of an anomaly, in New Zealand as elsewhere. This gives it some strengths but also a few limitations.
Philosophy of education, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. John Dewey), is located outside of the philosophical mainstream. This is so for New Zealand as it is for most other countries, at least in the English-speaking world. In universities, where it is mainly found, philosophy of education is housed in faculties of education and rarely in philosophy departments. The teaching of philosophy of education tends to be aligned with other disciplines in the foundations of education, especially the history, psychology and sociology of education. One welcome benefit of this interdisciplinary mix is the opportunity it provides to influence, and be influenced by, other disciplines of an empirical sort. The object of educational study does not exist in philosophical isolation. On the contrary, educational policies and practices have rich historical antecedents, are shaped by powerful sociological forces, and are subject to the vagaries of various psychological processes. There is much to be gained from philosophy of education having to take account of these companion disciplines, for they not only give philosophical work a hard empirical reality with which to connect, they also provide an anchor as a bulwark against the Idealism which has, from time to time, gripped the philosophical study of education.
The leverage also works in reverse, albeit not always successfully. The more extreme sociological cultivations of, for example, relativism, have been blunted by the philosopher’s pen, even if not always disposed of. Likewise with some less than desirable psychological fads, behaviourism among them. So, to its advantage, philosophy of education is well-placed to cast a critical gaze on the musings of other disciplines even if this is not always well-received, and to it credit it has not flinched from regularly doing so.
One of the more serious consequences of philosophy of education being cast adrift from philosophy proper is the difficulty it poses for maintaining a close link with what is going on in the parent discipline. Philosophy in the university usually consists of several, even many colleagues bound by a common interest in philosophy. Lose one philosopher to retirement or promotion elsewhere and the department remains. But life is very different for the philosopher of education. All too often in education, the philosopher is alone as one, and in several New Zealand universities, not at all. Lose the philosopher of education and the chances are either the position is lost or if retained then allocated to something other than philosophy. Once the philosopher of education has gone then in that university philosophy of education too has gone.
But for philosophy of education the separation runs even deeper than this. It has, to be a very considerable extent, cut itself off from the rest of philosophy. It has its own societies, journals, and conferences. So, the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia provides the organisational umbrella, the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory is the society’s organ, and there is an annual conference, usually held in Australia and sometimes in New Zealand (e.g. 2007). It would probably be fair to say that without the support of the Australian side, philosophy of education in New Zealand would have long ceased to exist as a flourishing community of scholars.
Philosophy of education has the two faces of Janus. It looks one way to philosophy as the source of intellectual inspiration, of new theories, arguments, ideas and the like, and seeks to emulate the rigorous standards and traditions of philosophical inquiry. How well it achieves this is a matter of ongoing debate amongst philosophers of education. However, philosophy of education does not address itself directly to philosophers and philosophy students, but turns its attention to those in education whose interests are pulled by practical relevance. And herein lies a fundamental tension for philosophy of education to be philosophically competent but also practically relevant.
From There to Here to Where?
The origins of philosophy of education in New Zealand, in any significant sense, lie in three academic appointments in the 1960s. Jim Marshall at the University of Auckland, Stuart Ainsworth at the University of Waikato and Ivan Snook at the University of Canterbury. They brought with them a shared approach to philosophy of education, one shaped by conceptual analysis. So, such concepts as education, indoctrination, needs and democracy were subjected to systematic analysis to lay bare the necessary and sufficient conditions for their use.
As time passed and further philosophers of education joined the academic ranks, new influences were brought to bear. Michael Peters and Peter Roberts at Auckland, Graham Oliver and Debbie Hill at Waikato, and John Clark and John Codd at Massey University, with their by now well-established colleagues, in the late 1980s onwards turned their attention to the ‘reform’ of education and launched a sustained attack on the policies of neoliberalism, managerialism, marketisation, individualism and competition driving the reshaping of schools and universities. Whether this critique blunted the sharp edge of the ‘new right’ agenda is hard to tell.
The current shape of philosophy of education in the early twenty-first century has become diffused. Some academics bring their work to bear in a range of disciplines including the arts, business and early childhood education. Others, and only a few, continue to keep philosophy of education alive in papers of that name where their intellectual labour is shaped by a variety of philosophical ‘greats’: Robin Small (Auckland) – Nietzsche; Debbie Hill (Waikato) – Gramsci; John Clark (Massey) – Quine; and Peter Roberts (Canterbury) – Freire. The recent departures of Jim Marshall and Michael Peters have robbed the discipline of their work influenced by Wittgenstein and postmodernism.
