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A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand


THE TOWN OF Stuart Mill—population 100—lies on the Sunraysia Highway between Avoca and St. Arnaud in the Pyrenees wine region of Central Victoria. In 2011, the town will celebrate its 150th anniversary. When the town was founded, back in 1861, the town fathers had originally wished to call the settlement ‘Albert Town’. But there was already another settlement called ‘Alberton’ in goldfields Victoria. So, instead, the town was named for the leading British intellectual figure of the time: John Stuart Mill.

While there are many incidental connections to philosophy in Australia and New Zealand—such as the one just described—that date to the very early days of colonial settlement, it is a curious and interesting fact that Australian and New Zealand philosophers eventually came to make a very significant contribution to world philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century. This Companion—and the wider research project to which it belongs—aims both to publicise, and to provide the resources to explain, the explosion of philosophical activity in Australia and New Zealand after the Second World War.

The entries in the Companion are arranged alphabetically. Major types or kinds of entries include: histories of academic departments in Australian and New Zealand universities; histories of societies and organisations that have promoted philosophical teaching and research in Australia and New Zealand; overviews of the contributions that philosophers from Australia and New Zealand have made to important areas of philosophy (such as logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics, political philosophy, and the like); and brief biographies of a small selection of philosophers from Australia and New Zealand.

While the entries on academic departments, societies, journals, and the like aim to give complete coverage, the biographical entries aim only to cover a representative sample of Australian and New Zealand philosophers. We do not claim that the philosophers who have been given biographical entries here are the best, or the most interesting, or the most influential; rather, they are some among many Australian and New Zealand philosophers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of philosophy in Australasia. (In this volume, we should add, ‘Australasia’ simply means ‘Australia and New Zealand’.)

This Companion is one of the products of a large research project undertaken at Monash University between 2005 and 2010. Other products of this project include a two-volume history of Australasian philosophy, a book of interviews with Australasian philosophers, and a book of commissioned public lectures by Australasian philosophers. The overall aim of the research project is to provide a comprehensive account of the history and current state of philosophy in Australasia. (We had also hoped to oversee the construction of an online Directory of Australasian philosophers; however, we have not yet been able to make a start in that direction.)

The production of this Companion was supported by a very substantial Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP0663930: ‘History of Australasian Philosophy’) and also by significant grants from the Myer Foundation and the William Angliss Charitable Trust.

The Editors-in-Chief wish to acknowledge the support and assistance of many people who contributed to the production of this Companion.

First, we acknowledge the large contributions to the project made by the Associate Editors—Lynda Burns, Steve Gardner and Fiona Leigh—each of whom was employed on the project for a substantial length of time out of the funds supplied by the ARC. We note, in particular, that Steve Gardner played a leading role in the administration of the project during the second year of the project, when Nick Trakakis was visiting at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana).

Second, we are grateful to the many people who agreed to join the Advisory Board for the Companion. We received a lot of very helpful advice from a range of quarters in firming up the exact shape that the Companion came to take. Perhaps we should note here that there are controversial aspects of the Companion. In particular, our early deliberations about the range of biographical entries involved several changes of mind. Early on, we thought that we would aim for comprehensive coverage, but there are various reasons why that proved infeasible. Later, we thought that we would not have any biographical entries—but when we came to that view, it was overruled by our publishers. At that point, we realised that we could only have a representative selection of biographical entries: there are many other people who might have been included, and whose claims for inclusion are not stronger or weaker than the claims of those who have been included.

Third, and self-evidently, we are enormously indebted to all of the contributors to this volume. Time is a scarce commodity for academic staff in Australian and New Zealand universities at the beginning of the twenty-first century; and contributions to projects such as ours are not necessarily high on prioritised lists constructed by university administrators. We are enormously grateful that so many people have been prepared to devote so much time and effort to the preparation of the excellent entries that are to be found in this Companion. (Naturally, in a work of this size, there are some entries that we commissioned that did not eventuate. This fact accounts for some apparent incongruities—e.g., the lack of an entry on Philosophy in Public Spaces in New Zealand.)

Fourth, we wish to express our debt to our colleagues at Monash University, both within the Department of Philosophy, and in the wider university. The Department of Philosophy, the Faculty of Arts, and the university itself have all contributed to the establishment and maintenance of a working environment in which it is possible to successfully carry out large scale research projects of the kind in which we have been engaged. In particular, we must thank: Dirk Baltzly, Linda Barclay, John Bigelow, Sam Butchart, Monima Chadha, Karen Green, Toby Handfield, Jakob Hohwy, Lloyd Humberstone, Mark Manolopoulos, Justin Oakley, Rob Sparrow and Aubrey Townsend.

Fifth, we wish to express our gratitude to the fine team of people at Monash University Publishing who were involved in the production of this work: Sarah Cannon, Kathryn Hatch, Nathan Hollier, Joanne Mullins, Michele Sabto, and Leslie Thomas. We are especially indebted to Jo Mullins for her sterling work in managing the project. We are also grateful for the time and expertise of our indexer—and proofreader—Karen Gillen.

Finally, we wish to record our separate debts to family and friends who have supported us during the (long) period in which this project has been undertaken. Extra special thanks from Graham to Camille, Gilbert, Calvin and Alfie; and from Nick to Lydia, John, and his parents who, in migrating to Australia from the home of ancient philosophy (Greece), gave him the opportunity to delve into the riches and pleasures of philosophy in the Antipodes.


Graham Oppy and N. N. Trakakis
Monash University
May, 2010

A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand

   by Graham Oppy, N. N. Trakakis