Andrew Collier, 1944–2014

There’s a lovely obituary for Andrew Collier, the critical realist philosopher, in Radical Philosophy:

Andrew Collier’s contribution to realist philosophy and social theory can perhaps best be summed up in the title of one of his chapters in the collection Critical Realism: Essential Readings, edited by Andrew himself along with Margaret Archer, Roy Bhaskar, Tony Lawson and Alan Norrie and published in 1998. The title is ‘Explanation and Emancipation’, and it can be argued that Andrew gave a unique focus to both, and of course to their conjunction. First, there was his stress on the natural world and environmental issues, shared with Ted Benton. It was brought to bear by both of them in their conversations with Roy Bhaskar in the late 1980s, as described by Bhaskar in his chapter in the Festschrift for Andrew, Defending Objectivity, edited by Margaret Archer and myself (2004) – hastily assembled after he was given only six months to live in 2003. Bhaskar had emphasized ontological depth and the stratification of reality in his earlier work, but Andrew and Ted opened up what, at least for me, and possibly also for Roy, were new dimensions of the analysis of the interrelations of (to put it simplistically) the natural and the social.

A realist conception of explanation, in other words, had not only to be philosophically persuasive and to include a broadly Marxist, or, more loosely, pragmatist conception of the place of philosophy in human practice, but also to take full account of the world as it is in itself and not only ‘for humans’. For Andrew, though we were not aware of it at the time, there was also a religious dimension, present in our conversations in his impressively wide knowledge of medieval Christian philosophy.

His introductory Critical Realism book is sadly out of print but it’s the best introduction to the subject that exists. His work as a whole seems somewhat under appreciated which is a shame.

Categories: Higher Education

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *