The Beginnings of the Philosophy Department and Its Development
The foundation professor of philosophy, A. J. (Jim) Baker, was appointed in 1965 and, with the arrival of Geoff Reid and Alan Olding, philosophy was taught at the University of Waikato for the first time in 1966. In fact, 1966 was the first year of teaching at the university generally, although a few subjects had been taught in the Hamilton branch of the University of Auckland since 1960. Rudi Ziedins replaced Jim Baker as professor in 1969. By 1971 the complement of philosophy lecturers was five and it remained at that level until 1992 when it grew to six, and it has remained about six to seven since then. The third professor was Ben Gibbs, who held the chair from 1992 to 2002. In 2001 the Religious Studies Programme joined the department, which was reflected in the new name of the department in the Calendar from 2005. By the 1990s the university practice was that a chairperson in a department need not be a professor. Since the departure of Rudi Ziedins, there have been various chairpersons and acting chairpersons: Ben Gibbs, David Lumsden, Alastair Gunn, Tracy Bowell and Douglas Pratt.
Up until 1993, all the lecturing staff were male, but the appointment of Tracy Bowell in that year was the start of the feminisation of the department, which has continued so that currently four-and-a-half of the six-and-a-half philosophy lecturing positions are held by women, an unusual statistic. Many of the staff have come from overseas, as their degrees largely make clear, with staff originating from Australia, Hong Kong, Latvia (Rudi Ziedins), South Africa, U.K., U.S. and Yugoslavia, as well as New Zealand.
Over the years, members of the department have become known for their commitments and principles. Jim Baker, while still in Sydney, had been part of ‘the Sydney Push’, a group with a libertarian orientation. In the early days of the University of Waikato, he became well known for the lively expression of his ideas. Professor Ben Gibbs took public stands against two vice-chancellors, against one over pronunciation (‘collegial’ does not have a hard ‘g’, as the word derives from ‘college’) and against another on a graver matter, the ‘Kupka affair’, which concerned a neo-Nazi student at the University. Mane Hajdin spoke out against aspects of ‘political correctness’ and also addressed matters of pronunciation, defending in the university newsletter the use of an English pronunciation of ‘Waikato’.
The Teaching Curriculum
The undergraduate curriculum has been largely typical of a department with an analytic focus, covering logic, the philosophy of science, epistemology and metaphysics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, ethics, and some other areas from time to time such as the philosophy of law and aesthetics. One point of difference, though, has been the early introduction by Alastair Gunn of courses in applied ethics. The first of these was Social and Moral Philosophy, first introduced in 1976. This was followed later by Environmental Ethics, Ethics in War and Peace and Business and Professional Ethics. Liezl van Zyl and Ruth Walker as well as Al Gunn currently teach in the area of ethics.
The department has had a special relationship with the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences since its inception, and this has involved some joint teaching of logic and contributions to programs such as ‘Artificial Intelligence’. From this department’s side Edwin Hung led that involvement, along with David Lumsden and more recently Cathy Legg, who has an IT background. The teaching of critical reasoning has been an important part of the undergraduate curriculum in recent years. This began in 1996 when Gary Kemp and Tracy Bowell trialled a course in the area in summer school. This became a regular part of the curriculum and led to their jointly authored textbook (Bowell and Kemp 2005), which is soon to have a third edition. While Gary Kemp left all too soon, we now have Justine Kingsbury who has a particular interest in that area and who shares the teaching with Tracy Bowell.
From 2000, Ruth Walker, Alastair Gunn and a computer savvy graduate student, Tery Hardwicke, started to develop the internet as a mode of delivery of courses. The department now offers a range of courses delivered through the internet at first and second-year levels. Some occurrences of these courses take place in summer school and these have proved particularly popular. Another distinctive part of the undergraduate teaching program is a version of Social and Moral Philosophy which is offered to high school students. This was initiated, in a slightly different form, in 2000 by Alastair Gunn in conjunction with Marg Coldham-Fussell from Religious Studies and Tery Hardwicke. Students take this course not only from Hamilton but also from further afield. There is a backbone of internet provision which is supplemented by face to face teaching at a frequency depending on the size of the class and proximity.
In 2006 Philosophy at Waikato scored a PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund) rating of 4.5 (on a weighted basis). Though not as stellar as some Philosophy Departments in New Zealand, this is well above average both for the faculty and the university, indeed higher than the average score of any university in New Zealand. Research areas have been various. Ethics, both applied ethics and ethical theory, has been prominent. This includes work by Alastair Gunn on environmental ethics and engineering ethics in particular (including Gunn and Vesilind 2003), and Liezl van Zyl’s work (including Van Zyl 2000). Mane Hajdin during his time in the department worked both on ethical theory (notably in Hajdin 1993) and on applied ethics, including the topic of sexual harassment. Gary Kemp published in aesthetics as does Justine Kingsbury.
