A Mind's Own Place: The Thought of Sir William Mitchell

Dissertation, University of Adelaide (2001)

Authors
W. Martin Davies
University of Melbourne
Abstract
The subject of this book is the work of Scottish-born Sir William Mitchell, the Hughes Professor of Philosophy and Vice Chancellor at the University of Adelaide, and the first major philosopher who lived in South Australia. Mitchell worked at Adelaide University during the years 1895-1940 and died in 1962. Mitchell is a major, yet long forgotten, historical figure and intellectual, and an important figure in the history of Scottish and Australian philosophy. He was a part of Scottish schools of thought that influenced early Australian intellectual and cultural life. (The same influence is behind the work of the more famous figure, John Anderson, former Professor of Philosophy at Sydney University.) Anderson’s work recently underwent a revival due to the publication of a recent biography (A Passion to Oppose: John Anderson, Philosopher, by Brian Kennedy, Melbourne University Press, 1995). However, there has never been a serious scholarly appraisal of the work of William Mitchell. At the time of preparation of this book there was no recent published material on Mitchell’s life, work or influence. This book fills this need. I argue that Mitchell’s work is surprisingly relevant to current concerns among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind. He wrote on issues that are only today being discussed by philosophers and psychologists under the auspices of ‘cognitive science’. His major work: Structure and Growth of the Mind (MacMillan, 1907) is a major treatise on philosophical psychology. The topics that concerned Mitchell are only now being revisited in the form of contemporary debates. The specific aims of the book are as follows: • To assess the impact of late nineteenth/early twentieth century science (especially neurology, psychology and physics) on Mitchell’s philosophical work and trends in philosophical psychology during that period. • To demonstrate the importance of Mitchell’s philosophical work in the context of contemporary theories of mind and content, cognitive science, and the philosophy of science and perception. • To make clear the extent of Mitchell’s philosophical influence on others at the time • To locate Mitchell’s work in relation to other influences on philosophy in Australia.
Keywords Scottish philosophy  Australian philosophy  Mind
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