And so, what of the future? As philosophers of education age, and move on to overseas positions or retire, and are not replaced, the future is starting to look rather bleak. There is the very real possibility that the death of philosophy of education will come to pass and few will mourn its demise. If there be such a day it will be a sad day indeed.
Traditionally the philosophy of history has been concerned with two broad, quite distinct, forms of discourse, as famously articulated by W. H. Walsh (1967): firstly, speculative philosophising about the historical processes of the world and, secondly, analytical enquiries into the ontology and epistemology of explanation and writing. Speculative philosophy of history has been the main concern during the last century not of philosophers as such but of historians, and it overlaps a good deal with historical theory so that by the late twentieth century those two forms of discourse became indistinguishable. In addition to Walsh’s separation of the two forms of philosophising, we must add a third mode of discourse—the production and critique of historical writing as a form of culturally and socially-embedded quasi-philosophical ideology that is designed to impact upon social and political beliefs and behaviour.
Analytical philosophy of history in Australia in a formal, explicit sense has always been a very small sub-discipline with few practitioners. In a less explicit sense, however, there have been and are many more scholars whose work within social science disciplines, including history, can be understood as contributing to a broader field of historical philosophy, methodology, and theory. But these social scientists and historians, often being ‘unschooled’ in philosophy in a formal sense, usually have little new or profound to contribute to discussions about and the solving of problems within historical explanation. They tend to be ‘users’ of philosophy of history rather than contributors to it. Nevertheless, there have been significant quasi-philosophical contributions to social theory that sometimes verge on being speculative philosophy of history (see below).
Analytical philosophy of history is a twentieth-century discourse internationally, especially from the 1920s and ’30s onwards. In the interwar period in Europe historical enquiry and explanation were subject to some limited attention, via the same sort of rigorous analysis as other branches of empirical explanation, in the leading analytical schools of Vienna, Berlin and Oxford, among other places. These thinkers in this movement were concerned to reveal the logic of enquiry of all empirical knowledge and thereby to remove all elements of speculation and a priori metaphysics.
In Australia it seems to have been the radical University of Sydney philosopher John Anderson (1962) who was the first to make some formal discussions of historical explanation. He adopted a critical, sceptical, and generally materialist approach to philosophical analysis and was close to the Communist Party for a time in the 1920s (cf. Passmore 1967). Anderson was an influential figure in the genesis of the most significant group or school of Australian philosophers—the Australian analytical and realist school—many of whom were his students, including D. M. Armstrong, J. L. Mackie, E. Kamenka, P. Partridge, and John Passmore (cf. Baker 1986). Of these, John Passmore was the only one to write systematic studies of historical explanation, from the 1950s (Passmore 1958, 1962), influenced by the contemporary debate over the logic of historical explanation conducted by, most notably, Carl Hempel (1942, 1965) and William Dray (1957). Passmore was one of the founders of the leading journal in the field, History and Theory, but his main interests lay at a tangent, in the history of philosophy and the practical applications of philosophy to problems about human nature and humanity’s place in the natural environment, rather than in the philosophy of the history of society as such (for example, Passmore 1970).
The arrival in New Zealand in the late 1930s of two central European refugees from Nazism who later became famous philosophers raised the profile of New Zealand philosophy of history: Karl Popper at the University of Canterbury and Peter Munz, his student at Canterbury and later a professor at Victoria University of Wellington. At Christchurch during the war Popper wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), a critique of what he saw as totalitarian thought, but he departed permanently for Britain in 1946. Munz studied in Cambridge and returned to Wellington for the rest of his career, and while essentially a medieval historian he also wrote several works on the philosophy of history from an Idealist perspective (Munz 1953, 1956, 1977).
More recently, several contributions to analytical philosophy of history have been made in Australia. The most important have been the extensive writings of C. Behan McCullagh of La Trobe University and Christopher Lloyd of the University of New England. McCullagh, the sole example of an avowed and ‘professionally focussed’ philosopher of history within a philosophy department, has produced an impressive body of careful, empirical work that falls squarely within the tradition of analysis of the logic of historical writing and methodology. McCullagh’s subject-matter and the material he has dissected and analysed into its logical components has been a vast range of historical writing. Through this work he has established himself as one of the world’s foremost logical critics of the structure of historical reasoning (see for example McCullagh 1984, 1998, 2004, 2008, 2009). No other contributions to the philosophy of history in Australia have been so forensically focussed on historical logic.