Philosophy of science, the area of the long-serving Edwin Hung, has also been prominent, represented notably by Hung (2006). Various members of the department over the years have researched in the contemporary analytic areas of language, mind, epistemology and metaphysics. These include Rudi Ziedins, Geoff Reid, David Lumsden, Tracy Bowell, Gary Kemp, Cathy Legg and Justine Kingsbury.
There has not been a great emphasis in the department on historical figures within philosophy, but Ben Gibbs’ work on Plato provides an exception. Also we might include under this heading Tracy Bowell’s work on Wittgenstein and Cathy Legg’s work on Charles Sanders Peirce.
Research in the philosophy of religion brings into focus elements of the Religious Studies Programme, notably the work of Douglas Pratt, including papers on aspects of philosophical theology (e.g. Pratt 2002), together with work on interfaith issues (as exemplified by Pratt 2005). Ruth Walker has also published on the philosophy of religion.
The department has seen the successful completion of a diverse range of philosophy doctorates: Ron Smith, Alastair Gunn, Stephen Foulds, Rosemary de Luca, Tery Hardwicke, and Mark Smith, with Mashitoh Yaacob’s currently under examination.
After the first few years of the department, which saw the return of Jim Baker and Alan Olding to Australia, there was not a great turnover of staff, but there have been some departures. Brian Lawrence left for the U.K. Gary Kemp left to join the University of Glasgow. He has continued to publish work in the philosophy of language, twentieth-century analytic philosophy and aesthetics (including Kemp 2006). Mane Hajdin, who left to go to San Francisco, has continued to work in moral philosophy and to teach in various institutions in the area.
Some of our students moved on to doctoral study overseas. Megan-Jane Johnstone received a doctorate from La Trobe University and is currently professor of nursing at RMIT University, Melbourne. Patrick Blackburn proceeded to a Masters at the University of Sussex and a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh and is currently research director at INRIA, France’s national organisation for research in computer science. Michael Fleming received a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia and now teaches philosophy at Capilano College in British Columbia. David Rodin was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he took a B.Phil. and then a D.Phil. and now pursues his philosophical career at Oxford University and the Australian National University (ANU). Lee Churchman and Stephanie Gibbons pursued doctorates at the University of Toronto and Lee currently teaches philosophy in Seoul. Andrew Jorgensen’s doctorate was from Temple University and he currently holds a postdoctoral position at Trinity College, Dublin. Kelly Roe is currently working on a doctorate at the ANU. Other students have pursued doctoral study elsewhere in New Zealand.
The University of Western Australia (UWA), situated in the state capital of Perth, began teaching in 1913. Although the eight foundation chairs were mostly in modern utilitarian disciplines, philosophy (joined with psychology, as was then common practice) was taught from the start, with the appointment of P. R. Le Couteur, an Australian Rhodes Scholar, as lecturer in mental and moral philosophy. Le Couteur had studied under Otto Külpe and Karl Bühler in Bonn; he later claimed to have established the first experimental course in psychology in Australia, while somehow managing also to be the university’s foundation lecturer in French and German. The departments of Psychology and Philosophy, formally separated in 1930, were still yoked together in a ‘School of Philosophy and Psychology’ as late as 1951.
In charge of the teaching of philosophy from his initial appointment in 1921 until his retirement in 1960 was a pupil of Francis Anderson from Sydney, A. C. Fox, who was eventually appointed to the university’s first chair of philosophy in 1945. By modern standards, Fox published comparatively little (though occasional articles can be found in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy from the 1920s to 1950); rather, he was a wide-ranging scholar, a tireless and principled contributor to the running of the university and the intellectual life of its student body, and a champion of free thought who frequently incurred the displeasure of political worthies. Illustrations of his willingness to perform valuable but thankless tasks are his compilation of the first consolidated index to the AJP and, more controversially, his three years as visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Tasmania, to keep the subject alive there during the period when the chair was under black ban from the Australasian Association of Philosophy because of the sacking of Sydney Sparkes Orr.
Fox’s successor in the chair was S. A. Grave, after the initial appointee, George Hughes, returned promptly to New Zealand following a brief exposure to one of Perth’s fiercer summers. Grave’s first book, The Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense, despite its dispiriting title, brought him an international reputation and helped to revive serious interest in the philosophy of Thomas Reid, while a subsequent article on Berkeley became a standard reference. Among his later books, A History of Philosophy in Australia is most relevant in this context, containing a wealth of information unavailable elsewhere. No academic politician, Grave was fortunate to head his department during a period when universities were expanding. He led by example: a man of iron self-discipline, he carried a teaching load usually heavier than those of his colleagues, and combined in discussion a gentleness of manner with a formidable learning and knack for posing questions that often seemed naive but usually went to the heart of the matter.
