Professor JJC Smart

08 Oct 2012 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The philosophical community will be saddened to hear that Jack Smart died on Saturday (October 6). He was a figure of huge influence over many years in Australasian philosophy, and indeed in philosophy world-wide. In addition, Professor Smart's constant curiosity about, and interest in all manner of scientific and philosophical matters, and his open, cheerful and friendly disposition, made him much liked by all those who were fortunate enough to know him personally.

There will be a full obituary published in a forthcoming issue of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.

The Australasian Association of Philosophy expresses its sadness at Professor Smart's death, and offers its condolences to his wife, Elizabeth and his family.

Photo: Steven Morton

The AAP hopes that this page can be used to collate and share thoughts about Professor JJC Smart. If you leave a post, make sure you add your name at the end, and your email, if you wish.


    • 11 Oct 2012 11:02 AM | Anonymous member
      The above link is to an article in Monash Memo, October 10, 2012. The article is in three parts. The first part was written by staffers of Monash Memo, the second part was written by John Bigelow, and the third part was written by me. (Posted by Graham Oppy, on 11/10.)
      Link  •  Reply
    • 12 Oct 2012 2:35 AM | John Collins
      I loved Jack. I turned up at the ANU in December 1979 as an undergraduate visiting on a Vacation Scholarship. I was hoping to work with Bob Meyer and the logic crew, but hadn't counted on their nocturnal habits, and general unavailability. I felt lost. Jack saved me. Almost the first thing he said to me was: "We've got to find you a bike!" The next day I had one. It turned into a great summer.
      Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 10:45 AM | Anonymous member
    The Philosophy Department of Monash University welcomes you to a
    celebration of the life of our friend Jack Smart. A memorial service will
    take place in the (not-too-religious) Religious Centre at the Monash
    Clayton campus on Tuesday the 30th of October at 3.00. The service will be
    followed by a social occasion at the Monash Staff Club where Jack and the
    other 'knights of the round table' regularly convened for lunch.

