John Anderson Archive
The content in this collection was originally hosted in Australian Digital Collections, and was in a web site devoted to the work of John Anderson, Challis Professor of Philosophy from 1927 until 1958. The site aimed to provide a comprehensive resource for study and research into the life and works of John Anderson. In addition to previously published works by Professor Anderson the site presented electronic editions of significant papers held by the University Archives.
All Anderson resources were created in accordance with the terms of the Alexander John Anderson bequest and are presented here for private research and study only. They form part of the overall publication project initiated by the bequest and are held in copyright.
Introduction by D. M. Armstrong
Anderson was the most important philosopher who has worked in Australia. A great educator, he was a profound influence on the intellectual formation of those who were his pupils. These included, but were far from being exhausted by, a number of students who went on to become philosophers themselves. An interesting biography of Anderson which, however, is more concerned to give a portrait of the man and his activities rather than consider the detail of his philosophical views, is A Passion to Oppose by the historian Brian Kennedy (Melbourne University Press, 1995). It contains a very full bibliography.
Anderson never wrote the books that he hoped to write, and of the material he published in his life-time only the collection Studies in Empirical Philosophy is easily available. But many of those who have heard of the profound intellectual indebtedness to Anderson that so many of his students have expressed, and have wished to follow the matter up, have found these papers heavy going. Some have even been led to wonder what the fuss was all about.
To such people, one has in the past been able to recommend two excellent books by A.J. Baker: Anderson's Social Philosophy (1979, Angus and Robertson) and Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson (1986, Cambridge University Press). One eminent Australian philosopher, Professor Jack Smart, whose philosophical education was in Britain, told me in 2000 that he had just read the second Baker book, how illuminating and interesting he had found it, and that it had given him a new appreciation of Anderson. Baker has for many years brought out a broadsheet Heraclitus (a philosopher who Anderson took a particular interest in) which, among other matters, contains a wealth of material about Anderson.
But now there is a new resource for those who wish to get to grips with Anderson's extraordinarily wide-ranging yet systematic thought: this web-site. What are so valuable here are many texts, gradually becoming electronic texts, of Anderson's lectures. Anderson dictated his lectures, but although he often used earlier material in their composition he shaped that material anew as he went. What one got in the lectures, therefore, was Anderson thinking about the particular topic in hand. And arguably it is in these informal writings that the form and pressure of Anderson's thought is best exhibited. To take down dictation was to endure pedagogical passivity that runs completely against all current ideas of education. But I do not think that we begrudged it in any way. By this means we were being inducted into a system of thought.
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Transcribed student essay on Space, Time and Consciousness, or, The Non-Empirical, by John Anderson in 1917
Evil books Can Do a Power of Good', Peter Coleman in his column And Another Thing, in The Bulletin, September 5, 1970
Photograph taken in Harry Eddy's room during the 1949 Congress of the Australasian Association of Psychology and Philosophy held in Newcastle.
The philosophy department at Edinburgh. Centre front row are Norman Kemp Smith and A. E. Taylor, with John Anderson third from right. At the right on the back row is Rush Rhees, later to be a student, friend and executor of Wittgenstein
John Anderson, Janet (Jenny) Anderson (nee Baillie) and Sandy Anderson, with sister Nellie Anderson and fiance Robert Dick, farewell Katie Murdoch (nee Anderson) and husband George Murdoch (centre) c. 1925.