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Stephen R. L. Clark

Lecturer of Philosophy, University of Liverpool

Philosopher Stephen Richard Lyster Clark was born in Luton Bedfordshire England on 30 October 1945 but his family background is actually Shropshire/Staffordshire on the Welsh borders. His father D. A. R. Clark began his professional life as an apprentice railway engineer and went on to teach technology at the college level and his mother M. K. Clark daughter of Member of Parliament Samuel Finney was a teacher by training but later left her career to fully devote herself to her home and her children. Although his mother’s background was Methodist the family worshipped as Anglicans, the tradition in which their youngest child Stephen would one day seek ordination. In 1946 after having taught for a few years at the local technology college in Luton D. A. R. Clark was appointed Principal of Middlesborough Technical College (now University of Teesside). In 1956 he moved on to become Principal of Nottingham Technical College (now Trent University). Stephen attended Nottingham High School from 1956 to 1964 and it was in part the influence of C. R. B. Elliott the Classics master that led him to study Classics at Balliol College Oxford. His studies with Arthur Prior and Sir Anthony Kenny profoundly affected his intellectual development (with his role in a student production of the Marat/Sade as a second-year student coming in a close second). He took first class honours in 1968 and immediately became a fellow of All Souls College receiving both M.A. and D.Phil. degrees in 1973. He counts Ethics and Eastern Religions Professor Robin Zaehner who was instrumental in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Premier Mossadeq as one of his greatest influences during his time at All Souls.

Professor Clark’s teaching career is as distinguished as it is diverse. During his doctoral studies he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago (1970–1971) and served as a lecturer at both Oxford’s Queen’s College (1971–1972) and New College (1973). He was appointed Lecturer in Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow in 1974 a post he held until 1983. He was appointed to the Gifford Lectureship at Glasgow in 1981 and delivered five lectures in the Spring 1982 term which were soon published as From Athens to Jerusalem: The Love of Wisdom and the Love of God. While in Glasgow, Clark trained for nonstipendiary priesthood in the Scottish Episcopal Church and was accepted for ordination. However, a number of factors—the death of the bishop, the relocation of the local vicar and his own pending relocation to Liverpool—prevented these plans from coming to fruition. In 1984 he became Professor of Philosophy at Liverpool University, where he has served as Head of Department (1984–1995) and Dean of the Arts Faculty (1995–1998), and where he continues to teach today. He is married to Gillian Clark Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol and they have three children.

In addition to the Gifford Lectures Dr. Clark has delivered several other prestigious lecture series including the Stanton Lectures in Philosophy of Religion at Cambridge (1987–1989), the Wilde Lectures at Oxford (1990), the Scott Holland Lectures at Liverpool (1992), the Aquinas Lecture at Oxford (1994), the Read Tuckwell Lectures at Bristol University (1994), the Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture at Durham (1995) and the Aquinas Lecture at the Catholic University of Leuven (2000). During his tenure at Liverpool he has additionally served as visiting professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee (1989) and was named to the Alan Richardson Fellowship at Durham University during the 1998–1999 term. He served as chief editor of the Journal of Applied Philosophy from 1990 to 2001 and also served as a member of the editorial board of the Cambridge University Press’s New Studies in Christian Ethics series. In June 2000 he chaired and contributed to the Templeton Symposium on Science and Theological Imagination in Science Fiction, and in 2003 he was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to undertake work on issues of ethics and psychology in Plotinus and a book jointly authored with his colleague Dr. Panayiota Vassilopoulou on Plotinus’ use of metaphor.

In addition to his Gifford Lectures mentioned above, Dr. Clark’s published works include Aristotle’s Man: Speculations upon Aristotelian Anthropology (1975), The Moral Status of Animals (1977), The Nature of the Beast: Are Animals Moral? (1982) and The Mysteries of Religion: An Introduction to Philosophy through Religion (1986). In 1989 he edited a volume on the philosophy of George Berkeley entitled Money Obedience and Affection: Essays on Berkeley’s Moral and Political Thought. His Stanton Lectures in the Philosophy of Religion delivered in 1986–1988 at the University of Cambridge were published in three volumes as Limits and Renewals: Civil Peace and the Sacred Order (1989), Parliament of Souls (1990) and God’s World and the Great Awakening (1991) the latter being also based partially upon his 1990 Wilde Lectures delivered at Oxford. Other books include How to Think about the Earth: Philosophical and Theological Models for Ecology (1993), How to Live Forever: Science Fiction and Philosophy (1995), Animals and Their Moral Standing (1997), God, Religion and Reality (1998), The Political Animal: Biology Ethics and Politics (1999), Biology and Christian Ethics (2000) and G.K.Chesterton: Thinking Backward Looking Forward (2006). Additionally Dr. Clark has written numerous articles and contributed chapters to some sixty books.

  • Brannon Hancock, University of Glasgow