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Number 24 Published by a Voluntary Committee of Sydney Realists November 2012

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Anderson In Retrospect Mark Weblin

Affirmation And Negation Harry Nicolson
Some Reflections On Andersonian Realism’s Influence On

Psychology In Australia: Andersonians J R. Maze And W. M. O’Neil John Furedy

Still Cogent After All These Years Fiona Hibberd
How Anderson’s Thought And Values Equipped Us For The Modern World Ian Bedford
How To Understand And The Philosophical Position Of John Anderson David Armstrong
Memory: Realism And The “Specious Present” Terry McMullen
John Anderson Or Perhaps Andersonianism, From The Outside Doug Nicholson
Notes And Administration,
On Tuesday 3rd July 2012 a special event was held marking 50th Anniversary of John Anderson’s death

6th July 1962. The talks were approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length with 5 minutes discussion.

Anderson In Retrospect

Since John Anderson’s death in 1962, very little of his work has been published. Apart from Studies in Empirical Philosophy, which he was editing at the time of his death, only two more volumes of his work were published over the next forty years. However since the appointment of the John Anderson Research Fellow in 1999, publication of Anderson’s work has increased, with five more volumes of his work appearing since 2003. Even though there is much more material that can be published, the position of the Anderson Fellow has now been vacant for over three years and the University appears to be vacillating on its responsibility to fulfil the terms of the Anderson Bequest.

Even though at the time of his death, John Anderson was the leading intellectual in Australia, in the following decades his influence waned considerably, limited mainly to the influence of his ‘school’. However this declining influence would not have surprised Anderson, for as early as 1952 he saw his influence as being on the wane, linked in large part to the spread of linguistic and analytic philosophy, the veneration of ‘scientific progress’, and the decline of a systematic conception of philosophy.
What can we say of Anderson’s philosophy today? Perhaps the most pertinent observation we can make is that Anderson’s philosophy and theoretical views are as much ‘out of time’ today as they were fifty years ago. Consider, for example, Anderson’s belief, in the year that the Higgs-Boson particle has claimed to have been discovered, the particle which was at the origin of the universe, that the ‘universe’ does not exist. Surely, it will be claimed, this is a case of a priori metaphysics dictating once again to science the limits, in the face of compelling evidence, of the fruits of its endeavour. Consider, for example, in the 67th year of the operation of the United Nations, Anderson’s claim that the U.N. is simply another means for strong nations to control the weak. Or that the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, on which the U.N. is based, are not freedoms at all and any claim that freedom is a thing possessed is a view which indicates that freedom does not exist at all. Consider, for example, Anderson’s claim that consciousness does not exist. Surely, our cognitive psychologists and philosophers will claim, Anderson must be deluded. What is he aware with, if not his consciousness? Or consider, in an age when the State reigns supreme in political life, Anderson’s view that the desire for State
guaranteed security – whether social or national – is a sign of the decline of political liberty. Consider, in an age of the triumph of democracy, Anderson’s claim that democracies, as political systems, do not exist. Consider, in

an age of justifiable censorship, Anderson’s claim that no censorship can be justified. Clearly, Anderson’s views are not in keeping with the beat of the modern time. But is that not more reason to have those views published and open for debate?

When we look retrospectively at Anderson’s philosophy and its historical development, one fact is startlingly obvious. During a residence in Sydney over a 35 year period, over 70% of his published work in

philosophy, politics, and general intellectual writings, appeared in the first decade of that residence i.e. from 1927 to 1937. Further, if we extend this period up to 1943, then the amount of published work rises to 80%. Hence only 20% of his published work across a wide range of fields was written in the last twenty years of his life. This situation is reversed with regard to his lectures. Only about 20% of his surviving lectures were written between 1927 and 1943 with the remainder written in the last twenty years of his life. Very few of these lectures have been published. In light of these facts, it is obvious that any assessment of Anderson’s philosophical, political, or general intellectual views based solely on his published work will be heavily biased in favour of material written between the ages of 35 and 50. What he may have thought in the years of his intellectual maturity remains, for the time being, a half-concealed mystery. There is clearly a pressing need to publish as many of Anderson’s lectures – especially those written after 1943 – as possible.

