algernonsidney

John Hospers, 1918-2011

26 posts in this topic

A great man has passed.

After she made him breakfast the morning he left her apartment to submit his first book, Human Conduct, Ayn, waving him off to his publisher's office, said..."'Good premises!' instead of 'Good -bye,' which deeply touched him, he recalled." 1

Good premises indeed Mr. Hospers! Safe journey.

Adam

1page 330 Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C.Heller

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Here are his memories and conversations about Ayn, from his website Hospers Bio .

Memories of Ayn Rand

Conversations with Ayn Rand: A Memoir -- Part 1

Conversations with Ayn Rand: A Memoir -- Part 2

Edited by Selene
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hospers.jpg
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Truly, one of the most notable philosophers who early signed-on with Rand, participated in a number of events at the Nathaniel Branden Institute, including participating and contributing a lecture to the Basic Principles of Objectivism course (later removed from the course after Rand had a tift over comments that he made from the podium on her presentation at a seminar on esthetics. These comments were apparently not recorded, so we don't know what was actually said [with the exception of Harry Binswanger, who claims that he was there and that Hospers was sarcastic. Sorry, but I do not take seriously recollections of this sort from someone who perpetuates the assertion that Rand was perfect in all with respects {er, except for the Brandens!}].

Anyway, considering Hospers' rather gentle and courteous demeanor, such a response would be out of character for him. Unfortunately, Rand did not share that personality trait, and that caused many of the "breaks" (expulsions) within her inner circle.

But, back to Hospers, he included references to Rand in his textbook, Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, and later included many discussions by contributing philosophers (e.g., Nozick, Machan, etc.) when he was editor of The Personalist.

I fondly recall a presidential campaign address that he gave at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in the fall of 1972. It took a lot of guts for him to agree to be the first Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, which certainly would have been looked upon disapprovingly by his academic peers. It certainly did not advance his status among fellow academics (although by that time, he was already well-established and was Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Southern California). He also authored Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow around that time.

Although he garnered only about a 100,000 votes (including mine) in 1972, he did have the unique distinction of being rewarded with one Presidential electoral vote, cast by Roger MacBride (a relative of Rose Wilder Lane, to my recollection). The Republican Party of Virginia never forgave MacBride for that gesture.

John Hospers. Definitely a gentlemen, a scholar, and a role model that aspiring libertarians and Objectivist would do well to emulate..

Edited by Jerry Biggers
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http://www.ballot-ac...-the-age-of-93/

Sheldon Richman has also posted this news on his Facebook status.

Hospers had a good run.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Jerry:

He did get the first electoral vote for the Libertarian Party, as well as my vote.

Additionally, according to Heller, Barbara was at the Harvard address where Ayn delivered her twenty minute paper entitled "Art as Sense of Life." [Page 332 Heller Bio.] Moreover, according to Heller, same page,

Barbara said that "...some of his comments were sarcastic, 'probably our of nervousness at [having to criticize] her publicly, while she sat listening.'"

Needless to say, Ayn "...responded to his remarks by lashing out with a coarsely worded attack on Hospers." Hospers was shunned at the party at the hotel after the event and he and Ayn never saw each other again.

Adam

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I note his passing, also. He was, of course, 93.

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I met him in 97 at an IOS event in DC. He was standing with Robert Bidinotto. He sure had a long life.

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Wow,

This is some really bad news.

I grieve.

Michael

Hospers appeared to have had a long an productive life. That is something to celebrate, not to grieve.

There is something worse than dying after a long full life, and that is not dying and wearing out and dwindling until just a thin husk still lives. That is something to grieve.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"Hospers appeared to have had a long an productive life. That is something to celebrate, not to grieve.

There is something worse than dying after a long full life, and that is not dying and wearing out and dwindling until just a thin husk still lives. That is something to grieve."

Well said, Ba'al.

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Very unfortunate he is gone. He has had an influence in my life. I would have liked to have met him.

