John Passmore

John Passmore is Professor of Philosophy in the Australian National University. His books include The Perfectibility of Man and Science and its Critics.


Hit and Run

22 November 1990

James Lund rebukes me (Letters, 10 January) for having described Heidegger as a sage, rather than as a philosopher. In the encyclopedia article from which he cites this judgment, I go on to say that an individual writer can be a sage at one time, a philosopher at another. If Mr Lund consults the second edition of my A Hundred Years of Philosophy, he will find there a relatively full account of Heidegger’s...


John Passmore, 4 September 1986

Opposite the title-page of Mr Baker’s skeletonised but substantially accurate account of John Anderson’s philosophy there stand two epigraphs. They are both from Heraclitus or, more precisely, from Burnet’s translation of that enigmatic philosopher. The first of them is ontological: ‘The world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out.’ The second one might perhaps describe as methodological: ‘If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it: for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.’ For Baker to have begun thus is dead right: Heraclitus lies at the centre of Anderson’s thinking.

Great Good Places of the Mind

John Passmore, 6 March 1980

For a quarter of a century, Professor and Mrs Manuel have explored the highways and byways of Utopianism. Their task is now completed, their painstaking research encapsulated in a single monumental volume. Nothing less than ‘monumental’ will suffice to describe it: half a million words, at a rough estimate. Tighter editing would have excised an occasional sentence as repetitious or otiose. But that would have had no more substantial effect than a craftsman’s final polishing. The monolith remains, in a sense beyond criticism, simply there, an Ayer’s Rock of scholarship.

School for Love

Onora O’Neill, 21 May 1981

Nobody could be more aware than Professor Passmore of the hazards of writing on the philosophy of teaching. He notes disarmingly that ‘the chance of writing even a reasonably good book on...

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