However while there is still much that we don’t know about Anderson’s mature views, it is still possible to provide a critical assessment of the key features of his philosophy. Anderson’s philosophy is widely and typically known as a systematic Realism. That is to say, his philosophy is a Realist theory of the three key branches of philosophy: logic, ethics, and aesthetics. Anderson’s Realist logic is typically taken to be a propositional theory of reality, a theory which is at once eminently scientific and mysterious. Anderson’s metaphysic is based on the distinction between situations and propositions. A situation is an occurrence in Space-Time while a proposition is the assertion of a qualitative predicate to a definite subject term. For Anderson, such a theory was the basis of any scientific enquiry. However Anderson also held that the subject and predicate terms of the proposition must be real, existing things which, it is widely believed, led him to identify propositions and situations. The difficulty with this position is that if true propositions assert an identity between propositions and situations, what on earth do false propositions assert? Anderson’s answer appears to be that false propositions are merely mental states which mis-take an actual occurrence for one that is not actual. However, as Professor Armstrong has argued, this position leads to an asymmetrical account of knowing, and this, it is held, is sufficient for the rejection of Anderson’s propositional theory.
Another related criticism is that of the unspeakability of the categories. If, as on Anderson’s account, the terms in a proposition are real, existing things, then no ‘thing’ which is not real and existing can be a term in a proposition. However a large part of Anderson’s metaphysics was a discussion of the categories of existence such as universality, particularity, identity, and causality. Unfortunately these categories, being conditions of existence, cannot themselves be actual, occurring things, and therefore cannot be discussed within the terms of Anderson’s propositional theory. Anderson’s discussion of the categories must therefore be ‘unspeakable’. However a non-Realist treatment of all these subjects along Andersonian lines might prove to be an interesting and worthwhile exercise.
Anderson’s aesthetic and ethical theories might appear to be on firmer ground. The treatment of beauty and goodness as objective qualities of things, while overturning conventional opinion of these subjects, appear at least to be consistent positions. Unfortunately things are not quite so straight-forward. A consistent Realist aesthetic theory would treat beauty as a quality of things. However Anderson never directly affirmed this position in his writings and in his 1942 Lectures on Ethics and Aesthetics he explicitly denied that beauty could be a quality of things. This is a clear and unambiguous denial of the possibility of a Realist aesthetic. His own positive assertion that beauty is structure or theme, while interesting and worthy of further development, is a departure from the confines of a strict systematic Realism.
On the other hand, Anderson did explicitly affirm that goodness is a quality of things and much of his writing in ethics was concerned with defending the implications of this view. The primary implication of his

qualitative view of goodness is the denial of the authority of any theory of morality. Hence any moral judgement, whether religious, political, social, or economic, has no absolute or authoritative basis. Everysuch judgement is

simply the expression of a particular psychological, social or political demand. The amorality of this position is evident and was enthusiastically embraced by the more radical of Anderson’s followers. More importantly

though, Anderson’s ethical theory was also concerned to articulate a positive theory of goodness as a quality. This is clearly a difficult task and Anderson saw his own work as a mere preliminary to a fuller scientific theory of goodness. Anderson was even unsure as to whether goods were psychological or social or some combination of both which led to the development of the famed conceptionof the ‘psycho-social’. Similarly he only provided a list of what he took to be goods and did not develop a classificatory theory of what were and what were not goods. This lack of detail for a positive theory of ethics can fairly be cited as a serious criticism of Anderson’s theory. It is noteworthy that after 1943, Anderson wrote nothing more on ethics.
It is clear that Anderson’s logical, aesthetic, and ethical theories received their most detailed formulation during the first seventeen years of his residence in Sydney, but after 1943 this work only received fragmentary consideration and then often only in lectures to students. However Anderson’s political theory, even though it suffered from the same lack of attention after 1943, was more publicly available and more obviously went through a series of significant changes. Anderson’s adherence to Communism and Trotskyism has been well documented and this period he later referred to as his ‘proletarian’ period. The key features of this adherence were acceptance of the primacy of the State as the supreme agent of social change, the theory of historical materialism, and the class theory of society. However by the start of the war, he was questioning several aspects of this proletarian theory and particularly the question of justice. During the war Anderson began to develop a unique theory of liberal democracy. Democracy was not a particular system of government or administration but a way of acting within a society. Hence he held that democratic activity can occur within totalitarian dictatorships and indeed, may even flourish under such conditions. Conversely, the attempt to institute democracy as a political system is bound to fail, for a particular social or political activity such as democracy can never be guaranteed by organisational rules or procedures. It is hardly surprising then that the declaration of the Atlantic Charter, which laid the basis for the formation of the United Nations at the end of the war, was met with ridicule and contempt by Anderson. Liberty, like democracy, is a social and political activity that cannot be guaranteed by a declaration of a system of rights. Quoting Ibsen, Anderson once said that “He who possesses liberty otherwise than as a thing to strive for, possesses it dead and soulless… a man who stops in the midst of the struggle and says ‘Now I have it’ thereby shows that he has lost it.” Clearly, Anderson had moved a long way from his position of the thirties. After 1945 his writing on political issues, as on so many other issues, dropped away markedly.
During the post-war period Anderson’s political position became increasingly conservative and increasingly anti-Communist. However, despite later rumours to the contrary, he never supported the 1950 Anti-Communist Bill proposed by Menzies and always maintained that the Communist Party should be given an open and public platform to express its views. But his opposition to Communist ideology was fierce, and, more significantly, he extended his criticism to the doctrine of egalitarianism which he described as ‘the disease of the modern time’. Not surprisingly, the Australian Labor Party was ridiculed for its egalitarian post-war policies, although he also reserved some of his most strident criticism for Menzies’ Liberal Party for attempting to ban the Communist Party. Theoretically, Anderson now appeared to be articulating a conservative theory of politics, although his writings are, as it were, ‘studded’ with conservative sentiment rather than there being a fully worked out conservative theory presented. It is true that he now emphasised the importance of social and cultural traditions in maintaining civilised living, but he offered no detail in support of this claim.
Anderson wrote nothing on political issues for the rest of his life, although he often discussed political theory in his published articles. What is surprising about this theory is that despite his leaning to what might be called conservatism, he argued that Marx’s theory of historical materialism is a correct theory of historical change. This typifies what might be called the radical intellectualism of Anderson’s mature thinking. He would not, for example, dismiss Marx simply because he did not fit into the limitations of a conservative political theory. Be that as it may, it is in the liberal and conservative field of politics that Anderson’s influence was greatest and his memory maintained. Successive editors of Quadrant such as James McAuley, Donald Horne, and Peter Coleman were all strongly influenced by Anderson and Quadrant is the best source of public material on Anderson since his death.
Apart from his philosophical and political work, the other issues that dominated Anderson’s thinking were freethinking and education. Anderson’s interest in educational issues was one of the most consistent themes