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Jerry Biggers wrote:

"I fondly recall a presidential campaign address that he gave at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in the fall of 1972. It took a lot of guts for him to agree to be the first Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, which certainly would have been looked upon disapprovingly by his academic peers. It certainly did not advance his status among fellow academics (although by that time, he was already well-established and was Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Southern California). He also authored Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow around that time."

Jerry, despite his many accomplishments and his remarkable gifts as a teacher who was beloved by his students, John paid dearly for his espousal of libertarianism. He was forced to retire from USC at the age of 65. There was no question in his mind that his dismissal was the result of his political convictions. (Other teachers of the same age were not compelled to retire.) John loved teaching above all else, and it broke his heart to have to abandon it. It was a pain that never went away, and he would often refer to it as the great tragedy of his life.

But he was not forgotten. James Kilbourne and I hosted a party for John on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and I made it known in advance that words of congratulation could be e-mailed to me, to be read to John at the party. E-mails poured in, not just from friends and colleagues but from John's students from 30, 40, 50 years ago, thanking him for the inestimable value this brilliant and caring man had contributed to their lives.

Barbara

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He responded to my email, Barbara, which meant he responded to each and every email sent to him. I'm sorry never to have met him.

--Brant

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I understand Jack Wheeler got his PhD in philosophy under John Hospers.

--Brant

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When you pay esteemed professors six figures to grace your campus you don't compel them to retire at 65. So if a tenured prof. is let go at 65 because tenure expires at 65 he is disvalued. When a champion of liberty is disvalued say goodbye to America.

So glad I have no children. Well, if I did they'd be adults by now, probably with their own children. So glad I have no grandchildren. I'm too deep into being an American, but these days i'm supposed to be a United Statesican. Sorry, no joy.

--Brant

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When you pay esteemed professors six figures to grace your campus you don't compel them to retire at 65. So if a tenured prof. is let go at 65 because tenure expires at 65 he is disvalued. When a champion of liberty is disvalued say goodbye to America.

--Brant

Francisco explained that:

"I am an alumnus of the great school that employs Dr. Pritchett at present, the Patrick Henry University. But I studied under one of his predecessors—Hugh Akston." "Hugh Akston!" the attractive young woman gasped. "But you couldn't have, Señor d'Anconia! You're not old enough. I thought he was one of those great names of … of the last century."

"Perhaps in spirit, madame. Not in fact."

"But I thought he died years ago."

"Why, no. He's still alive."

"Then why don't we ever hear about him any more?"

"He retired, nine years ago."

"Isn't it odd? When a politician or a movie star retires, we read front page stories about it. But when a philosopher retires, people do not even notice it."

"They do, eventually."

Adam

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[...] despite his many accomplishments and his remarkable gifts as a teacher who was beloved by his students, John paid dearly for his espousal of libertarianism. He was forced to retire from USC at the age of 65. There was no question in his mind that his dismissal was the result of his political convictions. (Other teachers of the same age were not compelled to retire.) John loved teaching above all else, and it broke his heart to have to abandon it. It was a pain that never went away, and he would often refer to it as the great tragedy of his life.

I never knew this until now. I'm immensely saddened for him, though not at all shocked or surprised.

What makes this a redoubled tragedy is that the University of Southern California — as I still find to not be universally known, among friends and contacts — is not a government institution, but a private one. That this kind of apparent ostracism and group-think extends to private colleges, ones that are widely presumed to be more insulated from them, shows that such philosophic diminution and decay goes far beyond the realm of political funding struggles.

I'm sure Barbara could cite examples of this at New York University, also private, on the other coast. I can testify to it at Northwestern University, between the two in Illinois. Avoiding direct government funding is no guarantee of a campus culture of truly independent thought.

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"Hospers appeared to have had a long an productive life. That is something to celebrate, not to grieve.

There is something worse than dying after a long full life, and that is not dying and wearing out and dwindling until just a thin husk still lives. That is something to grieve."

Well said, Ba'al.