McCullagh’s most developed theme has been to defend the possibility of historical truth against relativism and its latest manifestation as postmodernism. The reliability, credibility and objectivity of historical accounts have to be defended, he argues, if historical knowledge is to be taken seriously and upheld as a truth-seeking and truth-finding empirical discipline. He holds that a critical theory of truth is necessary to this task and that theory is akin to the Peircean ideal or goal of universal explanation towards which we strive. The nature of the external world makes possible at least partial knowledge of itself and we can test, verify and build on our knowledge in a cumulative manner. In 2008 he wrote:
It is my dream that history will eventually come of age. Historians will not only think rationally, as the best do today, but come to recognise the standards of rationality that distinguish professional history. And rather than writing simply to entertain, or to create and test novel interpretations of historical evidence and historical events, they will acknowledge their obligation to help society understand itself. Then, when students see how rational and valuable history is, they will be drawn into a profession upon which the health of our civilization largely depends. (McCullagh 2008: 279)
Christopher Lloyd has primarily been an economic historian who has explored, with an aim somewhat similar to McCullagh’s, the philosophical foundations and logic of socio-economic history and historical social science in a series of works (see for example Lloyd 1986, 1993, 2005, 2008, 2009). Lloyd has been a defender and interpreter of critical realism in historical social science and has striven to articulate the foundations of unification of the historical and social sciences, as sciences. Like McCullagh, he has been concerned with the goal of knowledge-building through the interconnection between empirical study, concept and theory-building, and new study, in an ongoing process of accumulation and improvement through constant critique. Jeff Malpas, a University of Tasmania philosopher primarily of mind and knowledge, must also be mentioned as a contributor to the analytical philosophy of history in several articles (Malpas 2005;Levine and Malpas 1994).
Other philosophical contributions have come from historians and social scientists whose prime concentrations have been on actual historical enquiry and writing. Martin Stuart-Fox, a historian of South East Asia at the University of Queensland has produced several works of analytical philosophy of history, mostly focussed on the issue of the use of evolutionary theory in historical research (Stuart-Fox 1999, 2005). Marnie Hughes-Warrington, a cultural historian at Macquarie University, has published two books on the philosophy of history: one summarising the views of fifty philosophers and historians on history (Hughes-Warrington 2000) and an important study examining R. G. Collingwood’s views of history and historical education (Hughes-Warrington 2003).
Two other contributions deserve mention. First, Keith Windschuttle’s vehement critique of postmodernist relativism (Windschuttle 1994), while seemingly philosophical in intent, is more a polemic than a work of careful analytical philosophising. This critique is part of his wider contribution to the recent Australian ‘history wars’ in which he has combated several forms of Australian scholarship that he considers to be misguided and somehow anti-Australian in virtue of their relativism and lack of archival precision about Australian history. Secondly, from an opposed perspective, Ann Curthoys and John Docker (2005) have defended a postmodern marriage of historical and fiction writing as sharing a similar methodology and purpose of story-telling.
Speculative philosophy of history, which often has a close interconnection with broad social theory and theology, has not been much in evidence in Australia, perhaps because of the resolutely empirical and materialist character of Australian culture, society and intellectual endeavour. The most significant current of thought that could be described as speculative has come from Marxism and some of its conservative/religious opponents. But even the form that Marxism has taken in Australia has been empirical and materialist, in contrast with some of the Marxist traditions of Western Europe and the U.S. Marx was, himself, an opponent of speculative Hegelian philosophy, but in Western thought from the ‘rediscovery’ of the early writings of Marx in the 1960s there emerged a strong current of quasi-speculative, ‘humanistic’ Marxism, very critical of Soviet-style Marxism. In Britain and Australia, however, the main route taken by Marxist thinkers was closer to the thrust of Marx’s central themes on historical materialist political economy and the analysis of long-run history as the foundation of the analysis of contemporary capitalism. The British Marxist Historical School of the post-war decades (including Dobb, Hill, Thompson, Hilton, Kiernan, Stedman Jones, and others) had one distinguished member in Australia in the work of R. S. Neale, an English immigrant who had his Australian career at the University of New England. In the course of researching aspects of English and Australian social history, Neale wrote at length about the Marxist methodology and theory of history that he employed throughout his work (Neale 1985).
Not all theoretical and speculative history writing is Marxist and there has always been a rich tradition in the Western world, ever since Vico, Kant, Herder and Hegel, of what can be called ‘conservative’ thought that examines the long-run history of the West since ancient times as a civilisation, sometimes with religious and teleological foundations. In Australia this tradition has been well represented in the work of John Carroll of La Trobe University (e.g. Carroll 1998, 2001, 2004), who has developed a form of anti-humanist critique of modern Western civilisation. Carroll has also played a significant role in the ‘history wars’ over Australia’s past (see below) through his chairing of the review of exhibitions and programs of the National Museum of Australia (Carroll 2003), a review prompted by the Howard Government’s discontent with the way in which the themes of settler colonisation and Indigenous dispossession were presented by the Museum.