    This event is being organised by John Bigelow ( and
    inquires should go to him.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 12:39 PM | Michael Smith
    What a privilege and a pleasure it was to know Jack Smart. Though a giant in our subject, Jack treated everyone the same way, engaging with them warmly about not just philosophy, but also about his other passions-cricket, bushwalking, and of course his family-and eagerly finding out about their passions too. He and Liz helped make generations of newcomers to Canberra feel right at home. Always cheerful, and modest to a fault, Jack seemed totally incapable of malice. He will be sorely missed. (Posted by Michael Smith, Princeton NJ USA, 10 October 2012)
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 2:42 PM | Andrew Turner
    I studied Philosophy at Adelaide after Jack had left, but his shadow ran through the Department. He occasionally popped up to visit the old place, even attending a couple of Philosophy Club events,notably the Philosophy in the Pub event in Stirling. Never had the courage to approach him unfortunately. Turns out he was one of the examiners for my PhD. His commentary was beautiful and is now included in my bound copies.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 2:56 PM | Martin Davies (the MD based at the University of Melbourne)
    I am very saddened to hear about Jack's death and very sorry that I did not make more of an effort to see him in recent years. I got to know Jack through a mutual interest in the philosophical work of Sir William Mitchell, whom he greatly admired but said he could not understand (M's philosophical works are notoriously impenetrable.) Jack was one of the examiners for my thesis on M's work, and made useful comments on a resulting paper for the AJP. He was very encouraging, and full of praise for my efforts in trying to make sense of the man's work. This was very motivating for a young scholar. When a book from the thesis was published, Jack wrote a commendatory Foreward, which he did not really have to do. Jack was also a referee for me in a number of situations, always writing in long hand, and in a distinctive style. In later years, Jack and I had long, interesting discussions over dinner at our respective homes, at which Liz was a great host and companion. We did some bushwalking together too. He was a great man, and a great philosopher. I shall miss him very much.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 4:19 PM | Alex Miller (University of Otago)
    I had the privilege of getting to know Jack during a 5 month spell at ANU in 1993. It turned out that Jack and I played cricket for the same amateur cricket team (West of Scotland: in Glasgow – me in the 1980s, Jack in the 1940s. I was living round the corner from him in Hackett, and he was incredibly welcoming and generous: inviting me round to his house to meet his family, showing me the area around Mount Majura in Canberra, and taking me on a memorable day-long bush walk up and down a hill called Yankee Hat in NSW. We kept up a correspondence after I left, and no matter what I sent him he always replied by return of mail with perceptive philosophical comments (usually peppered with cricketing anecdotes). He represented everything that’s good about Philosophy in Australasia, and I’ll never forget him.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 12 Oct 2012 12:39 AM | Alan Weir
      Though shocked to learn Alex played cricket (entirely excusable in Jack's case of course) it minded me to post to say that I paid a small act of homage this week by visiting 6, University Gardens, University of Glasgow, now Arts HQ but I'm led to believe it was Jack's childhood home for a while and that he used to be bathed in the wonderful, (very large) ornate Shanks washhand basin in there. I think it was Jack himself who told me this, not in Glasgow but on a visit to Belfast in the 90s when I was there. As you would expect, the visit made a huge impression on us all, a wonderful man and philosopher.
      Link  •  Reply
      • 06 Nov 2012 6:54 PM | Liz Smart
        So sorry to have to disillusion you and to spoil a lovely story. Jack's parents did live at 6 University Gardens, but did not move to Glasgow till 1937, by which time Jack was far too large to be bathed in any washhand basin- he was nearly 17 years of age.
        Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 4:45 PM | Suzanne Uniacke
    Jack was a genuine 'one off'. Everyone who knew him will remember him with great fondness. I first met him in my honours year at La Trobe when he taught me. There had been quite a level of excitement in the department prior to the arrival of this distinguished philosopher and what struck us 'philosophical nippers' when we met him for the first time in class was how unassuming he was. A few years later I gave Jack a lift home (to Hurstbridge?) after a philosophy seminar one evening and we saw a powerful owl just as we approached his road. For the next thirty years whenever I bumped into Jack at a conference or elsewhere he would remark that we had seen that powerful owl.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 5:55 PM | Paul Griffiths
    A favourite memory of Jack is a three-day bushwalk including Mt Bimberi, in 1986, I believe. Jack, Peter Lavers, myself and three non-philosophers. It included a lovely evening around the campfire at Dead Horse Gap where I remember Jack talking about bushwalking when he was younger, in the days when they used a billy on the campfire to cook and stored it in a billy-bag because of the soot. Although Jack was in his mid 60s and the rest of the party half that age he had no trouble keeping up for three days, a good part of it off-track. He walked through some of the breaks, I recall, to get ahead on the next section. A walk planned for this summer with some other philosophers covers some of the same route - it will be a good moment to remember him.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 11 Oct 2012 8:15 PM | Deborah Russell
    Jack and Liz were so kind to my husband and me when I was a PhD student in Canberra. A few years later, they came and visited us in our home in Ashhurst, when they were touring New Zealand, I think because Liz wanted to see our new babies. Jack talked cricket, and philosophers, and New Zealand scenery, and was as genial and kindly as ever. It was a privilege to meet him, and to be in his and Liz's company.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 12:24 AM | Steffi Lewis
    We -- David and I -- visited Oxford University in 1970. After Jack's seminar (with R. M. Hare, on utilitarianism) we would go along to the Eastgate Hotel for a pint and further conversation. David and I put on a barroom debate about whether or not there were any such things as holes. Jack thought this was a riot: those of you who knew him remember his laugh: HAAAA. He said we should write it up and send it to Analysis or someplace. The result: “Holes”,
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48 (1970): 206-212.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 12:47 AM | Philip Pettit, Princeton Univeristy and the ANU
    Jack was unrelentingly positive, focused on the good things in life and in people. He was straightforward and open to a fault. And he didn't ever seem to feel the little resentments that blight most of our lives; I don't think he knew what it was to be churlish. Not only was he a great mind, as all the world knows. He was also a great soul: a true Mensch.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 12 Oct 2012 2:08 AM | Jerry Dworkin
      I met Jack during one of my short stays at ANU. My most memorable experience was at a talk I gave called Rawls of the Road. If a philosopher is someone who talks in other people's sleep, then jack confirmed this.
      To my consternation he appeared to be sleeping for my entire talk. But the minute the talk stopped his eyes opened, his hand shot up, and a question emerged which proved to be the most interesting of the session.
      Link  •  Reply
      • 12 Oct 2012 2:27 AM | Ole Koksvik
        I knew Jack at Monash University, when I did honours and later a masters. I share this experience of Jack: his gentle snoozing during a talk, and his insightful questions afterwards. He was always friendly to me, and wrote a thoughtful reply to a question I posed him, in his distinctive hand writing.

