17. J. L. Austin (1911–1960)
JOHN R. SEARLE
1000 - 1999
Austin, J. L.
John Langshaw Austin received his university education in classics at Balliol College Oxford. After completing his degree in 1933 he became a fellow of All Souls College and in 1935 a fellow of Magdalen College. During the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, he served as an officer in British intelligence, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He is said to be largely responsible for the extraordinary accuracy of the Allied intelligence at the time of the Normandy invasion, and he received citations from the British, French, and American governments for his war work. After the war he returned to Oxford and in 1952 he became White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, a post he held until his death in 1960. When Austin was professor, there were about sixty practicing professional philosophers in Oxford, and only three held the rank of professor (the other two were Gilbert Ryle and H. H. Price). Austin was the most influential of a very distinguished group of Oxford philosophers of that period. During the fifties most people in Oxford thought it was the best university in the world for the study and practice of philosophy, and there was no question that philosophy was the dominant subject in the university at large. It is hard for people educated in other universities, even in Britain, to imagine the status, prestige, and intellectual centrality accorded to philosophy in Oxford at that time. ... log in or subscribe to read full text
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