The critique of historical writing from socio-politico-cultural points of view has grown rapidly in recent decades to now be the major form of meta-writing about historical writing and knowledge in Australia. The vigorous prosecution of debates and even ‘history wars’ about the place of historical writing and knowledge in national life has been concerned primarily with two overlapping issues: the sociopolitical character of the country as, variously, a settler, convict, monarchical, radical, conformist, egalitarian, Anglo or Asia/Pacific, society; and the dispossession, destruction, and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians. This first debate is a long running one, traceable back even to the early nineteenth century, taking its impetus from the British Protestant settler versus convict (significantly Catholic) nature of the early society, and continuing to the present and including the issue of republicanism. The second only rose to national prominence from the late 1960s and gathered steam in the 1990s during the Keating and Howard Governments (cf. the important salvo by Blainey 1993). Indeed, the extent to which political leaders have become participants in these debates in recent times is quite remarkable. Historical and cultural disputes over the appropriation of Australia’s past for present purposes is now a central feature of Australian intellectual life, perhaps to an extent matched in only a few other countries, such as South Africa and Germany.
The history debate over the impact of settler colonisation on Indigenous Australians began with C. D. Rowley’s work (Rowley 1970) and was continued by Geoffrey Blainey, Bain Attwood, Henry Reynolds, Tim Rowse, Lyndall Ryan, Robert Manne, Stuart MacIntyre, Dirk Moses, Keith Windschuttle, and others. A recent collection of essays about Reynold’s contribution to Australian historiography and national consciousness (Attwood and Griffiths 2009) makes a significant contribution to the metastudy of Australian historiography and to the public role of history wars.
From its origins in the late nineteenth century, until almost the middle of the next, Australasian philosophy followed the mainstream of the established tradition, relegating matters semantic to the second rank. Thus in one of the major centres, the University of Melbourne, language was treated with aristocratic Idealistic disdain. In another, the University of Sydney, the redoubtable John Anderson sketched a view of meaning as consisting in a referential relation between language and facts. While his line has obvious affinities with the Tractatus, the resemblances are superficial. For Anderson never develops his view in Wittgenstein’s detail—no accident, but a consequence of the fact that for Anderson the application to meaning is a mere detail, a secondary deployment of apparatus developed to explore the primary areas of epistemology and metaphysics,
In the wider world, this order of priorities was reversed in the notorious ‘linguistic turn’, the movement inspired by Frege, fired by Russell, Wittgenstein and the logical positivists, and culminating in the classic works of Austin, Ryle and Quine, which relocated matters of meaning to centre stage. Early apostles of the movement in Australia were Douglas Gasking, who arrived at the University of Melbourne from Cambridge before the war; and George Paul, who arrived from Oxford in the early fifties. Such voices combined with the accumulating weight of the international literature to turn Australasian philosophy too towards language. This tendency was accelerated by the expansion of the university system in the 1960s, with the consequent appointment of young lecturers with modern ideas gained abroad. Powerful though this impetus may have been, however, resistance remained, particularly that mounted by such Andersonians as D. M. Armstrong, who stubbornly refused to allow metaphysics to play second-fiddle—except, perhaps, to their preferred conception of science.
The linguistic turn made philosophy reflective about its own discourse, which it subjected to constant analysis; and it imparted to general philosophical discussion a semantic twist, often separable from the substantive issues. This poses a problem for the current article, in distinguishing ‘philosophy of language’ from exercises in conceptual analysis, or metaphysical discussion cast in the formal mode. The problem is compounded by the explosion of interest in formal logic, roughly contemporary in Australasia with the linguistic turn; for this raises the question of when formal semantics counts as philosophy of language. In this article, ‘philosophy of language’ will be narrowly construed as the study of the systematic theory of meaning for natural languages, either debating the form such a theory should take, or advancing specific proposals for the detail of such a theory. Even this narrow construal is vague; by authorial fiat, we shall interpret it in such a way as to exclude from consideration much work of undoubted interest to the philosophy of language, to render our material more tractable.
Subject to these reservations, we may distinguish three broad movements in the philosophy of language in Australasia: Possible World Semantics; the Davidsonic Boom and its Aftermath; and Causal Semantics.