        Jack was a hero of Australasian philosophy. He'll be missed.
        Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 2:36 AM | John Collins
    I loved Jack. I turned up at the ANU in December 1979 as an undergraduate visiting on a Vacation Scholarship. I was hoping to work with Bob Meyer and the logic crew, but hadn't counted on their nocturnal habits, and general unavailability. I felt lost. Jack saved me. Almost the first thing he said to me was: "We've got to find you a bike!" The next day I had one. It turned into a great summer.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 4:52 AM | Alle Hazen
    By the time I finally met Jack, he was already retired and an "elder statesman" of Australian philosophy. (I knew OF him, of course! One of the key intellectual turning-points of my philosophical development was a seminar in my first semester of graduate school, taught by the man who subsequently supervised my Ph.D., that looked at Jack's "Sensations as brain processes.") And I never had him as a colleague for day-to-day interaction. So I'm afraid I have to report only impression of him just as a man, rather than as someone to argue with!
    ... And my impression was that, of the Australian philosophers I met, he was one of the warmest, cheerfullest, and unfailingly friendliest of the lot: one just immediately loved him (as one did the late Ian Hinckfuss).
    ... I had lunch with him not long before I left Melbourne, and talked about some logical issue that had come up in (probably) a Monash colloquium: he had trouble with some of the technicalities, but I can only hope that I will still display the same passionate urge to understand new philosophical problems when I am his age.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 6:17 AM | Michael Smith
    Since people are sharing specific anecdotes, I can't resist adding a couple of my own. When I joined RSSS in the 1990s, one of my great pleasures was having morning and afternoon tea with Jack each and every working day. I could finally ask him all of those questions that I'd wanted to ask him ever since I'd been an undergraduate. Since I'd taught his classic book with Bernard Williams, *Utilitarianism: For and Against*, several times by this stage, my first question was how he'd found working with Bernard on that book. What had they said to each when they met and discussed their contributions beforehand? Had there been a conference or a seminar prior to publication where others weighed in? Had there been a conference or a seminar discussing the fallout since the book had been published? Jack's answer amazed me. He hadn't talked to Bernard about their contributions prior to the book's appearance, as the whole idea had come from an editor at Cambridge University Press who coordinated things, and he hadn't talked to Bernard about it since. It was at that instant that I realized just how different the social dynamics of philosophy today are from the social dynamics of philosophy when Jack was writing all of those seminal papers. Another anecdote, but this time in Jack's own words. After he and Liz moved to Melbourne, but I was still at ANU, I was chatting with him via email about various things, including how he'd come to visit Princeton in the 1950s. Here's his reply, as I received it: "About Princeton. in 1957 It was rather a one off. I was on study leave at Oxford when I got the invitation to Princeton. It did not lead to the ongoing close connection between there and Oz that exists today. I had one third year undergrad class and one grad class, Iin the latter class I had the two jerries Fodor and Katz and also a brilliant still undergrad.... The grad class was advertised as on Wittgenstein and Ryle but mostly we got on to the identity theory of mind to which I had been con verted (from Witt- Ryle behaviorism by Place (I should also mention Charlie Martin). I went up to Cornell and read a precursor of 'Sensations and Brain Processes)'. Brandt was at Swarthmore but gave a class once a week at Princeton and I went to it. I went to one of his in Swarthmore and it was excrutiatingly long 2 or 3 hours. He was a nice chap. I came immediately to prefer his terminology of 'act' and 'rule' to my 'extreme' and 'restricted'.The Hares were at Princeton the same term and Janet and I became good friends of Catherine and him. We were fairly much in agreement on metaethics. He had a great hatred of cognitivist metaethics. My visit to Princeton in 1957 was I suppose partly causally responsible for Hempel coming some time later to give Gavin David Young lectures at Adelaide. Many top philosophers have done that.. " Wow. The three big utilitarians, Jack Smart, Richard Brandt, and R.M Hare, were all hanging out at Princeton at the same time, going to each others' seminars, and that's when the whole rule- vs act-utilitarianism debate got going, and it is also when Jack and Dick Hare cemented their friendship, in part due to the fact that they both found the idea that moral judgements express beliefs alone absurd. And how about the members of that graduate class?! (Posted by Michael Smith, Princeton NJ USA, 11 October 2012)
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 7:27 AM | Dirk Baltzly
    Jack had the office immediately across the corridor from mine at Monash. I had many requests to help him find "lost" e-mail messages, for Jack never quite grasped the relation between the Windows task bar and various open windows on the desktop. Many of these e-mail messages were to various philosophy undergraduates (particularly Americans) who found the famous JJC Smart on the web and wanted to put directly to him the "brilliant new objection" to the identity theory that they were planning to put in their essays. Now Jack was a one-finger typist and the brilliant new objections were never anything of the sort. But that didn't stop him from patiently corresponding with these unknown young men and women a world away. It was a measure of his love for philosophy and his generous spirit.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 10:39 AM | John Haldane, University of St Andrews
    Obituary from The Scotsman newspaper Wednesday 10th October

    Obituary: John Smart; gifted Scottish philosopher who became a leading light in Australia

    Published on Wednesday 10 October 2012 00:00

    Born: 16 September, 1920, in Cambridge. Died: 6 October, 2012, in Melbourne, Australia, aged 92.

    John Jamieson Carswell, universally known as “JJC” or “Jack”, Smart, was a leading figure in Australian philosophy from his arrival in the country in 1950 when he was appointed to the Chair at the University of Adelaide, long into the period of his retirement from the Australian National University in 1985. He was a philosopher of wide range with distinctive contributions to the study of ethics, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and philosophy of religion.