The Japanese Samurai had an interesting image: They said that the cherry blossom falls at the moment of its perfection. We are all going to die. Perhaps it is better if we fall at the moment of our perfection rather than wearing out, dwindling and in the end become (as Tolkien says) unmanned and witless.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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For what it's worth, the LA Times says Hospers retired in 1988 at 70. He taught night classes at the UCLA Extension after that.

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It was through The Personalist, edited by John Hospers, that I first heard of libertarianism. I saw the issue on display at my university library. That would have been around 1971. The issue included papers from a forum in which defenders of the institution of government defended only a quite limited government, very like I had picked up from Rand. The opponents in the debate were anarchocapitalists. It was in that issue that I learned of the individualist anarchist position. One contribution on the limited government side was from someone named Robert Nozick. I remember thinking to myself: “Ah, that’s the bright one.” A few years later he would become famous as the author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Soon I was reading in The Personalist essays on ethical egoism by Eric Mack and by Nathaniel Branden. I joined the Libertarian Party in 1972, read Hosper’s book on libertarianism—which was very educational for me—and in the voting booth wrote “John Hospers” for President in that year.

In the ’70’s a gay friend mentioned to me that Hospers was gay, but that I should not make that information public. I have never mentioned it until now. I was surprised to read in the Reason link above that Hospers was “openly gay” way back when. Incorrect, I’m pretty sure.

In the ’90’s I was at one of David Kelley’s summer seminars, in Boulder, in which Prof. Hospers was a participant. One of the sessions was a panel discussion on the dispute: limited government v. anarchism. The only proponent of the latter position to be on the panel was George Smith, who neglected to show that morning. That left the session pretty much stranded. But there was something from Hospers near the end, which I sure wish I could recall more specifically. It left a sour note, as it was some variety of skeptical doubt in epistemology.

My last memory of Hospers was at a banquet at the end of that seminar week. I was seated at a round table. Hospers and a woman friend were sitting across from me. A physicist and his wife were to their left. To my left was Robert Bidinatto. To my right was a man from Connecticut, who struck up a conversation. Upon learning I was gay, he recounted some old “Objectivist” arguments against it, including N. Branden’s old remarks that it was a mental illness and that romantic love was only possible between man and woman. I had not heard such thinking for many years. I rolled off the ancient rejoinders. Hospers and I would look at each other across the table, direct, serene.

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If Hospers stories be the order of the day, here's mine.

About five years ago I attended a meeting of the LA Objectivist Network at which he held court. At one point he told the story that Rand was convinced that every mainstream academic philosopher in the last 200 years was a "subjectivist," by which she meant, nearly enough, a solipsist. As an exemple, she insisted that Hospers himself believed that sense qualities are subjective creations of our minds, not properties of the objects themselves. He replied that he had no trouble saying, to the contrary, that blueness or roughness or hotness are properties of things, which we proceed to recognize. This reminded me of what Rand later said about essence and value, so I asked him if she'd gotten the idea from him. Could be, he said, but she'd never said so.

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Jerry, despite his many accomplishments and his remarkable gifts as a teacher who was beloved by his students, John paid dearly for his espousal of libertarianism. He was forced to retire from USC at the age of 65. There was no question in his mind that his dismissal was the result of his political convictions.

Barbara

Before this, John was also forced out of his position as Chairman of the USC Philosophy Department, though he continued teaching after that. (I believe this was around the time of his presidential campaign.)

I was never personal friends with John, though I saw him frequently during the 1970s and occasionally thereafter. We had a long and pleasant conversation at a conference around six years ago. He looked frail, but he was still sharp as a tack.

Not long after I moved to the L.A. area in 1971, I sat in on some of his classes. He was an excellent teacher.

R.I.P.

Ghs

Addendum: In 1975, in Larchmont Hall in Hollywood, I debated John on the topic of anarchism versus limited government. (This was one of my monthly events for the "Forum For Philosopical Studies.") It was a very interesting discussion. I wish I still had a tape of it.

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