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John Haldane

Director Center for Ethics Philosophy and Public Affairs, University of St. Andrews

‘Only an incarnational anthropology such as that proposed by Aquinas can adequately explain the subjectivity of Heidegger’s Dasein and its very existence’ John Haldane has argued. Haldane is an individual able to wind together a medieval theology thread with one from social science and another from philosophy. Educated at the Wimbledon School of Art he received a BA in 1975 and another in philosophy in 1980 at the University of London. Four years later he was awarded a PhD also in philosophy.

If Haldane can be characterized he could be considered a medievalist in modern clothes. He pioneered the Analytical Thomism movement in the 1990s that seeks to create a crossroad where the thought of St Thomas Aquinas can intersect with modern philosophical ideas. For Haldane the legacy of Aquinas is valuable and relevant to modern life. Haldane has long been active in such work: lecturing at the Thomistic Institute at the University of Notre Dame in the late 1990s editing the Journal of Medieval Philosophy and Theology as well as acting as the editor of the six-volume Modern Writings on Thomism.

Since 2000 John Haldane has been at the University of St Andrews as a professor and director of the graduate programme director of teaching in philosophy and director of the Centre for Ethics Philosophy and Public Affairs. Before that he taught for a decade across Britain and in the United States. In addition he has lectured widely at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in the United States from 2006; at the Centre for the Study of Sculpture in England in 1999; and delivering the Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in 2005.

John Haldane is a medievalist in another manner. In an interview he spoke of the need to look at how ‘the faithful over the centuries have thought and lived’ in order to live a Christ-led life dedicated in service to others to a life of spiritual reading and to fostering a spirit of fellowship. Applying that sense of alterity he has helped victims of crime served those working with people having mental disorders as well as often helping various groups and institutions to better understand ethics. Haldane continues to hold fast to a belief that only by starting from ecclesial faith in communion with the Magisterium can one acquire a deeper understanding of God.

In his Gifford lecture Haldane said that philosophy is the practical integration of an answer to the question of how one ought to act as a human being in the world as one conceives it. How well has he integrated his thinking and acting? Hilary Putman at Harvard wrote of John Haldane: ‘He possesses the rare combination of formidable dialectical skills an original vision for philosophy and immense personal integrity.’

David Kahan
University of Glasgow