Possible World Semantics in Australasia has been dominated by the New Zealander Maxwell J. Cresswell, a modal logician who became convinced of the relevance of modal apparatus to the semantics of natural languages through contact with Richard Montague, on a sabbatical visit to UCLA in 1970. Cresswell’s leading idea was to take the underlying structure of a natural language to be that of a lambda-categorial language, in which sentences are represented as having an underlying composition out of functors and terms, with their world-relative truth-values, and hence (Cresswell argues) their meanings, algorithmically determined by corresponding functions and arguments defined across the structure of possible worlds. The basic framework is set out in his Logic and Languages (Cresswell 1973); later works discuss such problem areas as the proper treatment of anaphora, tense, and the propositional attitudes (Cresswell 1985a, 1985b); and the framework and favoured analyses are defended against rival accounts in Semantic Essays: Possible Worlds and their Rivals (Cresswell 1988). Early work by John Bigelow, then a colleague of Cresswell’s at Wellington, contributed to the program (see in particular Bigelow 1975 and 1978.)
A quite independent use of the possible worlds framework is to be found in the work of Charles Hamblin of the University of New South Wales. Hamblin’s main work, in computer science and logic, is peripheral to our current concerns; but his book Imperatives (1987) is a highly original contribution to possible worlds semantics of natural language. In it, Hamblin argues that the extension of possible worlds theory to the case of imperatives requires that worlds be construed as complex structures, comprising times, states, deeds, doers and happenings, these components linked by a relation of causation making room for a distinction between physical and agent causation.
The work of Cresswell and Hamblin illustrates the natural transition between modal semantics and the philosophy of language, and much work bearing on the study of meaning has been done by Australasian logicians working within a possible worlds framework. The bulk of this we deem beyond our current brief, but the work of Lloyd Humberstone is worth singling out as of particular relevance (Humberstone 1979, for example, is a classic paper with obvious ramifications for the treatment of tense).
In addition to this use by logicians, possible worlds came to figure extensively in the general Australasian philosophical vocabulary, through the enormous influence exercised in the region by David Lewis. But this casual use of terminology does not indicate a serious widespread commitment to their serious use in a systematic philosophy of language. Rather, ironically enough, Lewis’s influence had the effect of decreasing interest in philosophy of language, in possible world terms or any other; of which more below.
The Davidsonic Boom first hit Australia in 1969, when Donald Davidson was invited to Adelaide as a Gavin David Young lecturer, and later toured the country, introducing his conception of Tarskian truth-theory as the basis of the theory of meaning. (The arrival at about the same time of the young Gary Malinas, then a Davidson enthusiast, as a lecturer in Brisbane, proved a further catalyst.) The subtle attraction of the Davidsonian blend of apparent rigour with nuanced subtlety seemed to hold a particular attraction in Melbourne, where it was reinforced through traditional ties with Oxford, where Davidson’s ideas were enthusiastically embraced; Sydney, more scientistic as ever, was less impressed.
Martin Davies, a product of Monash University and Oxford, has oscillated between Oxford and his native country since the 1970s. His book, Meaning, Quantification, Necessity: Themes in Philosophical Logic (Davies 1981) is a sympathetic, detailed presentation of an interpretation of Davidson’s general position, followed by an examination of the technical problems in forging a truth-theory apt to accommodate the more subtle features of quantification, anaphora, and modality. In a number of papers around this time Davies explored both the technicalities of truth-theory and the wider issues of its relation to meaning and semantic competence; the latter interest presaging his later concentration on the philosophy of mind. Again, the Davidsonian airs of Oxford had their effect on the Melbourne-based Barry Taylor. His Modes of Occurrence (Taylor 1985) makes use of an account of tense and of facts to obtain a theory of events, which is then deployed to yield a truth-theory for adverbs. These two ocker Davidsonians bounced off each other over a number of points in truth-theory and its interpretation (see for example Taylor 1980 and Davies 1981, on complex demonstratives).
Another reading of Davidson was presented by Jeff Malpas, a New Zealander now holding the chair of philosophy in Tasmania. He added a Continental spin, his Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning (Malpas 1992) proposing that Davidson’s use of the notion of truth requires a Heideggerian interpretation.
What is here called the Davidsonian Aftermath comprises the area of critique of truth-based semantics of the Davidson style, and assessment of such critique, as exemplified by, but not restricted to, the work of Michael Dummett and the latter-day Hilary Putnam. (The terminology is inaccurate insofar as it suggests such critique necessarily postdates Davidson’s work—as Dummett makes clear, it could equally take Frege as its target. But it correctly represents the Australasian context on which the critique impacted.) An important contribution in this field by Huw Price (1988) develops a critique independent of the big names just cited; Price argues that the truth-theoretic account of meaning depends on the unsustainable assumption that assertoric discourse can be clearly distinguished from the rest. Linda Burns’ book, Vaguenes: An Investigation into Natural Languages and the Sorites Paradox (Burns 1994), derives its initial impetus from the case developed by Dummett and his follower Crispin Wright against standard models of language based on their alleged incapacity to handle vagueness, and goes on to develop an original account of the phenomenon. Green (2001) provides a critical account of Dummett’s theory of language, whilst Khlentzos (2004) and Taylor (2006) examine the case for antirealism arising out of the views of Dummett, Putnam, and associated views on language—the former finding against antirealism, the latter in its favour.