    Born into a Scottish family and educated first at the university of Glasgow, he was like John Anderson, another graduate of that institution who also pursued his career in Australia, a committed empiricist believing that reality is wholly natural: no God, no soul, no life-forces, no mysterious “values”, only what is studied by the sciences and reflected upon by philosophy.

    However, whereas some advance the atheist-materialist world-view aggressively with resentment at the extent to which it is not shared by others, Jack was always friendly, good humoured and courteous.

    He once practiced as a Christian but came to feel that this could not be squared with what he believed as a philosopher, writing that “my pro-religious emotions were at war with my intellect and I tried to reconcile the two in what I came to see as an evasive manner”.

    At the same time he retained a respect for the charitable aspects of Christian practice and took seriously intellectual defences of religion, noting that “philosophical disputes are not easily 
settled, even between intelligent and intellectually honest 

    Jack was the eldest of three sons of William Marshall Smart and his wife Isabel Carswell. Smart senior was a distinguished astronomer who had studied at Glasgow University then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he embarked on an academic career which brought him back to Glasgow in 1937 as Regius Professor of Astronomy. All three sons followed their father into academic life, becoming professors and achieving high standing in their fields: Jack as a philosopher, Alastair (1922-1992) as an art historian, and Ninian (1927-2001) as a pioneer in religious studies.

    Though schooled in England Jack followed his father into Glasgow University and following that studied at Oxford, where he also held a Junior Research Fellowship at Corpus Christi College for two years before emigrating to Australia.

    He was a prolific and clear writer and always pursued what he regarded as the realistic position on any issue, holding fast to it in the face of what he regarded as often sentimental and woolly thinking.

    Thus he argued that ethics is about promoting happiness and accepted the supposed counter-example that if this were the case then it might be justifiable, even obligatory, to put an innocent person to death to placate a violent crowd.

    This occasioned the coining, by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, of the term “to outSmart” one’s opponent, ie take the force out of their “objection” by accepting it while pointing to the reasonableness of what was being complained of. In similarly robust fashion he argued that consciousness is a state of the brain, and that time is an illusion.

    He enjoyed philosophical debates in person and in print. One such was his famous exchange with Bernard Williams in Utilitarianism For and Against (1973), another with JJ Haldane in Atheism and Theism (1996).

    Smart’s universe was like that studied by his father: a distribution of matter across space. All else, life, consciousness, value and so on were consequences of the aggregation and complexification of matter.

    Far from this spare metaphysical view occasioning melancholy Jack Smart enjoyed life greatly, especially bush-trekking and talking philosophy.

    A smile was always on or near to his lips and in his cheery curiosity, enthusiasm and benign outlook there was about him something of enduring boyhood.

    Through the course of his career he held visiting professorships at Princeton, Harvard and Yale but his enduring and deepest association and affection was for the Australian philosophical community.

    His contribution to Australian philosophy was deeply appreciated by several generations of those taught by him or who were his colleagues and he was honoured by the Australian National University which established the Jack Smart Lecture in 1998.

    Other forms of recognition include Companionship of the Order of Australia, honorary fellowships at two 
Oxford colleges and honorary degrees from St Andrews, La Trobe and Glasgow universities.

    He leaves his widow Elizabeth, son and daughter Robert and Helen, and grandchildren Hilary, Mercedes, Tasman and Tom.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 1:48 PM | Sam Butchart
    Here is a link to a lovely piece about Jack from the La Trobe University Hockey Club, who have in memory of him, instituted "a trophy for the player voted Best and Fairest in the F-Troop team, to be known as the Jack Smart Trophy."

    Those of us who knew and loved Jack from the world of philosophy will be gladdened and unsurprised to learn that he will be greatly missed in many other worlds too.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 8:53 PM | Anne Martin . Daughter of Charlie and Marcia Martin
    I was very sad to hear of Jack's passing. As a young child I remember well, feeling very happy when I knew that the Smarts were amongst the guests coming to our home for dinner. You see, it was the job of the children of the home to hand around the savouries before we were scooted off to bed. Jack was always so gentle and sweet and always gave his full attention to my timid and anxious profferings. He made me feel as if I was bestowing little bites of ambrosia each time I passed by.
    When my father Charlie Martin died 4 years ago, Jack spoke in his honour at a Memorial service at Sydney University. It meant a lot to the family to have him there.
    He will be greatly missed.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 12 Oct 2012 10:39 PM | Denis Robinson
    I first got to know Jack Smart when I was enrolled for a PhD at La Trobe and he became my supervisor. He was always polite about my appallingly slow rate of work, and genial withal. Sometimes he would invite me back to his home for dinner with Liz, after which he and I would sit or stand by the fireside and discuss the Davidsonian topics I was meant to be working on. We seemed to drink quite a bit of beer while this was happening and before too long the conversations would wander off track, and Jack would begin reminiscing about his students days at Oxford, such as being supervised by Waissman. He also reminisced about other Oxford personalities, and about his experiences as a motorcycle dispatch rider for the British Army in India during World War II.