of his intellectual life. During the late twenties and early thirties, education was an important issue for Anderson and this interest culminated in the only book published in his lifetime – Education and Politics in 1931. His

conception of education at this time was essentially Socratic – ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Educators are in co-operative relations with workers and artists and opposed to the ruling political ideologies of the day. For the rest of the thirties, Anderson’s interest in education was only sporadic but from the start of the war he turned to the issue again with renewed interest. By the middle of the war, he was advocating a liberal

conception of education as one that promotes freedom, a position that was in line with his new emphasis on liberty in his political theory. It was during the war that Anderson’s defence of education against religious interference became most prominent during the ‘Religion in Education’ controversy. His assertion that there is no religion in education prompted an outcry from religious organisations and individuals and the N.S.W. Legislative Assembly went so far as to pass a motion of censure against him. However he also received significant support as well, not least from the Senate of the University of Sydney which defended his right to freedom of speech as an academic. The issue of academic freedom also came to the fore during the fifties when he was heavily involved in the Orr case. After his retirement in 1958, he articulated a classical conception of education which emphasised the objectivity, unity, and continuity of culture.

The other important aspect of his intellectual life is his Freethought writings. This is probably the most neglected of his intellectual activity, but the most important in terms of his historical legacy. His conception of Freethought was that there is no subject that is immune to inquiry and therefore there is no subject which should be censored. His theory of Freethought implied a theory of mythology as involving superstitions and idols. An ‘idol’ is any thing which is held cannot be studied and a ‘superstition’ is the irrational belief in such an idol. While he first wrote on the issue of philosophy as freethought as early as 1928, the issue became important in 1930 with the formation of the Freethought Society. However it was in 1931 that he was first thrust into the public limelight when he asserted that war memorials are superstitious idols. Even though the remark was made within the university, it was widely reported in the press and provoked a public uproar. The university senate passed a motion of censure on him although in the N.S.W. parliament he was defended by the Lang labor government. Throughout the rest of the thirties, the Sydney University Freethought Society (S.U.F.S.) was an important organisation for Anderson and his students to develop a secular conception of society and critically examine social and political issues such as censorship, the monarchy, education, etc.
During the war, the importance of the S.U.F.S. as an organisation waned as Anderson spoke more regularly on the subject of education as an independent intellectual. However in 1945 he redefined his conception of Freethought as the critical analysis of superstitions. The S.U.F.S. became more active after the end of the war as the university was flooded with returned servicemen. However Anderson’s increasingly anti-Communist position put him at odds with the more radically minded students and he became increasingly alienated from the student body. This culminated in a series of papers during 1951 on the nature of Freethought in which Anderson argued that Freethought was the close study of theories and ideas. After the end of 1951, the Freethought Society ceased to exist and Anderson adopted a more independent role as a public speaker within the University.
In all these aspects of Anderson’s intellectual life, we can observe a movement from a doctrinal thinker to a reflective thinker concerned with the study of theories and ideas. From the freethinking, proletarian, Realist philosopher of the thirties, Anderson went through a significant change in his theoretical and philosophical orientation during the war years that saw him revise several key features of his philosophical position. After 1943, he wrote very little although in his lectures to his students he kept breaking new intellectual ground. After the war, he became increasingly alienated from the student population although he spoke frequently around the university as an independent intellectual. By the time of his retirement, he was a more reflective and classically oriented thinker than he had been earlier and in the years after his retirement, he articulated a classical and unified conception of philosophy as empiricism.
Never one to be bound by doctrinal narrowness, the scope and detail of Anderson’s philosophy in its full development is one that is systematic and logically rigorous, propelled by a process of inquiry that was restless and searching, pushing his thinking beyond the boundaries of doctrinal philosophy.
Mark Weblin
Affirmation And Negation
John Anderson’s reputation among philosophers will depend on the accurate presentation of his philosophic position and the arguments he developed and as Mackie pointed out “there may be dispute about the correctness of the actual accounts that he gives but their general purpose can be defended “ Mackie conceded after lamenting Anderson’s lack of interest in many issues discussed by modern logicians and especially those developing a formal calculus, that the study he calls logic is not a calculus that can be constructed at will or chosen from a range of possible systems: there is a fundamental logic which is proposed in, and cannot be reduced to, the development and application of any calculus”. Notice Mackie’s emphasis on “there is a fundamental logic”. He goes on “One of Anderson’s distinctive doctrines is that things are propositional, that the propositional form gives a clue to the character of what objectively exists “. Mackie develops Anderson’s emphasis on form by calling for it to be applied to hypotheticals, modals and formal calculi of all kinds. “In dealing with these we are describing, incompletely, situations which actually involve threefold relationships at least” incompleteness is no obstacle to a formal treatment of these further extensions of logic”.

He then goes on to reject Anderson’s assumption “that a system which is satisfactory as logic is on that account alone is authorative with regard to what is there “ and attacks the view that the four forms cover between them every genuine proposition”.

Mackie thus opened up the cracks in Anderson’s system but largely using arguments from Anderson’s armory himself.

Moreover he concluded that “ nothing in these qualifications … in any way goes against what Anderson primarily and correctly maintains that when we assert a true proposition what we know and talk about is the objective state of affairs”.