At this period, decisions on appointments (except for chairs) were effectively made within departments. For a number of reasons, among them the fact that the department rarely appointed its own graduates, the Philosophy Department was insulated from the various enthusiasms that from time to time had gripped its eastern counterparts, and as a result its appointments and its teaching remained free of the philosophical and (more damagingly) political commitments that produced various kinds of conflict and decay elsewhere.
Despite the need, felt very strongly in what was then the state’s sole university, to cover as wide a range as possible in its teaching, appointments were typically made by picking the best person regardless of speciality and adjusting the responsibilities of existing staff to fit. As a result, the modestly-sized department had a surprising proportion of people whose impact was more than local. Appointed during the Fox era was R. L. Franklin, a former lawyer, author of the well-reviewed book Freewill and Determinism, who took up the chair of philosophy at the University of New England. From the same period, and well known locally for his contributions to art criticism, was Patrick Hutchings, who, as Brian de Garis remarked (1988: 238), ‘more than any of his colleagues fulfilled lay expectations of how a philosopher should look and behave’ (and eventually took this demeanour to a new post at Deakin University). Of those appointed during the Grave era, the best known for a while was Julius Kovesi, whose book Moral Notions, published in the influential Routledge series, Studies in Philosophical Psychology, received an extremely enthusiastic Critical Notice in Mind. For a time it looked as if the book might overthrow the then dominant paradigm in moral philosophy, but Kovesi never followed it up and it is now almost—albeit undeservedly—forgotten. (Though his idiosyncrasies are not: for example, he had unusual opinions about Plato’s Forms; faced at a conference with the challenge that Aristotle, who had after all attended the Academy, had a different view, he responded by saying that the Academy’s curriculum was diverse, and he believed that Aristotle must have left immediately after the dancing.) Then there was George Seddon, who after gaining a Ph.D. in geology while lecturing in the English Department, joined the Philosophy Department as senior lecturer in history and philosophy of science. Although his publications in philosophy were few (notably a very original essay on logical possibility), Seddon was quickly snapped up by the University of New South Wales as professor of history and philosophy of science, before his appointment as Director of the Centre for Environmental Studies at the University of Melbourne, thus leaving philosophy behind and making full-time his commitment to the field for which he is now remembered and which brought him many awards including membership of the Order of Australia.
Among others appointed during Grave’s tenure of the chair were Stewart Candlish, who became an explorer of the early history of analytical philosophy and went on to be the first member of the department to be elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy; R. E. Ewin, who produced a string of stylishly written and compellingly argued books on moral philosophy from 1981 onwards; J. B. Maund, a colossally hard-working colleague now well known internationally for his work on perception; and B. H. Slater, who published voluminously in logic and aesthetics and became an advocate of the merits of Hilbert’s epsilon calculus. Eventually the best known by far, however, was Graham Priest, whose notorious defence of dialetheism was first developed systematically at UWA. A string of articles in distinguished journals was followed by his first book, In Contradiction; the difficulty he experienced in finding a publisher (now documented in the book’s second edition, published by a press that had rejected the first) showed that philosophers are just as resistant as anyone else to taking seriously a well-argued case for radical change. Priest left in 1989 to take up the chair of philosophy at the University of Queensland.
Departing around the same time was Michael Tooley, who had replaced Grave as professor of philosophy. Tooley’s appointment, because of the position he had taken in his book Abortion and Infanticide, provoked some local Catholic hostility. He turned out to be no Herod, but rather an agreeable and co-operative colleague whose next book, Causation: A Realist Approach, was a seminal work in the area, still constantly cited. Temporary appointments to cover Tooley’s departure included Scott Shalkowski, who moved on to a much sought-after position at Leeds, and Michael P. Levine, who stayed, eventually reaching the rank of Professor and becoming well known for a long book on pantheism. Tooley’s successor in the chair was Andrew Brennan, who stayed for a very active fourteen years, publishing and editing extensively in environmental ethics, before moving to La Trobe University.
Over this period the department had broadened and strengthened its teaching, and had been regularly sending well educated and highly talented Honours graduates into postgraduate places both overseas and ‘over east’. Nevertheless, there remained a sharp tapering of numbers from first year onwards, and this long-standing but financially unprofitable student enrolment profile became a cause of difficulty in more straitened times.