Causal Semantics was the robust response of Sydney Andersonianism to fashionable foreign-inspired heresies, and urged that meaning assume a proper subordinate position within the context of a sober scientific realism. Michael Devitt emerged as its great champion. Devitt (1981) argues for a theory of meaning based on a causally-defined reference relation linking singular terms, and terms of other grammatical categories such as observational natural kind terms, to things in the world; truth is defined using Tarski’s truth-definition interpreted in Field’s way. Differences of sense are explained as variations in the shape causal reference relations might assume. Importantly, semantic competence does not consist in propositional knowledge, but in practical abilities which a mechanism suitably related causally to the world might exhibit. Devitt’s Realism and the Truth (1984), whilst avowedly a work of metaphysics, takes time off to mount a vigorous attack on rival accounts of meaning, such as those of Davidson, Dummett, and the later Putnam. These ideas, both positive and negative, are further elaborated in a book co-authored by Devitt with his then colleague Kim Sterelny (Devitt and Sterelny 1987), which constitutes an ‘opinionated introduction’ to the philosophy of language, elaborating the causal view and pointing up the defects of rival accounts.
Devitt has continued to develop his position from these early formulations. Thus Devitt (1996) argues that meaning must consist in nonholistic ‘localist’ properties, which can be explained only within the framework of a causally-cashed representationalism; whilst he later (Devitt 2006) puts the case for a nonpsychologistic account of linguistics, allowing it to account for semantic competence without imputing propositional knowledge.
The novelty of the linguistic turn, in Australasia as elsewhere, has faded; indeed, its gloss hereabouts was tarnished with a special rapidity thanks to the influence of David Lewis, who deliberately opposed its charms, asserting the primacy of independent metaphysics. So interest in the philosophy of language has declined, with metaphysics and philosophy of mind in particular taking its place. But true believers like Devitt continue to pursue it; and philosophising in general has been irremediably altered by its influence.
An inescapable conclusion of this survey is that Australasian philosophy of language, like Australasian philosophy in general, is inextricably bound up with, influenced by, and contributing to, philosophy in a global context. This holds even of Causal Semantics, superficially the most antipodean of the movements surveyed; for its origins lie in the work of Kripke and the early Putnam. We can only expect this tendency to accelerate, as technology diminishes the tyranny of distance yet further.
And a good thing, too.
The philosophy of law (which lawyers often call ‘jurisprudence’) deals with a wide variety of analytical, conceptual and normative questions. Some of them concern the law as a whole, inquiring into the nature of law or the meaning of ‘law’, the relationship between law and morality, the foundations and structures of legal systems, the nature of legal rules and principles, and the methods of legal reasoning. The two major rival theories concerning these questions are known as ‘legal positivism’, which regards law as ultimately a matter of social fact that is conceptually separate from morality, and ‘natural law’, which maintains the opposite view. Other questions concern particular areas of law, inquiring into both the actual and ideal normative foundations of criminal law, contract law, torts and so on. A third group of questions is more concerned with moral concepts and norms that are closely associated with law, such as authority, rights, justice, the obligation to obey the law, and the political ideal known as the ‘rule of law’.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, legal philosophy in Britain and its overseas dominions was dominated by the writings of John Austin, one of Jeremy Bentham’s disciples, who built classical legal positivism on the foundation of the political theory of sovereignty first developed by Bodin and Hobbes. According to Austin, a legal system is one of commands emanating from a sovereign, who is habitually obeyed by most members of the community and does not habitually obey anyone else. Although not without its critics even in the nineteenth century (Rumble 2005), Austin’s version of legal positivism remained very influential until it was replaced by the more sophisticated legal positivism expounded in H. L. A. Hart’s The Concept of Law (1961). Hart argued that mature legal systems rest not on habitual obedience to a legally unconstrained sovereign, but on fundamental rules, including a ‘rule of recognition’ that governs the validity of all the other rules of the system. The existence of these fundamental rules consists in their being accepted as binding and applied by senior legal officials.