“Once we take into account both this point and the fact we can deal formally, neglecting the persons involved, with “threefold situations” in which people make mistakes, entertain suppositions and so on and there is no further question whether propositions are or are not facts, there is no set of entities, propositions for which a home has to be found.”

All this goes to show that Anderson’s explanation of logic hits off certain key issues and needs to be followed to understand the problems with other theories of logic: that even what is wrong is, to speak loosely, close to the point at issue and bringing it up sharply. That is why I recommend the reading of the introductory lectures in the series on Logic. I thought I would read to you his comments on Affirmation and Negation, lecture 4 in the series given in 1933 as an example of his treatment of formal logic. Before reading it I should note that he makes comments about the problems of setting up a science of any sort let alone logic and he gives a short sketch to show the learner of Logic the road ahead.

In any department of knowledge there are three stages: a preliminary practical stage in which we are getting acquainted with the objects concerned in a rough and ready way; a theoretical stage in which we develop an exact knowledge of the things in question, in which we discover precise restrictions and connections, and then a further practical stage in which having that knowledge we are able to operate on things better than we could before, better in the sense of being more readily able to produce the results we desire.”

Now on affirmative and negative forms

“Further in connection with this analysis of the proposition with the distinction between affirmative and negative forms, a distinction which is described by logicians as a distinction of quality, propositions being of affirmative or negative quality (notice this is only a conventional logical term) meaning the affirmative or negative character, we find we can regard propositions as being of alternative forms. We see that when we have a definite issue, a definite predicate to be considered in relation to a given subject, then there are two ways of settling the matter, and when we make our decision definitely in one of these ways then we exclude the other way. Accordingly any proposition although it will be (with a) formally affirmative or formally negative has both an affirmative and negative aspect. “ A is B” is an affirmative, but in making that affirmation we exclude or deny the other possibility that “A is not B” so that there is a character of negation or denial about the affirmative proposition. On the other hand when we make the negative assertion “ A is not B” then we are clearly excluding or denying something., but at the same time we are making a definite assertion. We are affirming that something is the case and are endeavouring to convey information and so our negative proposition has an affirmative aspect. Thus if we took the statement “the table is not red” which we could contrast with the positive affirmation “the table is brown” we could still say the former, assuming it to be true is a positive position or is the case in the same sense as the latter. And of course, both of these assertions exclude alternative possibilities, viz that the table is red and that it is not brown.

Now this double form of the proposition is connected with the distinction that arises in regard to all propositions between truth and falsity, between what is the case and what is not the case. It is connected also with the inference that is call obversion, that being the type of inference which enables us to bring out the negative aspect of an affirmative proposition and the affirmative aspect of a negative proposition (spells out neg. ‘A is not B’ positive A is non B copula transferred to the predicate).

Now the recognition of these alternative possibilities in any given case, i.e. the possibility of a predicate belonging or not belonging to a subject, carries with it the possibility of denying any assertion. It would be absurd to say that we could truly and correctly deny any proposition, but it can be said that we can significantly and intelligently deny any proposition, i.e if we understand what is meant by denying it, if we understand what is meant by it being true we can understand what is meant by it being false, although of course, we recognise that any significant assertion will be one or the other and cannot be both, i.e. it cannot be both true and false.

Now this passage throws light on Anderson’s views of truth and falsity, the standing of the four forms, the significance of reversibility of propositions.

In the discussion of John Anderson’s” comparative lack of interest in questions of meaning” in the last paragraph of his essay, The Philosophy of John Anderson”, Mackie noted “the fact that meaning is sometimes as simple as this does not show that it is always so, nor does it entail that detailed studies of different kinds of meaning are always mistaken. But Anderson sometimes suggests this, for example in his quite implausible attempts to reduce imperatives to indicatives”. One of the arguments Anderson uses that what is asserted in an imperative cannot be denied

Anderson says “ It is sometimes maintained that an imperative is not an indicative statement in that it cannot be contradicted, but obviously it can. When A says to B “Go Away” and B often replies “I will not” he is clearly rejecting what A has said. Now B replies by taking a statement about himself so that he is taking A statement about himself(B)” After discussing the notion of necessity involved in commands Anderson concluded, “Thus we can say that while the positive content of the imperative form is no more than an asserted fact, it also embodies the logical confusion of maintaining that the assertion cannot be denied that it is not really an issue but is above question.”

John Mackie regards this as implausible as an argument presumably because the use of the imperative mood simply removes the imperative from the indicative moods and all John Anderson’s four forms are indicative. On the previous page John Mackie indicates that “ In particular, the view that “the four forms” cover between them every genuine proposition, is defended on grounds that seem to belong less to the logic of facts than to the logic of discussion or debate” Certainly when Mackie wrote his book, “ Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong” he divided it ‘statements’ into first and second order., the first about particular actions and the second about the statement of ethical statements. Anderson kept discussion of all issues open and did use in arguments propositions to convey both form and content. The Anderson material is primary and the Mackie position is built to a certain extent on it.


1). 2). 3.) 7). .9) Logic and Knowledge by J.L. Mackie Selected Papers Volume I Clarendon Press Oxford

1985Edited by Joan Mackie & Penelope Mackie. The original article was printed in A.J.P

Vol.40 No.3.Dec.1962.