The trouble began with the foundation of Murdoch University in the mid 1970s. Government policy decreed that growth at UWA should be restricted until Murdoch had reached a viable size. As Murdoch’s courses were mostly in the arts and sciences, UWA reduced its intake in those areas. When combined with a series of internal restructures and, most significantly, various federal government measures from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, these pressures eventually produced budgetary crises across the humanities, which in Philosophy were exacerbated by an absurd but damaging quarrel between two senior members of the Department, whose effects were still felt ten years later. Across Australia, Departments were abolished and their members collectivised into Schools. Philosophy at UWA, despite growing enrolments, reached a low point in both morale and staff numbers before the situation stabilised. At the time of writing, a largely fresh generation of staff has brought prospects of renewal.
Wittgenstein’s philosophy first became known beyond Cambridge through the publication (in English) in 1922 of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which was widely received without much doubt as a work of genius but also, apart from the Vienna Circle, without much real comprehension. It was reviewed in the first volume of the Australian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy (June 1923) with little comment but the right quotations.
In 1912 on Frege’s suggestion Wittgenstein left Vienna to study logic with Bertrand Russell. Ten years later, which included service during World War One, the Tractatus appeared. In the Preface Wittgenstein wrote: ‘the truth of the thoughts that are here communicated seems to me unassailable and definitive. I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems’ (1974: 4). Whereupon he left Cambridge and philosophy. He was just thirty years of age.
That was no boast. He believed he had shown how to secure the bounds of sense for any possible sentence of any language. Beyond the bounds was nonsense in thought and word; without them meaning could not be definitely determined at all and therefore must remain unacceptably vague. That consequence was to be avoided by finding, first, a logically isomorphic unmediated relation between the words of elementary sentences of a defined form—atomic propositions—and the states of affairs or facts in the world those propositions pictured; and then reducing by truth-functional analysis the sentences of ordinary language to logical combinations of elementary sentences.
During the next seven years, however, flaws began to show themselves and Wittgenstein’s doubts grew to match the breadth, scope and profundity Russell had remarked on in the Tractatus. The elementary sentences were concatenations of names for irreducibly simple objects, which remained unidentified, and how in any case could names name anything ab initio? Did analysis preserve the meaning and truth of what we say in ordinary language? Was it even possible to subject any ordinary language sentence to such analytical reduction? This was a theory of meaning only for factual sentences, so what of others such as those expressing judgements of value or belief? What of the very sentences of the Tractatus itself which are not factual at all?
Wittgenstein had not ignored these and other difficulties, but his attempt to solve them by means of the distinction between what can properly be said and what is thereby shown and not said, left much more to be said which, given the theory, seemed already bound to be senseless. He saw this too. He concludes:
My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright. (Wittgenstein 1974: 89, sect. 6.54)
But his beautiful tower was too fragile for the rough ground of real life. As he told his students later, philosophy required one always to be prepared to begin again from scratch when problems persisted despite one’s best efforts to solve them. This he himself did after trying different moves which only turned out to be mere shibboleths.
In 1929 he returned to Cambridge, feeling able to do creative work again, and in 1933 began giving classes on what became known as his later philosophy. This is what was brought to Australia and New Zealand by those who had attended his classes and who came, or came back, as it happened, to Melbourne in Australia and Wellington in New Zealand.
Wittgenstein in Australia
Most influential among them were Douglas Gasking and A. C. (‘Camo’) Jackson. They later wrote a joint obituary when Wittgenstein died in 1951, where they stated:
In the last twenty or so years of his life Wittgenstein turned his back on the Tractatus and went on to produce and to teach at Cambridge a whole new way of philosophising. None of this later work has been published. Yet its effect on Australasian and American philosophy and its enormous effect on philosophy in Britain is apparent to anyone familiar with it who compares the sort of thing philosophers used to write twenty years ago with what very many of them write today. It is perhaps even more evident if one compares the technique of oral discussion then and now. (Gasking and Jackson 1951: 73)
The considerable difficulty in following the lectures arose from the fact that it was hard to see where all this often rather repetitive concrete detailed talk was leading to—how the examples were interconnected and how all this bore on the problem which one was accustomed to put to oneself in abstract terms. (Gasking and Jackson 1951: 75)
The first to come with the new work was George Paul. He and Gasking had attended Wittgenstein’s classes during the years before Word War Two and had been much influenced by them. Paul’s impact was remarkable, not just within the Department of Philosophy but also in the Department of History and the University of Melbourne in general. One can hear his infectious excitement coming through a lecture he gave later about Wittgenstein:
Philosophy is not just any description of uses of language, however extensive, various, and exact … The very nature of philosophical investigation compels a man to travel over a wide region of uses, criss-cross in every direction, the same use being approached again and again, each time from a different direction, from a different point of view, from a different use. These various sketches do not of themselves fall together to form a picture, or even a map, of a place or region; they have to be arranged ‘so that if you looked at them you could get a picture’ of the landscape there, and so to some extent get to ‘know your way about’. ‘Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases.’ Only by this finding, inventing, and arranging of views, not by an inactive observation of all equally that happens to come before my eye, do I get to know my way about … Here is why Wittgenstein presents no method in philosophy; there is no method for inventing cases, no method for arranging them. And there is no method for ‘being struck by’ one fact rather than another. (1956: 94–6)