The first Antipodean legal philosopher to attract international attention was J. W. Salmond, a New Zealander who probably remains that country’s ‘most influential and renowned jurist’ (Frame 1995: 11). As a young lawyer practising in New Zealand, he published First Principles of Jurisprudence in 1893. Appointed professor of laws at the University of Adelaide in 1897, he published during his tenure there Jurisprudence, or the Theory of the Law (1902), which was republished in six subsequent editions in his lifetime and another five after his death. Like other books on jurisprudence of its generation, this book combined a discussion of the nature and foundations of legal systems with analysis of central legal concepts such as ownership, possession, obligation and liability. Salmond was one of the first philosophers to break with Austin’s theory that law consists of the commands of a sovereign, and he anticipated some key aspects of Hart’s theory by insisting that law rests ultimately on principles whose existence depends on their being recognised and acted upon by those who represent the State (Frame 1995: 50–1, 65–6). Indeed, Hart acknowledged Salmond’s influence in that regard (Hart 1961: 245).
Professor G. W. Paton of Melbourne Law School later produced a book in the same genre as Salmond’s, titled A Text-book of Jurisprudence (1946), which was republished in two subsequent editions. This was more a textbook for undergraduate students, introducing them to the leading contemporary theories of law, rather than an original contribution to the field. It had less influence on subsequent developments than Salmond’s work. But Paton discussed American contributions to legal philosophy that had appeared since Salmond’s death, such as sociological jurisprudence and legal realism. Sociological jurisprudence was concerned with empirical study of the actual purposes and functioning of law in society, while legal realism was sceptical about the capacity of law to provide judges and other decision-makers with determinate guidance.
Sociological jurisprudence found its Australian champion in Julius Stone, dean of law at Auckland University College from 1939 until 1942, and professor of jurisprudence and international law at the University of Sydney from 1942 until his retirement in 1972. A disciple of the American Roscoe Pound, who pioneered sociological jurisprudence, Stone was also influenced by legal realism. In 1946, he published The Province and Function of Law, which established his international reputation in jurisprudence. It was divided into three parts, dealing respectively with ‘Law and Logic’, ‘Law and Justice’, and ‘Law and Society’. The first two parts dealt with the more traditional questions of legal philosophy, while the third and larger part dealt with how social behaviour and law affect one another. In the early 1960s, Stone published an updated and greatly expanded version of this work, in three volumes that each dealt with one of these broad topics (Stone 1964, 1965 and 1966). These books were sometimes criticised for devoting excessive attention to the exposition of the ideas of past thinkers, at the expense of original contributions to the field. Stone emphasised the law-making role of judges, and the way it is obscured in their reasoning by what he labelled ‘categories of indeterminate reference’. The judges’ law-making role was controversial in the legal profession at the time, but already well-accepted by legal philosophers. For them, Stone’s 1960s volumes were eclipsed by Hart’s hugely influential The Concept of Law. There are few references to Stone in more recent legal philosophy, although he remains well known in Australian legal circles. He is the subject of a biography by Star, published in 1992.
One of Stone’s research assistants, Ilmar Tammelo, was employed by the Sydney Law School in 1958 to teach legal philosophy, which he did until 1972 when he took up an academic position in Salzburg. His work on the role of logic in law included Outlines of Modern Legal Logic (1969) and Modern Logic in the Service of Law (1978). Tammelo and Stone established the Australian Society of Legal Philosophy in 1961. The Sydney Law School included another legal philosopher, who was a former student of Stone’s but not a member of his group. W. L. Morrison, known primarily as a torts lawyer, was a staunch legal positivist who in 1982 published a book-length defence (although not an uncritical one) of the philosophy of John Austin. David Hodgson, a 1962 graduate of Sydney Law School who became a Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, published Consequences of Utilitarianism in 1967, as well as many articles and a book on the nature of consciousness and free will.
Meanwhile Samuel Stoljar, in the Research School of the Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University from 1954 until 1985, published several books and many articles in the area of legal philosophy, although his primary areas of specialisation were contract and related areas of private law. His philosophical books include Groups and Entities: An Inquiry into Corporate Theory (1973), Moral and Legal Reasoning (1980), and An Analysis of Rights (1984). More recently at the RSSS, Peter Cane published Responsibility in Law and Morality (2002), and Jane Stapleton, an expert on tort law, has made important contributions to the philosophical foundations of the common law.
