Box 169, Item 414: Untitled document on significant research programs in Australian philosophy in the 1980s


Box 169, Item 414: Untitled document on significant research programs in Australian philosophy in the 1980s


Typescript with handwritten emendations.


Title in collection finding aid: RS: Untitled ts 2p Marked ‘Re RLR start’



The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 169, Item 414


This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.


For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


[2] leaves. 1.82 MB.


These areas were also among the most significant research programs in Australian
philosophy in the 80's (see my ‘Prospects for regional philosophy in Australasia’). To set out
very briefly why these programs did not flourish. Essentially the power-strati lure in philosophy
decided it did not care for the developments that appeared to be occuring in parts of Australian
philosophy, and in ANU philosophy in particular. Among other things, a small campaign was

run against my regional themes and research project ideas. I was blocked in advancement and
Australian philosophy has been
in any power acquisition and appropriate support
lately turning back to a subservient empiricism, concentrating again on such established topics

as philosophy of mind. In the main I d-repped-out of attempwg to organise philosophy and

other projects at or through ANU.

3. Chief past research accomplishments:My past research divides into two broad categories: logic and metaphysics, and other,
other comprising, to begin with, environmental philosophy and issues. In the 1960s my
research fell almost entirely into the first category, whence I (or Routley at any rate) have been

typed ever since as a logician. As the 1970s progressed my other research broadened from
environmental ethics and issues (initially mainly forestry and nuclear topics) to include relevant
social theory, environmental politics and economics, and naturally enough, the point of all the
activity involved, that is almost to say, ultimate questions.
A. Logic and metaphysics :• Object-theory: Development of the general theory of all items, with special emphasis upon

nonexistent objects and among them impossible items. From an interdisciplinary viewpoint,
important kinds of nonexistent items comprehended by the theory are fictional items generally

and theoretical objects; but there are many other kinds: historic objects, mental and perceptual
items, vague objects, variable items, processes, and so on. This work, which established the
general theory, sistology, as a viable logical enterprise, began in early 1960s; investigations up

to 1980 were collected in Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond. Investigations continue; an
improved theory has been found, and further kinds of items better comprehended.

• Relevant logics: Advances in intensional logic, especially modal logics and relevant

logics, and their applications. Much of my work in the 1960s was devoted to studies of the
properties of non-normal modal logics and implicational variants thereof, and their applications.

This work was initiated independently of European and American work, which I only learnt
about while I progressed in a somewhat different direction. More significant results include

semantics and algebras for relevant logics, resolution of many open questions, as well as new

ranges of systems, and interesting results concerning them. Many of the results reached up to
1982 are recorded in Relevant Logics and Their Rivals.
In the 1980s more and more of my technical work went into syntheses of and applications
of sociative (i.e. broadly relevant) logics, systems that matter both for critical notions in
philosophy of science and for a satisfactory theory of reasoning.

• Discovery of universal semantics, for all logical systems. Corollaries include general
theories of denotation and truth; applications include rehabilitation of several damaged or

defunct metaphysical theories.
• Paradoxes and dialethic logic: Investigation of paradoxes, and ensuing therefrom two
broad lines of work: first, significance and context theories and a study of incompleteness, and
second, paraconsistent and dialethic (i.e. explicitly inconsistent) theories and a study of

inconsistency. Both lines lead to much work determining the extent and character of such

theories, and establishing important results concerning them. Both lines of pursuit issued in
large books (one with Leonard Goddard, the other with Graham Priest); but in both lines much
unfinished business remains. My first research in Australia in the early 1960s focussed on
paradoxes; perhaps I am at last in a position to outline main details of the theory.

• Deep Plurallism: By the 1980s it had become difficult, in philosophy, to escape the

fashionable issue of realism and its main rivals, anti-realism and relativism. I soon realised that

I could (for object-theoretic reasons) be satisfied with none of the stock options, and so began
investigation of a radical pluralism, which in due course deepened into deep plurallism. On the
way I undertook investigations of limitations regarding realism, limits to knowledge, of

ontological and alethic relativity, and of idealism and coherence.
A* Other: from environmental ethics to ultimate questions.
• Environmental ethics, and removal of human chauvinism. None of the prevailing ethical
theories were satsifactory, all succumbed to environmental counter-examples (which is one

reason why environmental ethics is not applied ethics); all were unduly chauvinistic. New
theoretical investigation was required, and was undertaken through the 1970s (though the

resulting theory has never been assembled in one source). This foundational work centered on

value theory, was broadened in the 1980s to include, for instance, a new deontic theory
accommodating moral dilemmas, a critique of rational decision theory and development of a
satisizing alternative.

• Environmental philosophy and related social topics, including nuclear energy and

obligations to future generations, war and peace, population and immigration, predation and
cannibilism, animal intentionality, environmental interference and management. One topic
merits separate listing.

Studies concerning forests and forestry.

While much of this investigatory work

concentrated on plantation forestry and other intensive forestry such as clearfelling and
woodchipping, it also included studies on forest practices in neighbouring countries, alternative
forestry, forestry economics, forest typology, down to details of specific forests.

• Environmental and philosophical metatheory. Topics, encroaching on theoretical

sociology, included rival social paradigms, the bearings of culture on environmental attitudes,
cultural and regional impacts on ideology, regional philosophy. The last topic led naturally into



Richard Sylvan, “Box 169, Item 414: Untitled document on significant research programs in Australian philosophy in the 1980s,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed May 26, 2024,

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