Stephen Toulmin sums up well those Pauline times. He writes:
Through a coincidence of two distinct historical accidents, the Philosophy Department at the University of Melbourne, in the 1940s, was the focus of a vigorous conversation and a great place to be drawn into the traditions of philosophical literature and debate. This conversation began early in World War II, with the arrival from Cambridge of a newly appointed lecturer in philosophy. This was George Paul … Who were George Paul’s students at Melbourne? … at the core, was a group of Germans and Austrians who had chanced to go to Australia at the height of the war, having first been interned in Britain as ‘a threat to national security’ and later deported to get them out of the way. The fact that many of them were from Jewish families and had well-established records as anti-Nazis, was not enough to save them from being deported—or, as we might say with greater historical resonance, ‘transported’. Reaching Australia, the internees were initially taken to a camp far inland, at Hay, in Western New South Wales. But, after a while, it was so clear that they could do no harm that they were allowed to move to Melbourne and resume normal civilian lives. There—among others from Europe—Kurt Baier and Gerd Buchdahl, Peter Herbst and later David Falk from London, found themselves working in the Melbourne philosophy department along with such Australian-born students as Camo Jackson, Don Gunner, Bruce Benjamin, Michael Scriven, and Alan Donagan. They were exposed to the impact of ‘analytical’ philosophy in its most vigorous, original and creative stage. (1993: 143–4)
Paul left in 1945 for a fellowship at Oxford and Gasking came to Melbourne as his replacement. Gasking used to describe himself as an old Bolshevik Wittgensteinian: he was there at the beginning of the revolution when the move from simples to samples was made and the exploration of the manifold consequences begun. The meaning of words was not to be secured by their reduction to an absolutely determinate relation between simple symbols and simple logical pictures of possible worldly states of affairs, all not further analysable, but by sampling their deployment in ordinary sentences used in a great variety of familiar states of affairs by people at home in the world talking in one way and another in the natural course of lives.
Everyone, colleagues and students alike, remarked upon Gasking’s clarity, directness and lucidity. The activity of philosophy was carried on almost entirely by discussion, seldom solemn because it was vigorous, positively co-operative, and with no room for grandstanding. This is the change in oral discussion noted by Gasking and Jackson in their obituary. It also partly explains the want of publications. If in following Wittgenstein one is constantly trying to grasp the proliferation of relations between particulars in an expanding world without the false certainty of philosophical theories, and at the same time keeping the size of conceptual families manageable, surveyable, then without Wittgenstein’s genius one’s work is going to be frustratingly incomplete. The strong temptation nonetheless to declare completion is irresistible only for the faint-hearted. Gasking never left behind the importance and illumination of particular cases.
There were agreeable enough battles, of course, especially with the Sydney Andersonians. Gasking published an article, ‘Anderson and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: An Essay in Philosophical Translation’, in the 1949 Australasian Journal of Philosophy. The article may have been written evangelistically, but Gasking’s concern was genuine that terminological differences between the Tractatus and philosophers in Sydney might make it difficult for them to grasp fully its ‘philosophically illuminating’ doctrines. He wanted serious discussion but regrettably failed to achieve it.
Jackson had dropped out of the university when he first met Paul, who forthwith encouraged him to return, which he did, and then completed his Honours degree, went to Cambridge where he embarked on a Ph.D. and attended Wittgenstein’s classes. Towards the end of the 1940s he returned to the University of Melbourne with his wife, Ann, both to positions in the philosophy department. Grave (1984: 82) wrote:
Though he published nothing, A. C. Jackson was to become one of the most influential philosophers in Australia. His reputation was carried abroad, and in 1958 he gave the John Locke Lectures at Oxford. Of all philosophers in Australia, he most conveyed a sense of the complexity of philosophy, and it was largely his own sense of this complexity that held him back from publication. He was ‘the great technician’, in the words of one of his former students. He worked minutely, conscious at the same time of vast problems such as that of the connection of thought and reality (‘A very curious connection it is, because you can’t crash through the symbol’).
Jackson’s total attention to fine particulars and their significance in what absorbed him was part of the deeply satisfying pleasure, no matter how hard won, he both derived from the activity in play and gave to those with whom he was sharing it. D. M. Armstrong, who attended as many did Jackson’s seminars at the end of the 1950s, caught well his effect. He observed that Jackson ‘was oracular and obscure. But in his famous Philosophical Psychology seminar, the effort of understanding him, and the effort he put into understanding others, acted as a philosophical catalyst for generations of Melbourne philosophy students’ (Armstrong 1983a: 95). Much of that effort for both Jackson and his students went into finding and seeing the significance of the cases that filled the gaps intermediate between where he and they began and where he had got to. ‘Catalyst’ is good; he very much wanted his students to remain independent of mind and worked hard to enable them to be so while helping them avoid pitfalls, blind alleys, simplistic solutions and superficialities.
