Graham Nerlich (1929-2022)

11 Apr 2022 12:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our friend and former colleague, Hughes Professor of Philosophy Emeritus Graham Nerlich. 

Graham Nerlich took his first degrees at Adelaide (BA 1954, MA 1955), before heading to Oxford and taking the BPhil (1958) under the supervision of JL Austin. In 1961, after several years as lecturer at Leicester, he took up a position at Sydney. He was promoted to full professor in 1972. Graham returned to Adelaide in 1974, succeeding his former teacher Jack Smart as the Hughes Professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1994. He was editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1968-1972) and president of the AAP (1992-93). Among his many honours, Graham was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1978.

Graham’s research and publication during his two decades in the Hughes Chair was divided mainly between studies in the ontology of space, time and spacetime, and work in ethics. In the former and larger output, he defended realism toward spacetime and especially a unique role for it in ontology as providing geometrical, non-causal explanation in General Relativity. Graham’s interest in the philosophy of physics had been stimulated early by Smart, and he enjoyed good relations with the physics department. In ethics, Graham pursued a form of naturalism that sees the development of ethical practices arising, analogously to the universal yet diverse flourishing of language, in the natural life of human populations.

After his retirement, Graham remained active in the department and in research, publishing until well into his eighties. He continued his long running discussion group in philosophy of physics until quite recently.

Graham died in hospital on Thursday 31st March with his wife Margaret at his side. He never recovered consciousness after suffering a stroke at home the night before. 

His funeral will be held at 4pm, Monday April 11th at Charles Berry & Son (200 Magill Road, Norwood). There will be food and drink afterwards. All warmly welcome.

Dr Jon Opie

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