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John Passmore (1914-2004)

by Lisa Sangoi

John Passmore, the Australian philosopher considered by some as the father of applied philosophy, died in Canberra on July 25 at the age of 89. His most famous work, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (1957), explores the past century’s central problems in philosophy. It exhibits a broad knowledge and keen understanding of the origins of the century’s main philosophical dilemmas.

It seems as if fate led Passmore to the discipline of Philosophy. At age 19 he reached Sydney University on a teacher training scholarship, with the aspirations of being a high school teacher. He took a course on philosophy only because his scholarship demanded it of him. By the time he was finished there, he emerged with a double first in both English and Philosophy. He was swept away by the scandalous philosophies of his Scottish-born philosophy professor, John Anderson. In 1950 Passmore became the first professor of philosophy at Otago University in New Zealand. Later, he moved to the Austrian National University where he retired twenty years later as a professor emeritus. He received numerous academic honours in Australia and abroad, and in 1992 was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. John Passmore married Dorris Summer in 1936. Dorris and their two daughters survive him.

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