About Us

The University of Melbourne was founded in 1853. For some years, Philosophy was studied only as part of Classics. Independence came in 1881, when Henry Laurie, a former student of the University of Edinburgh who had, as the editor of a provincial newspaper, campaigned for extended teaching of Philosophy, was rewarded with a Lectureship in Logic. In 1886 he was appointed to the newly created Chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy.

Laurie was succeeded in the Chair in 1911 by W. R. Boyce Gibson, an Oxford graduate who had studied at Jena and there been much influenced by the ideas of Rudolf Eucken. To the promulagation of these in Australia he devoted much effort, though his more enduring contribution arose from his later interest in Husserl, and particularly from his translation of the Ideas, which for many years remained the standard.

In 1935 W. R. Boyce Gibson died. His son, Alexander (‘Sandy’) Boyce Gibson, then a Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, succeeded him in the Chair, which he held until his retirement in 1965. Under the younger Boyce Gibson, the Department expanded considerably. Gibson pursued a policy of even-handedness in appointment which gave his Department a diversity of philosophical and religious outlook which has remained a trademark. At the same time, a broadly Wittgensteinian perspective gradually emerged as the dominant one of the period, thanks to the powerful advocacy of three of Wittgenstein’s former pupils — George Paul, Douglas Gasking, and A. C. Jackson.

In 1966, the Department found itself Boyce Gibson-less for the first time since 1911. This situation was rectified by renaming the Chair the Boyce Gibson Chair of Philosophy, and appointing Douglas Gasking to it. Under Gasking’s benevolent rule the Department flourished until his retirement in 1976; perhaps his greatest contribution was the appointment of the author of these notes. In 1977, Gasking was succeeded in the Chair by the logician Leonard Goddard from St Andrews, who brought into the Department a more formal perspective than that which had traditionally been adopted. After his retirement in 1989, Goddard in turn was followed by Tony Coady, who retired from the Chair in 1998 to take up a prestigious ARC Senior Research Fellowship and is now Deputy Director (and Head of the Melbourne Division) of the Centre for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics, housed in the Department.

The Department of Philosophy was renamed the School of Philosophy in 2007. Following a comprehensive restructure of the Faculty of Arts in 2008, the School was expanded to incorporate the Faculty’s programs in Anthropology, Development Studies, Gender Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Social Theory. It is now known as the School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Social Inquiry (PASI). The current Head of School is Associate Professor Mary Patterson.