4) 5) 6) Logic Notes delivered by John Anderson 1933 transcribed by D.R. Martin

8) . Studies in Empirical Philosophy by John Anderson Angus & Robinson 1962

9) Ethics-Inventing Right And Wrong by John Mackie Penguin Books 1977

Harry Nicolson

Some Reflections On Andersonian Realism’s Influence On Psychology In Australia:

Andersonians J R. Maze And W. M. O’Neil
At the risk of being distastefully egocentric, I note that the 50th anniversary of Anderson’s death is also 50th anniversary of my completion of Psychology IV honours at Sydney University. Drawing on my education there, I present here a few reflections, on the past and present influence of Andersonian realism on the academic discipline of psychology. Details of my views on this influence from 1961 to the present are available in , but here I would like to consider only two Andersonians at Sydney University, a philosopher of science (John Maze, senior lecturer in psychology, appointed to the teaching staff in 1954) and an educator (Bill O’Neil professor of psychology, 1945-65), who contributed most to my realist perspective on psychology. The realist approach has currently fallen out of favour but, I think that, in the long run, it will prove to be the correct perspective for both the scientific status and genuine applied usefulness of the discipline of psychology.
John Maze (1923 - 2008): The psychological-theory voice of Anderson
John Maze was a student of Anderson’s1. For a picture of the life of “psychology’s versatile non-conformist”, one cannot do better than the 2008 obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald by Harriet Veitch2. My own encounter with this uniquely theoretical, and eccentric, member of Professor W. M. O’Neil’s teaching staff began in my third year (1960) and culminated in a 1983 review of his book The Meaning of Behavior that I wrote with Diane Riley (then a Ph. D student of mine, and formerly a student of Maze)3.
The central theme of Maze’s book, which was based on his 1954 thesis, is the relation of philosophy or “theoretical psychology” to empirical research psychology. In his foreword Maze asserts: “Psychology has suffered too long from its self-created insulation against philosophical criticism.” He argued that if psychology was to yield genuinely useful applications, it must be grounded in a sound, and consistent realist philosophy of science. In essence, the book is an expression of the relevance of Andersonian realism for the discipline of psychology.
The idea that empirical research psychologists should pay any attention to what philosophers of science have to say has been rejected by the vast majority of research psychologists, who do not want to “waste their time” in such idle reflection. Maze, I think, represents the out-of-fashion Socratic view of the value of the “examined life”, where that value extends to all aspects of life, and hence even to empirical research in psychology. It is worth noting that Maze remained closely allied to the Freudian approach, which stressed the importance of conflicting motives in the determining of the behaviour of individuals (such conflicts as those among the id, ego, and super ego). I think that Andersonianism influenced Maze’s emphasis on conflict, between individuals and competing “schools” or paradigms in psychology. In my 3rd year (1960) in psychology honours, Maze’s discussion of differences between “behaviourism” and “mentalism” influenced my thinking about the conflict of ideas. Maze was not my assigned supervisor for my 4th year theoretical thesis the following year, but I consulted closely with him in writing it since it dealt with the importance of having genuine, falsifiable hypotheses in psychological research and discussed competing theoretical systems. I was very glad of his generous help.
In contrast to his early1954 article “Do intervening variables intervene?” which struck a significant blow against non-cognitive behaviourism (I would characterize this as metaphysical S-R behaviourism) and attracted widespread interest (together with predictions of a meteoric rise for Maze), Maze’s 1983 book had little scholarly impact. By then his approach had fallen out of fashion not only globally but also in Australia. I think, nevertheless, that even if his citation count (and hence impact) is low, he has nevertheless made a lasting contribution to psychology as a science. I regard him as the “voice” of Anderson, partly because in both his early papers and the 1983 book, his style more closely mirrors the long sentences that characterised Anderson’s writing more than any of the other Andersonians, but mainly, of course, because he applied a thorough-going realist analysis to psychology4.
W.M. (Bill) O’Neil as the implementer of an Andersonian method of education with the conflict of ideas as its prime feature

The term “god professor” makes little current sense, but during the 20 years (1945-65) that Bill O’Neil reigned as the sole professor of Psychology at Sydney University, it applied at least to administration.

On his appointment to the chair, he was one of 28 professors who were in charge of their respective disciplines, where that charge included the areas to be taught in that discipline, the allocation of research funds, and the appointment of teaching staff as well as the areas that those staff had to cover.

However, while Bill was quite ready to exercise these administrative powers, he did not dictate how the staff should cover the subjects they taught. They were free to advance their own views on the material, even if those views were contrary not only to those of their colleagues, but to his own.
O’Neil was an Andersonian in the sense that his view of psychology was essentially a realist one. His Andersonian credentials were clearly recognized during his career. For example, he was included in the

group of “Andersonians” whom Archbishop Gough accused of teaching “free love” to students in the 1950s and 60s5.

The intellectual freedom that O’Neil espoused to his teaching staff also extended to the students of his department. The department, as a whole, educated rather than indoctrinated students, who were exposed to the conflict of ideas. In my own case this conflict-of-ideas approach was most dramatically implemented during my third undergraduate year when our weekly seminars were led, on alternate weeks by a convinced Freudian and an equally convinced (in modern parlance “extremist”) Skinnerian. I have written about this conflict between a “mentalist” and a “behaviourist” in an obit on the latter6.

Bill conveyed his conflict-of-ideas philosophy of education to me in a remark in a 1987 talk about how students should be taught:

"Let them see what the circus is capable of before arguing on the basis of both logical and observational evidence about which horse to ride. You may prefer the bay and I may prefer the grey, but if we are serious scholars we must justify our preferences.”