The difference between Gasking and Jackson perhaps comes down to this: using the distinction between saying and showing, which in all Wittgenstein’s thought ‘stood fast’ for him though under a variety of interpretations, Gasking said how things stood when expounding his thinking while Jackson showed it. It may be that each condition is necessary for the possibility of the other; the difference is where in any particular case the emphasis rests. Through both Gasking and Jackson, Wittgenstein’s influence was felt in Australia under each aspect.
Wittgenstein in New Zealand
Wittgenstein’s influence in New Zealand began when George Hughes took the newly established chair of philosophy at the Victoria University of Wellington in 1951. J. N. Findlay, professor of philosophy at the University of Otago, was well placed much earlier to introduce his colleagues and students to Wittgenstein’s philosophy, having visited Wittgenstein several times and attended his classes, but it appears he did not do so, either positively or negatively. His ‘transports’ remained unshared. As he put it in the introduction to his Wittgenstein: A Critique,
It will be plain to readers of this book that I am deeply critical of almost anything Wittgenstein said on almost any topic whatsoever. I have, in fact, systematically used him to climb on to contrary, rather traditional opinions, which have seemed to me truer and better. But without the stimulus of his teaching I should not have arrived at these contrary opinions at all, nor at my general view of metaphysics as being quite fairly describable as the most exciting and richly various of all language-games. (1984: 20)
George Hughes had attended Wittgenstein’s last classes. Michael Hinton was Hughes’ first appointment and arrived two years after him, coming from Cambridge where he had been doing his Ph.D. under John Wisdom’s supervision. Wisdom had been elected to the chair after Wittgenstein and then von Wright had resigned. It was a happy coming together. Hughes soon instituted for interested students, in addition to set courses, readings of Wisdom’s Other Minds (1952). Wisdom’s philosophical writing is inimitable. The philosophy owes much to Wittgenstein, as he acknowledges, and it is Wittgenstein most profitably mediated by his own sparkling insights and understanding, orderings and interpretations, backed by his well-honed erudition.
This was an excellent introduction to Wittgenstein’s philosophical style and ideas. It used to be said in Cambridge that if you wanted to understand what Wittgenstein meant, then ask Wisdom (and if you wanted to understand what Wisdom meant, then ask Renford Bambrough). With Hinton to help the results were quick in coming. It became second nature, for example, to be immediately wary of any philosophical theory and to be alert to the issues very likely being dodged, principally where, beyond the theory, was to be found its justification. The significance of particular cases was paramount. Wisdom explained that Wittgenstein’s ‘substitution of “Ask for the use” for “Ask for the meaning” is linked with the procedure of explaining meaning by presenting not a definition but cases, and not one case but cases and cases. And this is linked with dealing with the philosophical, metaphysical, can’t by presenting cases and cases’ (Wisdom 1967: 47).
But Wisdom (1952: 18–19) had also said assumingly that after working through such complexities and achieving the required grasp of the philosophical problems in question, one would find that their answers became matters for decision or cheerful indecision. Cheerful indecision? And what is the required grasp? Perhaps it is one’s knowing how to go on from what one can defeasibly conclude from what one can so far survey. Presumably that depends on the content of the defeasance presented, in which case Wisdom’s assurance vanishes into the platitude that all is never done. He did warn us:
It’s this way in metaphysics. Its doctrines are paradoxes when they aren’t platitudes … Metaphysical questions are paradoxical questions with the peculiarity that they are concerned with the character of questions, of discussions, of reasons, of knowledge. But this peculiarity does not make it impossible to carry through the reflection they call for so as to reveal the character of that with which they are concerned and thus, indirectly, the character of that with which that with which they are concerned is concerned—time and space, good and evil, things and persons. (1952: 258–59)
Within a decade or so of these early times, Michael Hinton had returned to England for a fellowship at Oxford, George Hughes had published two books on logic with two different collaborators, Londey and Cresswell, and continued working on his commentary and translation of John Buridan on self-reference. Logic had become the particular excellence of the Wellington department. Hughes had also managed to manoeuvre his way through the complexities of establishing a chair in theology. With all this it would not be unlikely that, in the best literal sense, there was scarce time for Wittgenstein.
