John Niemeyer Findlay was born 25 November 1903 in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied classics and philosophy first at the University of Pretoria and then at Balliol College, Oxford, which he attended from 1924 to 1926 as a Rhodes scholar. He then returned to Pretoria to take up a lectureship. He held the post of professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of Otago New Zealand from 1934 to 1944. He married Aileen Hawthorn in 1941 and the couple had two children.
Upon his return to South Africa he held chairs of philosophy at Rhodes University College Grahamstown and the University of Natal at Pietermartizburg then returned to England to take up a chair at King’s College Newcastle upon Tyne in 1948. In 1951 he moved to King’s College London. While there he published his first book Hegel: a Re-Examination originally intended as a study aid for his students. This book was followed by Values and Intentions a 1961 treatise on moral philosophy and a lecture series on Hegel at the University of Texas in 1962.
From 1964 to 1966 Findlay was the Gifford lecturer at the University of St Andrews. His two series of lectures were published shortly after as The Discipline of the Cave (1966) and The Transcendence of the Cave (1967). 1966 also marked the year of his retirement from King’s College, London following which he moved to the United States eventually taking up the post of Clark Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Yale University which he held from 1967 to 1972. He then held the Borden Parker Bowne Chair of Philosophy at Boston University from 1972 until his death on 27 September 1987.
Other publications include: Logical Investigations (1970); Ascent to the Absolute (1970); Axiological Ethics (1970); Plato: the Written and Unwritten Doctrines (1974); Plato and Platonism: An Introduction (1978); Kant and the Transcendental Object (1981).