In current terminology this approach to education favours presenting students with contending paradigms rather than a single paradigm. And of course I cannot help contrasting the single paradigm approach of the current Australian psychology departments committed as they are to psychology’s “cognitive revolution”, a “paradigm shift” which began in the 1970s. To-day the term “cognitive” has come to be synonymous to the term “psychological”, as if non-cognitive psychological functions were inconceivable.7

Perhaps I should add that as an educator, O’Neil implemented his department’s conflict-of-ideas approach more radically than Anderson himself, who, like Karl Popper, did not take kindly to his own ideas being criticized by his students or teaching staff!

Alison Turtle and Fiona Hibberd have briefly noted the broader influence of Anderson on psychologists O’Neil and Maze and their students8, commenting:

“All have grounded their examination of psychology's current conceptual and methodological practices in the tenets of Anderson's realist philosophy, emphasising the thesis of determinism, non-representative cognition, the error of mistaking a relation between things for a quality of one of those things, an opposition to dualism, and the self-refuting nature of non-realist positions”.
Others educated at the University of Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s have noted how Andersonian realism influenced their thinking. Clive James, who came to Anderson via Studies in Empirical Philosophy, not while he was at Sydney University but on the boat he took to England, has argued that Anderson’s influence reached beyond the universities to teaching colleges, schools, and the media, as students graduated and moved into professions; and far beyond philosophy and psychology, to a vision of society. James thinks that Anderson’s heritage of scepticism lives on in Australia and that the ‘characteristic tone of the Australian realist voice’ still survives9.
We shall have to judge in the future how robust is the influence of the Andersonians. In twenty or thirty years John Anderson may not be considered to have relevance to the thinking of psychologists. But if the interest in Andersonian realism persists in some form, I hope that a trace of that realism will persist, even if unrecognized, in the

discipline of psychology. I hope, as well, that the importance of a contest of ideas, which Anderson upheld and which Andersonians embraced, will continue as a principle in education for critical thinking. I hope I have been able to indicate how two very different Andersonians have contributed to my continuing education in the discipline of psychology.


1. I recall being told that Anderson used to say that Maze was his brightest and most neurotic student. In terms of academic rank reached in psychology, I think the second part of this remark was correct, but in my opinion, for sheer intellectual power in the philosophy of science and theoretical psychology, the first part was also right.

2. Furedy, J. J. and Diane M. Riley (1983). “Extended critical review of J. R. Maze, The Meaning of Behaviour. (Allen & Unwin, London, 1983).” Available at: .

3. Veitch, H. (2008). “Psychology’s versatile non-conformist: John Maze 1923-2008”. Available at:


4. I think that this Andersonian “voice” is more significant than the fact that, strangely, he chose not to cite Annderson in The Meaning of Behaviour. This was an omission that he later was unable to explain in conversation with me.

5. Dockrill, D. W. (1999). “Archbishop Gough and the Sydney philosophers: Religion, religious studies and the university.” In This Immense Panorama: Studies in Honour of Eric J. Sharpe, edited by Carole M. Cusack and Peter Oldmeadow. Sydney, University of Sydney.

Available at:

6. Furedy, J. J. (1996) “Some thoughts on the teaching contributions of a reflective experimental psychologist: J.D. ‘Peter’ Keehn (1925-95).”

History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin (Canadian Psychology

Association Section 25 Newsletter), 8, #1, 11-13.

Available at:

7. Psychology has always had dominant paradigms. Since the 1940s the dominant paradigm was the non-cognitive, “behaviourist” S-R approach espoused by Hull, over the “mentalist” cognitive S-S approach of Tolman. However, even in the strongest and most dogmatic S-R psychology department in the University of Iowa, where students were only half jokingly told not to ask “what’s on your mind” but “what’s on your behavior”, the Tolmanian cognitive approach was not only recognized but explicitly argued against. So in O’Neil’s department and under the supervision of R.A. (Dick) Champion (who, with an M.A. from the university of Iowa was the Sydney department’s resident S-R “behaviorist”), I could produce an empirical honours thesis that showed, at least to my satisfaction, that the results fitted a cognitive, Tolmanian approach.

8. Turtle, Alison M. and Fiona J. Hibberd. “History and Philosophy of Psychology at the University of Sydney”. Newsletter, European Society for History of the Human Sciences, 20 (2).

Available at:

9. James, Clive. (2005). “Renegade at the lecturn: Australia's national philosopher: John Anderson”. The Monthly, July 2005.
John Furedy

Still Cogent After All These Years

In his book The Intellectual Life, Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges (1920/1998), a French Dominican Philosopher, spells out the essence, conditions and methods of intellectual work. It is, he suggests:

“... undeniably useful to possess as early as possible, even at starting if it may be, a body of directive ideas forming a whole and capable ... of attracting and subordinating to itself all our

knowledge. The man without some such equipment is, in the intellectual universe, like the traveller who easily falls into scepticism through getting to know many dissimilar civilizations and contradictory doctrines (p. 114)”.

Unsurprisingly, Sertillanges recommended Thomism as the system of ideas that one should possess. That aside, many here would agree with his central point that the advantages of having a coherent system of philosophy with which (or from which) to examine the many ideas that come our way, far outweigh the disadvantages. This, I think, is Anderson’s enduring legacy—he developed a system of philosophy which has

come to be the equipment that I, and others, continue to use as a spring-board from which to vault into a variety of research areas. This is not to say that I can agree with all that Anderson argued for, but many of his ideas do help to keep me afloat in the sea of bad theories that pervade contemporary Psychology and the social sciences generally.