It was much the same in Melbourne. In 1969 Alan Donagan wrote the ‘Introduction’ to Contemporary Philosophy in Australia (edited by R. Brown and C. D. Rollins). He says at one point: ‘As for the Wittgensteinian tradition at Melbourne, superficially it has left no trace in this volume at all. No doubt it has borne fruit … but it has done so like the grain of wheat in the Scriptures, by falling to the ground and dying’ (1969: 17). Perhaps so, but the explanation is probably more general. Wittgenstein’s philosophy was being doubly outflanked: on the left by literary theory, flourishing on the Continent through Derrida and Lacan; and on the right by the reaffirmation of metaphysical theory under American hegemony through especially Quine. It was further confronted head on by burgeoning formal semantics, truth-conditional possible world semantics for natural languages, particularly here in the antipodes through David Lewis, a frequent visitor. There was little time anymore for attention to particulars, for close reading from the first, the ‘don’t cares’ from the second, and metaphorical creativity from the third.
Wittgenstein did not dismiss the practical and philosophical significance of generality but only our craving for it. This is the real source of metaphysics, he said, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. Philosophical insights do not come from, and cannot find their proper expression in, any kind of theory (Wittgenstein 1958: 18). Philosophy neither is, nor is like, a science, real, social, or ersatz. Like art and unlike any science, philosophy cannot ignore idiosyncrasies and ought really to be written only as a poetic composition (Wittgenstein 1984: 24). Wisdom tempered this by saying that philosophy is where logic and rhetoric meet. But with the temptations of the new, few here wanted to heed Wittgenstein’s voice. Armstrong echoed the common view when he remarked that Wittgenstein is now a great philosopher in the past, like all the others. Only for the few he was, and is, still singular, and continues to bear fruit.
A philosophy department was established at the University of Wollongong in 1975, the same year that the university itself was established as an institution independent of the University of New South Wales. The foundation professor was Lachlan Chipman. Chipman was joined in 1976 by Suzanne Uniacke, and then in 1977 by Laurance Splitter, Barbara Davidson, and Harry Beran.
The University of Wollongong was set up to service the Illawarra region, and the then steel city of Wollongong in particular. To a large extent this defined the early role of the philosophy department. Lecture theatres were often dominated by the blue shirts of BHP trainees; many students were the first in their family to attend university; and for many philosophy was a fairly alien discipline. As the city and the university changed, so has the role of philosophy in the university, becoming more ‘normal’.
Nevertheless, throughout its history, philosophy at the University of Wollongong has shared many of the pressures of similar departments. It has had a significant dependence on service teaching (e.g. ethics for nursing and environmental science students, logic for engineering students), difficulty in attracting postgraduate students, and a university management that was not always sure that philosophy was part of its ‘mission’. And in common with all philosophy departments, it has had to deal with the university’s version of the restructuring enthusiasm. It changed from a department to a stand-alone ‘program’, and then to a program as part of a school.
The program has survived all of this. After dropping from seven established positions down to four, it is now back to six, and appears to have an acknowledged place within the Faculty of Arts and the university. It has, for example, been able to develop a curriculum that is not merely an exercise in crisis management, as was the case around the turn of the century, when reduced staffing and uncertain funding made planning difficult.
The core style of philosophy practiced at the University of Wollongong has been broadly analytic. However, this has not been dogmatic, and there have always been subjects and research interests as exceptions. Furthermore, diversity has been encouraged by the many philosophers who have passed through the university on fixed-term contracts.
There has always been a strong emphasis, both in teaching and research, on applied and theoretical ethics, moral psychology, political philosophy, and philosophy of law. Past members of the program have made several contributions in these areas: Sue Uniacke’s work on the intersection of philosophy of law and moral theory, Harry Beran’s discussions of secession, Robert Dunn’s examination of expressivism from within moral psychology, Susan Dodds’ work on selfhood and ethical responsibility, and on the notion of democratic deliberation, and John Burgess’ application of his background in philosophical logic to issues in applied ethics.
These areas continue to be taken up by the recent group of philosophers at the university—by David Neil, Sarah Sorial and Keith Horton. But with the arrival of Richard Menary and Patrick McGivern, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of language have taken a more significant role in the Program’s research profile.
In contrast to Britain and North America, Australasia does not have an official Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP). The British SWIP was formed in 1989 although women philosophers had been meeting informally before then. American SWIP was formed in 1972 and Canadian SWIP in 1990. The Australasian Women in Philosophy (WIP) group does not have office bearers or formal membership. Nevertheless, women in philosophy in Australasia have been holding dedicated annual conferences since the momentous meeting of women in philosophy at La Trobe University in 1982. The single sheet of paper that announces that event is headed ‘Women in Philosophy’. Part of the aim of the meeting was to facilitate discussion among women of the first report on the status of women in the philosophy profession in Australasia (Lloyd et al. 1982). This report was formally tabled at the 1982 Annual General Meeting of the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP), held during the AAP conference that year at La Trobe University. In addition to the discussion of the report, two papers were presented to the women in philosophy meeting. Genevieve Lloyd read a paper entitled ‘Masters, Slaves and Others: Variations on a Theme in Hegel, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’ and Denise Russell presented a paper entitled ‘Philosophy, Feminism and Madness’. The women’s meeting decided to hold a two-day conference for women in philosophy the following year at the University of Adelaide, immediately prior to the AAP conference. The program for that conference was headed ‘Women’s Philosophy Conference’. At the end of the first decade of the Australasian WIP meetings the number of papers presented had jumped from two (at La Trobe in 1982) to twenty-five (in Adelaide in 1993), with typical conference registrations regularly being over 100.