The Faculty of Law at the University of Adelaide has produced two prominent natural lawyers. One of its graduates, John Finnis, was appointed professor of law and legal philosophy at Oxford University in 1989, after teaching there since 1966. In 1981 he published Natural Law and Natural Rights, which expounded a theory of natural law inspired by the Catholic theologian Germain Grisez’s interpretation of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Finnis’ theory proposes that law, political authority and morality itself are ultimately based on a limited number of ‘basic goods’ that are self-evident, and also on some basic principles of practical reasoning. The author of other books including Fundamentals of Ethics (1983) and Aquinas: Moral, Political and Legal Theory (1998), Finnis has been widely credited with reviving the influence of natural law theorising in contemporary legal philosophy. He has also been active in applying his theory to important practical questions such as nuclear deterrence, contraception and discrimination against homosexuals.
Another Adelaide law faculty graduate, Michael Detmold, who taught legal philosophy there until his retirement in 2007, also defended a natural law philosophy in The Unity of Law and Morality (1984) and other works. Detmold’s conception of law is based on the inherently practical nature of judicial decisions, which can have drastic effects on people’s lives. Those decisions can aspire to genuine justification, he maintains, only if the most fundamental legal norms on which they are based are moral norms.
But legal positivism has not lacked champions in Australia and New Zealand. Tom Campbell, formerly professor of jurisprudence at the University of Glasgow, held a chair in law at the Australian National University from 1990 until 2001, and subsequently a professorial fellowship in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University. Campbell’s international renown in legal philosophy is based partly on his defence of legal positivism on moral, rather than analytical or conceptual, grounds. In The Legal Theory of Ethical Positivism (1996), and the essays collected in Prescriptive Legal Positivism: Law, Rights and Democracy (2004), Campbell argues that the requirements of the rule of law, and of democracy, are best satisfied if law consists of clear rules, enacted by democratically elected legislatures, that are faithfully interpreted and applied by judges without any need for value judgments.
Jeremy Waldron, a New Zealander who has achieved international eminence as a legal and political philosopher, is also an ethical legal positivist and a defender of the authority of democratically elected legislatures. Waldron has held chairs at the University of California Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia and (currently) New York University. Perhaps the best known of his many books is Law and Disagreement (1999), in which he famously defends ‘the dignity of legislation’ that is enacted by democratically elected legislatures, and criticises judicial review of legislation on the ground that it violates the right of all citizens to participate equally in political decision-making. In many other books and publications Waldron has made major contributions to other philosophical topics, especially the nature and justification of rights and particularly of private property, the political philosophy of John Locke, and the rule of law.
James Allan and Jeffrey Goldsworthy are also legal positivists who have argued against subjecting the lawmaking authority of elected legislatures to judicially enforceable bills of rights. Allan, a Canadian who taught at University of Otago for ten years until his appointment in 2004 as Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, is the author of A Sceptical Theory of Morality and Law (1998) and Sympathy and Antipathy; Essays Legal and Philosophical (2002). Goldsworthy, who has held a personal chair at Monash University since 2000, is the author of The Sovereignty of Parliament, History and Philosophy (1999).
Wojciek Sadurski, who currently holds chairs in legal philosophy at both the University of Sydney and the European University Institute in Florence, has also expressed scepticism about the judicial protection of constitutional rights. He is a prolific writer whose books alone deal with such diverse subjects as desert and social justice, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the rule of law, and the judicial enforcement of constitutional rights, particularly in Eastern Europe. He has sometimes collaborated with Professor Martin Krygier, who has taught legal theory and law and society at the University of New South Wales for many years. Krygier has made major contributions to our understanding of the rule of law, and of its practical implementation, particularly in post-Communist societies.
Australian legal philosophers who have departed from the mainstream include Charles Sampford of Griffith University, whose book The Disorder of Law (1989) argued against the assumption made by most legal philosophers that law is found in legal systems, and proposed instead a ‘melee theory of law’. Margaret Davies at Flinders University has worked at the forefront of postmodern legal theory in Australia, developed principally in her books Asking The Law Question; the Dissolution of Legal Theory (3rd ed., 2008) and Delimiting the Law: Postmodernism and the Politics of Law (1996).
Several Australians and New Zealanders have contributed to the philosophical analysis of legal interpretation: Professor Jim Evans of the University of Auckland, most notably in his book Statutory Interpretation: Problems of Communication (1988), Jeffrey Goldsworthy in many articles and book chapters dealing with constitutional interpretation; and Natalie Stoljar, the daughter of Samuel Stoljar.
Among the younger generation of expatriate Australian legal philosophers are Liam Murphy at New York University, co-author with Thomas Nagel of The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice (2002); John Tasioulas at the University of Oxford, who works on human rights, particularly in criminal law and international law; Grant Lamond, also at Oxford, who has published on coercion and precedent in law; and Natalie Stoljar, currently at McGill University.