As John Mackie (1962) pointed out, it is Anderson’s love of generality and system that is the strength and, sometimes, the fault of his philosophy. This love of generality is exemplified in Anderson’s attempt to uncover that which is universal through his account of space, time and the categories. As David Armstrong (2010) and Charlie Martin (2008) have put it, the categories are the placeholders for knowledge generally and they also entail excluders for those conceptual mistakes that we find so tempting. What could be more important for the social sciences—a field of study considered by David Stove to be the “intellectual slums”?
In the past few years alone, Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology has felt the force of Anderson’s metaphysics. My colleagues and I have drawn on various aspects of his work in publishing research on

  • the concept of measurement

  • qualitative research

  • cognition

  • mental plurality and repression

  • mental causation

  • accounts of meaning

  • symbolism

  • the similarities between logical positivism and social constructionism

  • theism in Psychology

These topics are included in the book Realism and Psychology published last year by two of my colleagues, Agnes Petocz and Nigel Mackay. (The book is dedicated to John Maze, a student of Anderson’s who died in 2008). It provides a reprint of Anderson’s 1927 paper The Knower and the Known because Anderson’s linking of ontology, epistemology and psychology lies at the core of its many chapters.
So, the statement in the flier for this conference—that Anderson’s “... philosophy and distinctive intellectual views have been forgotten and neglected”—is not quite right. No doubt, much of Philosophy thinks it has moved on since the middle of the last century and it is certainly a more technical and terminologically complex subject than in Anderson’s day. But there is no escaping the fact that many of the conceptual errors in contemporary Psychology are addressed by Anderson’s metaphysics. His system offers an ontological foundation that unifies across the natural and social sciences when the current intellectual fad is to particularize and then complain about Psychology’s fragmentation. And it offers principles of logic that are concerned with how things are, when the current intellectual preference is to not be constrained either by logic or by ontology and then complain that Psychology’s methodology isn’t up to scratch. Self-contradictory practices such as these are readily exposed through Anderson’s realism. He may have died in 1962, but for some of us, his ideas remain very much alive.


Armstrong, D. M. (2010). Sketch for a systematic metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Mackay, N., & Petocz, A. (Eds.). (2011). Realism and Psychology. Leiden: Brill.

Mackie, J. (1962). The philosophy of John Anderson. The Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, 40, 265-282.

Martin, C. B. (2008). The mind in nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sertillanges, A. G. (1920/1998). The intellectual life. Its spirit, conditions, methods (M. Ryan, Trans.).

The Catholic University of America Press: Washington, D.C.
Fiona Hibberd

How To Understand And The Philosophical Position Of John Anderson


Very many good philosophers have failed to understand the positions that John Anderson argued for. 


One such person was an excellent philosopher, Prof. Jack Smart, who had a great influence on Australian philosophy after he was appointed, while still young, to the Chair of philosophy in Adelaide.

At one point he wrote to me saying that he had been trying to read papers of Anderson, hoping to understand why this man had been such an influence on those students who had worked under him. Could I who had taken Anderson’s courses, help to cast light on this? 


I was puzzled at first, but then recalled that there was one Andersonian philosopher who wrote quite clearly, and had written a book designed to explain Anderson’s views. Perhaps this book would help? There did not seem anything else. And it did help, remarkably. Smart replied with enthusiasm. He saw now what Anderson was getting at, and found it interesting. 


This exchange is very important, I think.  There really is a work, just one work, that can lead someone who has not taken Anderson’s courses or had contact with those that have, to get an understanding of this man’s thought. Andersonians should bear that in mind. 


What is the reference we need? It is Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson, Cambridge University Press, 1986. The author is A. J. (Jim) Baker. Baker deserves great credit for giving us this work. If you are puzzled, as many have been, of what Anderson’s views were, begin with this book. 


David Armstrong 



How Anderson’s Thought And Values Equipped Us For The Modern World.’

Although I took a class under Anderson (1956) and passed the Logic exam by remembering ‘Barbara, Celarent’ etc, I would not describe myself as a student of his and picked up what I knew of his thought and (more particularly) his values in the late fifties and early sixties through attending papers at the Libertarian society (e.g. Jim Baker on Andersonian ethics, ‘ought’ and ‘is’ etc) but above all through my association with more complete (though in some ways sceptical)  
Andersonians, George Molnar and Roelof Smilde (both in the context of leftist political activism) and Darcy Waters, in the context of leftist non-activism, or Oblomovism (as either Jim, or Bill Bonney called it). Along with Ross Poole, John Roberts and others I learned of certain Andersonian values (courage, love, creativity) and imbibed very strongly what was described even then as a ‘producer’ ethic. Anderson, I then learned (and believed this to lie at the heart of his recommendations for practice) was inclined to disregard what consumers made of an undertaking, and look at it very much from the point of view of the producer, i.e. those who made it, engaged in it for its own sake, or (as in the case of wage labour) tried to make of a compulsory practice something that made sense to them. This value has remained with me and with Roelof, as it remained with George and Darcy in their lifetimes, and with some others, Inge Riebe for one, Jack Grancharoff for another though Jack derived his values not from Anderson, even indirectly, but from Bulgarian anarchism. 
The self-evident arena for application of this outlook was the workplace and specifically trade unionism. Not being ‘individualist’ anarchists, we favoured any activity by which workers sought to exercise some kind of control over the work they were obliged to perform, sometimes through the medium of trade unions (yes, there were  and are democratic and worker-oriented trade union officials: Nick Origlass, and Izzy Weiner, and some BLF figures, as well as many lesser known job delegates and union reps) but just as often against, or in spite of the efforts of permanent union officials. The Waterside workers’ Federation was in those days, not exactly a haven, but a site for job-control initiatives and what might be termed ‘industrial union’ or (in Spanish) anarcho-syndicalist practices, partly because of its unusual job structure (hard-won by the union) whereby when the assignment to a particular ship came to an end, a WWF member could take himself ‘off the board’ and resume paid work when he saw fit: thus there was an enlivening and effervescent character to the work force, which ranged from painters and male models to racing-dog owners, who sometimes needed a spell from paid work to take their champions to local meetings round the country. But this is not an account