    (In 2007 Jack gave a colloquium presentation at the University of Melbourne on ""Bradley, Shankara and Metaphysical Illusions." I believe his explanation for this unlikely topic was that while camped in enforced idleness in India for a spell during the war he was hard up for reading matter, but got his hands on some Indian philosophy and read some of Shankara. He corresponded about this with his Glasgow philosophy tutor, who told Jack that Bradley's thought had some similarities to Shankara's, so that Jack came to have an interest in Bradley also.)

    Like most people who got to know Jack, I sometimes went bushwalking with him, though not often. Perhaps the most satisfying trek was through the Lerderderg Gorge, outside Melbourne. But a specially memorable moment occurred on a different walk, when my friend John Price joined us. I forget the details but I think the goal was meant to be a whole series of nice views of the Cathedral Range. The day did not go well. I developed a migraine and became nauseous. The weather was misty and a whole lot of new growth trees had sprung up since Jack was previously there, so we continually failed to get the promised views. The bush was pleasant but unexciting, all the lookout points were duds, and the weather worsened. At a fork in the track we stopped for lunch with billy tea, and debated our next move. John and I were prepared to call it a day, but Jack was quite keen to push on optimistically on the left hand track, for as long as it would take to actually get a view. After some debate and map-studying we agreed as a compromise to take the right hand track, which led to a shortish loop walk with a single potential lookout rather than many. Agreement reached on this decision, Jack took the lead, and strode off vigorously … back along the path to the carpark. This was an awkward moment. John and I were a little too much in awe of the great man to point out right away that he had made a blunder. Our eyes met guiltily. But after a few paces, Jack shook himself, looked around … and gave one of his great guffaws, saying "Oh well, looks like we're going to the car park after all!". He was greatly amused by his own mistake. Over the ensuing decades, he frequently asked warmly about how my friend John Price was doing.

    I believe Jack told me he was named after John Jamieson Carswell, who had previously been named after someone named John Jamieson. I was so impressed by this recursive naming system — and by Jack's famous geniality and warmth — that I resolved if I ever had a son (which I never did) to name him John Jamieson Carswell Smart Robinson.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 14 Oct 2012 6:02 AM | Paul Boghossian
    I first met Jack Smart during an extended visit to the ANU way back in 1988. Upon being introduced to him, Jack said: "Boghossian. That's an Armenian name. That's what Quine would have said, right?" I thought that was so endearingly self-effacing, as if any penchant for geography he had acquired had to be credited to Quine. Although he was inclined to disagree with almost every philosophical claim I made, he showed great warmth, hospitality and good cheer to a visitor from abroad. (Posted by Paul Boghossian, NY, NY, October 13, 2012).
    Link  •  Reply
  • 14 Oct 2012 10:14 AM | Helen Smart
    The tributes on this page are wonderful. I remember some of you from younger days. Some of the stories and anecdotes are new to me and it has been so interesting to read them. I will miss his famous laugh, too.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 14 Oct 2012 8:32 PM | Josh Parsons
    I have loved and respected Jack since I first met him in 1996 when I arrived as a graduate student at ANU, where he was Emeritus Professor. I particularly admire (and strive to emulate) his combination of non-nonsense attitude and complete non-agressiveness in philosophical debate. At that first meeting on the Coombs Balcony I knew him by repute, and was a bit in awe. He very kindly asked me what I planned to work on for my PhD. I said "Qualia". His reply was "Don't believe in 'em myself." and, as if worrying that this comment might be too off-putting to a young graduate student, "... Jolly good!" I quickly came to a more Jack-like position on qualia, and changed my topic to truthmakers. Jack didn't think much of that either, but remained encouraging. Five or so years down the track (by which time I had finished my PhD and Jack had retired to Melbourne) I came to agree with him on that too. It's funny, but 16 years after I met Jack, universal prescriptivism is starting to look attractive to me. I miss him terribly.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 15 Oct 2012 10:24 PM | Peter Menzies
    I have many very fond memories of Jack. One set of memories relates to the time we were both are Stanford University in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Jack was a visitor to the Centre for Behavioral Sciences on the hill behind the campus. At a later stage, I think, he returned to Stanford as visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy. I was a graduate student in the Department at the time. I remember when Jack first visited, he learnt that there was an informal squash competition among grad students and faculty in the department. Jack was fiercely competitive in sport and the competition obviously piqued his interest. It didn’t take him long to knock off most of us on the competition ladder, but one or two of the more skilful players posed a challenge to him. I remember when he came into the Tanner library one morning and announced that he had finally beaten Zeno Swijtink, a young Dutch grad student who was at the top of the ladder. I think it must have been a hotly contested match because each complained that the other had been rather sneaky. Another recollection from this time: one of my fellow graduate students told me that she had sat in on the Philosophy of Time course Jack gave during a second stint at Stanford and reported that one week Jack had given an interesting lecture on the passage of time. But she was a bit dismayed that when the next time the class met, Jack gave exactly the same lecture with all the same examples and all the same jokes. My friend said she was too reticent to ask Jack why he had repeated the lecture but she said that the surprising thing was that students didn’t mind Jack’s eccentric lecturing style: they regarded with genuine warmth this charming Australian who repeated his lectures verbatim and laughed so heartily at his own jokes. Yet another memory from this period—it must also have been during Jack’s second stint at Stanford. Jack and Liz invited me to have dinner at their place with Donald Davidson. As a young graduate student, I was completely in awe of being in the company of these two great philosophers. But as usual, Liz had made a wonderful dinner and made everyone feel at ease. Davidson was a very easy dinner companion, who reminisced among other things about playing piano duets with his Harvard roommate, Lenny Bernstein. But the highlight of the evening for me was listening to a discussion that Jack and Davidson got into about a recherché aspect of Quine’s philosophy—if memory serves me correctly, a point about the triangulation of belief, desire and behavior in radical interpretation. Each of them supported their position by quoting from memory passages from ‘Word and Object’ and ‘Roots of Reference’. I was dazzled by their virtuoso performances —in a different kind of duet.

