Vale Mary McCloskey (A Brief Note by Janna Thompson)

19 May 2016 6:01 PM | Anonymous member

Mary McCloskey, a long time member of the Philosophy Department at Melbourne University, died on the 11th of May of this year.

 Mary began her career in philosophy as a student at Melbourne University where she was inspired by Douglas Gasking to become a philosopher. She was hired as tutor by the Department in 1948. After marrying H.J. (John) McCloskey she moved with him to Western Australia where he took up an appointment at the University of Western Australia. Not able to get a job as a philosopher she taught for several years in a secondary school for girls. The McCloskeys returned to the Melbourne University Philosophy Department in 1955 and Mary worked as a tutor, senior tutor, and lecturer. She was promoted to a senior lectureship in 1965 and retired in 1988.

 Mary’s areas of expertise were Kant’s philosophy and aesthetics. She wrote articles on both and a book on Kant’s aesthetics. Mary’s interest in aesthetics had a practical side. She enjoyed sketching and painting with water colours and continued to do so up to the time of her final illness. She had a great interest in textiles and believed that aesthetics had not paid sufficient attention to the sensation of touch.

 Mary grew up in Echuca during the Depression. Her family was poor, her father was often unemployed and the family was constantly on the move. She later suspected that they often had to move because her father could not afford to pay the rent. She and her mother finally settled down near Melbourne so that she could get a proper secondary education. A teacher in her last year at school inspired her to take an interest in philosophy.

 Mary was one of the few women employed in philosophy in the 50s and 60s and she inspired, mentored and supported many women students during her career. She continued to do so after her retirement and the dinners she hosted for women in philosophy at University House are fondly remembered by participants. 


  • 25 May 2016 9:55 AM | Anonymous member
    Mary was a wonderful friend and support to me when I was a postgraduate student and early career academic. I can think of a number of other women philosophers for whom this is also true.
    Perhaps Mary was the only woman of her own generation to have achieved a senior position in a Philosophy Department in Australia.
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  • 28 May 2016 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    A memorial lunch for Mary McCloskey, a former member of the University of Melbourne Philosophy Department, will be held at the University on Tuesday, 7 June from 12:30-2. It will take place at the Tea Rooms: 5th Floor, 757 Swanston Street.
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