of the wharves, a utopian site (if only in retrospect). So far as I know the first of our number (i.e. in the Push) to deliberately seek a job in the wharves was Roelof, and Darcy worked there for many years until invalided out in the 1970s. I also worked on the wharves for a few months in 1963-64 and there were others in the Push, such as Frank Wilson, late of the Seamen’s Union, who worked there. My first novel, ‘the Shell of the Old’(1981) was set on the wharves (in Queensland), and was drawn on by Verity Burgmannn for her account of ‘industrial unionist’ traditions in Australia. 

The two principal writings published in the Libertarian ‘Broadsheet’ were by George and Roelof – ‘The Cause of Anti-Communism’ and ‘Strikes’. The second of these betrayed much of the ‘producer’ sentiment attributable in part to their acquaintance with Anderson. The article showed a tendency to ascribe a positive example to ALL strikes. Though this may be going a little far, one can see what was meant. Strike action conferred on wage workers not only a weapon in a given industrial struggle but an awareness of the kinds of forces that were ranged against them, an insight into the workings of class – which was a realistic position. I should say that this outlook was free of any kind of Sorelian belief that by strike action one would bring the capitalist class to its knees and usher in the classless society in obedience to the dictates of myth: not a realistic position, and one which equips its holders for a rapid descent into fascism, as indeed happened with Sorel (and with Mussolini, for that matter). None of us became fascists but none of us remained workers, nor had we any experience of the kind of distress and apathy which defeat can bring when a strike goes a long while and ends up with nothing. The ‘50s and ‘60s were a time of (what is now called) full employment and many students (such as I was) had a more or less cavalier attitude towards keeping a job. Another job could always be found. Even people in the public service used their security of employment in those days to travel from city to city and to wind up in unusual places. Anderson, of course, had nothing to say either for or against such excursions. I would suggest, however, that a tradition of thought and values traceable to Anderson did have the substantial effect of deterring those who took him seriously on the political left from any truck with Communism. There is anti-Communism and anti-Communism. No names, no packdrill but there are  former Andersonians who became anti-Communists and, taking this as a mission in life, became class warriors of a kind even the late Sir Frank Packer can have found no fault with. The post-Anderson left anti-Communism I have referred to was of a different kind. In certain contexts Communists in the work-force made good companions and Trotskyists even better ones. These contexts evaporate when it is a matter of understanding the wider world and when ‘fighting the bosses’ is no longer the imperative, or when Communists themselves become the bosses. (Origlass and Weiner were both Trotskyists, and more honest and admirable unionists it would be hard to find or imagine).  

A ‘producer’ ethic nowadays is no help in most spheres of life and in some spheres, is frankly unintelligible. Among those who find it hardest to understand are many (not all) who make up the caste of upper management in universities, and who find themselves at loggerheads with staff who want to teach their subject or who, valuing a certain flair in language (as did Anderson, reader of ‘Ulysses’) wish to make themselves clear, and resent obfuscation in what is said. Others in contemporary Australia who meet up with similar obfuscation and who, in context, seek to express producer values include musicians in respect of recording companies and bookers of venues, dairy and agricultural producers confronted with Coles and Woolworths (champions of the ‘consumer’ as they roundly proclaim) and tradesmen, whether employed or self-employed, in their relation to building contractors and resort managers. Moreover the issue of who it is that actually ‘produces’ has been muddied in the language ever since the media began to refer to mine-owners as ‘miners’ – a term reserved in earlier days for those who go ‘down mine’. Such is the paralysis of the Labor Party – a party unable even to sell the electorate a mining tax – that these days a  millionaire lionized for his (or her) plunder of the nation’s legacy of mineral resources, is no longer a rip-off merchant, but a ‘creator of value’. 

Second topic: the Andersonian era, even as late as I encountered it, was full of songs. Tom Rose sang some, Jim Baker knew the words of others but (so far as I know) didn’t sing. Darcy Waters sang a great deal and (in true ‘producer’ fashion’) put a stamp very much his own on certain songs, but I don’t recall him singing  the songs said to be beloved by Anderson, the ‘Hole in the Wall’ song for example (‘I am the man who invented  The syllogism…’). I don’t know who wrote it and don’t have the authority to sing it (though I did) nor do I know who is still alive that has that authority. I learned at the Conference (from Michael Easson) that Peter Gibbons wrote the words of the ‘Sydney Blues’. Did Anderson bring ‘Professor John Glaister’ with him from Glasgow, or was its currency in Sydney independent of him? Piquant verses by Oliver Somerville and, indeed, James Macauley belong to an era at Sydney University that coincided with John Anderson’s long reign. 


Ian Bedford 

Memory: Realism And The “Specious Present”

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