    Other memories of Jack relate to time we spent in the RSSS at the ANU together. In 1983 as head of the Philosophy Program, Jack was kind enough to hire me as research assistant as I was finishing my PhD thesis on causal decision theory. As it turned out, he didn’t need any assistance and was simply pleased to be able to keep me off the streets. My memories of this time are somewhat coloured by Jack’s constant reminders to finish the thesis and by his telling me that “causation was a subject for plumbers, not philosophers”. (Jack could say some irritating things!) Jack had retired when I joined the department as a research fellow in the 1990s. I remember listening to him talk at the RSSS morning and afternoon teas, about many things, especially his memories of Ryle and of Oxford, his time at Adelaide, his memories of Quine and Davidson, and of course cricket. But for me the most memorable occasions of this period were going for bushwalks with Jack, around Canberra and neighbouring regions. Jack sometimes liked to talk philosophy and cricket while walking. But often he was content to walk in silence with his gaze firmly fixed on the ground. On many occasions, we got lost. (There must be a whole genre of stories about getting lost on bushwalks with Jack!). I remember on one occasion we went on a bushwalk together in the Brindabellas near Piccadilly Circus. We got hopelessly lost despite having a detailed topographical map of the area. Jack was very definite about how we should get back to the car though we seemed to have gone round in a large circle. I was getting anxious because I didn’t like the thought of spending a freezing night out in the Brindabellas. Then, as the sky was darkening, we entered a pine forest and noticed a full moon rising above the treeline. We were both awestruck by the beauty of the scene and anxious thoughts of being lost in the forest dissipated. We strode on in companionable silence and eventually happened upon our car, seemingly by accident. The occasion impressed on me how much the bush meant to Jack and how much ‘spiritual’ (I use the term advisedly in Jack’s case) sustenance he got from being in it. He often said that he couldn’t see the need for religion if one was suitably struck by the wonder and majesty of the universe. Though humans occupy just an infinitesimally small pocket of the universe, as Jack would have remarked, nonetheless he made such a memorable contribution to enriching this small pocket with his infectious enthusiasm, his kind-heartedness, and his benevolence. (, Amstersdam)
    Link  •  Reply
  • 16 Oct 2012 9:24 PM | Igor Primoratz
    At Jack’s funeral service, many people reminisced about the virtues Jack’s life exemplified. And Jack did indeed have so many virtues, intellectual and moral. One that was mentioned by everyone was his extraordinary kindness. It may have been the practical expression of generalized benevolence – the attitude which has pride of place in his utilitarian ethical theory – but it was always at the same time deeply personal. He managed to relate in a truly personal way to people of different ages and walks of life, to show genuine interest in and concern for their views, their concerns, their lives. Differences of views and commitments, including those about highly important matters such as religion or world outlook, never presented a barrier, as they so often do in the way many of us relate to others.
    One of the many ways in which this trait came to the fore was the way he and Liz welcomed friends and acquaintances to Canberra or Australia. I and my family belong to the group of people – not a small one, I suspect – who had the luck, and privilege, to be “adopted” by them. From early on, when we made the decision to leave Israel and move to Australia, and throughout the various stages of building a new life here, we had Jack’s and Liz’s friendship, advice, and support to lean on. In our life in Australia, they loom very large indeed. We miss Jack very much, and always will.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 18 Oct 2012 2:20 PM | John Weckert
    In the late sixties, as a first year philosophy student in Adelaide, Jack gave this advice on writing philosophy essays: don’t have introductions, keep your essays short, and read Jane Austen. A couple of years later he said “What’s the point in studying anyone who is dead? If you can’t understand them you can’t write to them to ask what they mean.” He was lecturing us on Wittgenstein at the time.
    The world would undoubtedly be a better place with a lot more Jacks.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 24 Oct 2012 5:19 PM | Jan Crosthwaite
    I'm very sad to hear of Jack's death. He was a great man (and philosopher) and so kind, genial and generous - even in his philosophical discussions. I met him first when he came to Latrobe in the early 70s, though I had already heard stories from people who had been taught by Jack in Adelaide. I remember two things very clearly. One was that the students I was tutoring were first disbelieving and then awestruck that the bloke down the corridor was THE JJC Smart of 'Utilitarianism'. (I think they believed all philosophers they read were dead.) The other is Jack insisting that men with beards were not to be trusted 'except you Frank, and Brian of course, and Manfred, and ... on through the list of all the men (philosophers) with beards he actually knew. Heartfelt sympathy to Elizabeth and the family.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 01 Nov 2012 8:55 PM | Martin Davies, Melbourne
    Obituary in The Guardian, by Jane O'Grady,The Guardian, Tuesday 30 October 2012

