Open discussion on the evolution of Australian and New Zealand Thought

Friday, 16 November 2007

Philosophy at Melbourne University

When it come to philosophy in Australia, Sydney had often made a lot of noise (think of John Anderson, Professor of Philosophy at Sydney University for some thirty years, and, it's said, the inspiration behind the Sydney Push): Adelaide has been a site of innovation (birthplace of a view of the nature of the mind that came to be known internationally as Australian materialism) and Canberra has been a centre of solid, analytical professionalism. But what about Melbourne? Alan Saunders, The
Philosopher's Zone
, ABC Radio National.

This quote comes from the introduction by Alan Saunders to a talk by Tony Coady from the University of Melbourne on the history of philosophy in Australia with a special focus on Melbourne. You will find the transcript plus audio here.

Tony's talk provides an interesting introduction to another thread in the evolution of Australian thought.


In a comment, Rafe noted that Jim Franklin had published a remarkably researched history of philosophy in Australia. You will find Rafe's earlier review of the book here.

I have not read this book, but the reference made we wonder how all this compared with philosophy at New England. Here I did Philosophy 1 in 1963 and then, later, Ted Tapp's Philosophy of History course. Both had a major influence on my thinking.

Looking back, Philosophy 1 was quite rigorous. From the mists of the past, it also seems to have had a different flavour certainly from that holding at Sydney, UNE's previous parent, and perhaps from that holding elsewhere in Australia.

The course included an introduction to philosophy that started with the Greeks and worked forward. There were also distinct ethics and logic sections. In logic, we looked at both Aristotle and symbolic logic. I found the symbolic logic very useful later in understanding computers and computing.

I found the references in Tony and Rafe's material to Professor Orr interesting because of what it says about shifts in Australian attitudes. My perceptions of the Orr matter were formed growing up in an academic household at a time when the imbroglio was still current. The central issue as seen then was one of academic freedom.

I mention this because I found the comments on Professor Orr jarring.

I had not thought about this case for a long time, so my own core views on it are really as previously formed. There appears to be a clear gap between those views and current perceptions.

Now that the Orr case is vanishing in the mists of time, it might be interesting to look at it at some point simply because of the way in which it might highlight changing perceptions.

1 comment:

Rafe said...

Jim Franklin published an remarkably researched history of philosophy in Australia.