The WIP conference has almost always tracked the venue of the AAP conference to enable women philosophers easily to attend both. Men have never been excluded from attending the WIP conference, but from 1984 the program included the statement: ‘The Women and Philosophy Conference is intended primarily to provide opportunities for women to explore questions and problems that arise from the predominantly male character of professional philosophy. Although men will not be excluded from the sessions, they are asked, if they do attend, to keep this in mind’. In 1987 a further sentence was added to this statement: ‘In discussion, priority will be given to women’.
The WIP meetings played an important role in making philosophy a more welcoming and supportive environment for women philosophers. These occasions provided not only the chance to exchange ideas but also the rare opportunity to receive peer validation for feminist research projects. The annual WIP meeting also began to attract renowned international women philosophers such as Helen Longino (in 1988) and Iris Marion Young (in 1993), whose presence confirmed the growing international reputation of Australasian feminist philosophy. In 1986, a dedicated supplementary issue of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy on feminist philosophy, edited by Janna Thompson, afforded further recognition.
A noteworthy feature of the WIP conferences during the early years is that they were interdisciplinary in character. Those presenting papers included scholars from politics, women’s studies, and literature, as well as philosophers. It was a recurrent theme of the early WIP annual general meetings whether the conference should be named ‘Women in Philosophy’ or ‘Women and Philosophy’. An important question lay behind this apparently trivial distinction, namely, should the conference be primarily for women working in the profession of philosophy (a rather small cohort) or rather should it be conceived as a venue for all women interested in the still emerging field of feminist theory? The complexity of this issue deepens when one takes into account that the distinction between feminist philosophy and feminist theory has not always been a sharp one. The uncertain identity of feminist philosophy was exacerbated by the fact that few professional philosophers took seriously the idea that philosophy was vulnerable to feminist critique and so doubted that there could be a distinctively feminist philosophy. (I recall one senior male philosopher reprovingly announcing that ‘truth has no sex’ and so feminist philosophy must be nonsense.) The problem of the naming of WIP eventually resolved itself as feminist theory in the 1990s became more specialised and conference venues dedicated to feminist research within the various humanities disciplines became more common.
In its first decade, especially, Australasian WIP offered a critical but encouraging context in which typically isolated female postgraduates and academics could present their research to an audience that was both theoretically informed and appreciative. The associated informal WIP dinners and lunches provided women with an opportunity to discuss issues in a constructive way, including such things as ideas for the content of feminist courses and the particular problems involved in teaching feminism, strategies for dealing with sexism in philosophy, and the sharing of experiences and advice for survival within a predominantly male workplace. The annual conference event allowed women in philosophy to organise for change within the broader philosophical community by, for example, the formation of committees to monitor the gender balance in philosophy departments, to argue for more equitable procedures in appointing processes, and to attempt to increase awareness of the phenomenon of sexual harassment and its damaging effects.
By the 1990s there were indications of a significant shift in attitudes towards feminist research in mainstream philosophy in Australia. The AAP began actively to solicit presentations from women for the annual conference and WIP papers began to appear as a named ‘stream’ within the AAP conference (along with Logic, Ethics, and Political Philosophy). The informal nature of the Australasian WIP means that it is at the discretion of the organisers of the annual conference to determine whether to program the WIP speakers as a stream or to hold a separate conference. In recent years streaming feminist research papers within the annual AAP conference appears to have become the norm, although the audience for this stream remains predominantly female.
The WIP group in Australasia remains an important resource for women in philosophy. However, I think it is reasonable to hope that improvements in communication (decreased telephone costs, email), greater interstate and international mobility, the greater number of national and international journals and conferences dedicated to feminist research, and the recent institutional practice of providing junior staff with a mentor, have decreased the feelings of isolation of some women working in philosophy in Australasia in the early twenty-first century. The 2008 AAP report on women in philosophy in Australasia offers some ground for cautious optimism. It states that, in general, the position of women philosophers within Australasia has improved. In 1981, women occupied 8% of all continuing positions in philosophy. By 2006 women held 23% of continuing positions. This report may be found on the AAP website under ‘women’.