    Jack Smart, who has died aged 92, changed the course of philosophy of mind. He was a pioneer of physicalism – the set of theories that hold that consciousness, sensation and thought do not, as they seem to, float free of physicality, but can – or will eventually – be located in a scientific material worldview. His article Sensations and Brain Processes (1959) put forward his Type Identity theory of mind – that consciousness and sensations are nothing over and above brain processes. Invariably included in any collection of mind-body problem papers, it is now part of the canon, for, along with UT Place and David Armstrong, Smart converted what was once "the Australian heresy" into orthodoxy.

    While all three were based principally at Australian universities, Place was born in Yorkshire and Smart to Scottish parents in Cambridge, where his father was professor of astronomy. Jack went to the Leys School in the city, studied maths, physics and philosophy at Glasgow University, and during the second world war served mainly in India and Burma. He gained a BPhil at Queen's College, Oxford, in 1948, under the behaviourist Gilbert Ryle, and in 1950 became professor at Adelaide, where he stayed until 1972.

    Away from the language-centred philosophy of Britain, Smart was freer to draw the implications that science had for philosophy. He began to ask why consciousness alone should remain exempt from physico-chemical explanation. The behaviourist view he had espoused at Oxford got round this question by denying that mental states, like anger, pain or believing, can even qualify as things or events, whether physical or non-physical. Rather, to talk about mental states is, for behaviourism, simply to talk about collections of actual or potential behaviour. But Smart objected that in this case seeing an after-image due to strong light can amount to nothing more than saying "I have a yellowish-orange after-image". Such an utterance is surely superfluous to the sensation on which the utterer, who has just experienced it, would be "reporting".

    Smart agreed with old-fashioned mind-body dualism – against behaviourism – that many mental states are indeed episodic, inner and potentially private; what he disputed was that this made their essential nature non-physical. "Why should not sensations just be brain processes of a certain sort?" he demanded. If regarded as neuro-physiological processes, they too would be potentially explicable by scientific laws.

    It is no objection that someone reporting their sensations does not know or feel that they are brain processes. Because such reports are "topic-neutral" – uncommitted as to what sort of process, ghostly or material, is going on – they are open to revision by increasing scientific knowledge.

    Smart's Type Identity theory unleash ed a torrent of argument that has persisted over the last half century. Characteristic of him in its no-nonsense seizing of the main issue, Sensations and Brain Processes ends on a note of satisfaction at a job well done, having presented eight objections to its thesis, and eight answers. As was soon pointed out, however, to postulate specific neuro/mental identities inadvertentlyrestricts mental states to human brains, ignoring the wide range of sensation processes in other species.

    But Smart regarded the development of complementary ideas in the field with equanimity, in fact claimed that his "topic neutral" approach had anticipated the theory of functionalism whichthat soon became fashionable.

    But Smart was blithe about the development of complementary theories. He claimed that his own "topic-neutral" approach had anticipated the soon-prevailing theory of functionalism, which identifies mental states, like software programs, by what they do rather than how they are physically implemented.

    He was one of the leading figures to push Anglo-American analytic philosophy into collusion with the sciences. In his earliest article, The River of Time (1949), published while he was a junior research fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he invoked Einstein's special theory of relativity, arguing that our notion of time passing must be an illusion – a then-unfashionable position, which, largely thanks to him, moved more into the mainstream. He developed "the tenseless theory of time", influencing later philosophers of time such as DH Mellor and Huw Price. We should, he said, consider reality "a four-dimensional space, three of whose dimensions correspond to space in the ordinary sense of this word, and one of whose dimensions is taken to be a time dimension".

    Over the years he changed his mind as to his explanation – respectively linguistic, then psychological – for why we feel as if time flows, but always remained an eternalist, claiming all points in time to be equally real. A few years ago, meeting an exponent of the opposite view, the presentist philosopher John Bigelow, at a conference, he remarked that he very much hoped that presentism is false, since, if not, this beloved friend would only be a single instantaneous time-slice: much better to regard him as an elongated and eternal space-time worm.

    In Philosophy and Scientific Realism (1963) and subsequently, Smart acknowledged that what science tells us about the world is often hard to reconcile with how it seems in experience, but he stuck up for a reality that exists independently of our conceptions of it. He fiercely combated anti-realism, and postmodern notions that scientific theories (and the unobservable entities they depend on) are merely helpful, but arbitrary and disposable, human tools.

    If the theories were not approximately true, and the entities did not more-or-less exist, went his No Miracles argument, the predictive success they have would be miraculous. One reason he gave for liking Australian philosophers was that they were not as liable to talk nonsense as French ones did.

    After an Episcopalian upbringing – his brother, Ninian Smart, was a theology professor and respected writer on religion – Smart had become "a reluctant atheist". Whether in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science or ethics, he strove to resolve apparently mysterious entities or values as parts of the natural world. His aim throughout was to produce a comprehensive worldview that accommodated both common-sense and scientific stringency. In moral philosophy, he applied his swashbuckling approach to bringing utilitarianism – the theory that goodness consists of promoting the greatest overall happiness – back to centre stage after it had been ignored for more than 50 years.

    In An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics (1961; and published in tandem with Bernard Williams's A Critique of Utilitarianism in 1973), he embraced its then-unpopular extreme form – act utilitarianism. Its milder version, rule utilitarianism, was "superstitious rule worship", he said, and negated precisely the deft adaptability to the actual situation that was utilitarianism's whole point. He recognised the unpalatable upshot of his ethical arguments – that they would sanction an innocent man being killed if greater suffering were thereby spared – but nonetheless stuck to them.

    The entry for "OutSMART" in the jocular Philosophers' Lexicon refers to Smart's readiness, rare in a philosopher, to embrace his opponents' reductio ad absurdum arguments – take-that-to-its-logical-conclusion rebuffs that are traditionally designed to make the rebuffed one revise his view. For all his geniality and exuberant laughter, he admitted that truth could be unsatisfactory.

    In addition to his chair at the Australian National University, Canberra (1976-85), at various times Smart had visiting posts in the US at Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford. He was also awarded honorary fellowships by his Oxford colleges.

    An enthusiastic player of cricket and hockey, Smart won university colours in both. He would sometimes hold a small radio to his ear during philosophy seminars to check on the Test Match score. In others, he sometimes snoozed – or seemed to. Suddenly he would open his eyes and ask a devastating question. He loved bush-walking, but tended to get lost, and the friends he took with him were dismayed equally by his excellent stamina and poor sense of direction.

    Smart was that rare phenomenon – a great and successful philosopher who had no enemies. Brisk and down-to-earth in debate, he was never aggressive. There are endless anecdotes of his spontaneous kindness. "We've got to find you a bike," was his first comment to a lonely visiting student, and the bike which duly turned up next day transformed his stay. Smart himself continued to cycle as an emeritus professor well into his 70s. The child-like, unpretentious openness for which he was so much loved was reflected in the fearless, direct clarity with which he did philosophy.

    With his first wife, Janet Paine, who died in 1967, he had two children, Helen and Robert. They survive him, as does his second wife, Elizabeth Warner, whom he married in 1968.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 26 Mar 2013 10:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Friends and students of Jack Smart and their partners are invited to


    Date 31 March 2013 (Easter Sunday)

    Place: at Doongala Homestead Site in the Dandenong Ranges National
    Park (Melway Map 66 D5)
    Parking available above the Homestead. (The Homestead site is the
    higher of the two picnic sites and the second one on the road as you
    drive into the park.)

    Bushwalk: 11.00 led by Janna Thompson.
    Picnic: 1.00. BYOPicnic (NB No BBQ)
    The picnic will be followed by a discussion of one of Jack's favourite
    topics, 'Matter Matters' introduced and led by Professor John Bigelow

    For more information contact
    Lynda Burns or
    Janna Thompson
    Link  •  Reply
  • 28 Oct 2013 5:43 PM | Purushottama Bilimoria, Editor-in-Chief-At-Large
    J J C Smart - Remembering Jack (M. Chadha, P Bilimoria, J. Bigelow).
    A tribute to Jack Smart has been published in Sophia.
    Here is the link; it is downloadable for free.
    Link  •  Reply
©Australasian Association of Philosophy
ACN 152 892 272 ABN 29 152 892 272
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software