Eulogy for Sandy Anderson

by Bruce Burdekin

At the Funeral of Alexander (Sandy) Anderson 16th August, 1995.

Both myself and Tony Allen, former students of Sandy Anderson, would like to speak of our experience of Sandy.

Myself and my partner Michelle Morgan were students and friends of Sandy. I first met Sandy in 1981 when I enrolled in his ethics courses in my second year at Newcastle University. I think I had been attracted to this course by the set texts listed in the faculty handbook. The texts covered philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology.

Sandy was extraordinary. He inspired inquiry, affection and love in his students. He was generous with his time and ideas and was prepared to discuss issues at length either after classes or over the phone. I cannot imagine the time I spent at university without him; the courses he offered formed the core of my studies. He was the most coherent, argumentative and logical academic I encountered in my time at university. He was a terrific academic and a good friend. He cared and showed that he did; about philosophy, about culture and about people. He also told terrific yarns and sang the odd song over the phone.

Sandy's courses were rigorous and detailed. They seemed like one long argument. Courses built on understandings developed in previous years. Sandy taught courses on the pre-socratics, ethics, logic, advanced traditional logic and psychoanalysis and philosophy. There was an intense intellectual excitement in the courses he gave. I found myself looking forward to next week's lectures. While the courses and thinking were tough and rigorous, Sandy had a gentle way of pointing out, through asking you another question in response to something you had said, that you were involved in an error of some sort.

In Sandy's paper, “Following John Anderson” (Dialectic Vol. 30 1987) he mentions that his “father once remarked that he had habit of ‘boring into problems’ rather than cutting a wide swathe around them. I can only hope that this paper will show that my method can achieve some not unimportant results” (p. 129). Sandy considered himself to be following John Anderson when he applied the method of critical inquiry to John Anderson's work. Of this work he says “that in these theories there are a multitude of condensations in need of elaboration, confusions in need of resolution, and downright errors which are contradicted by his own theories” (p. 129). Some of the courses that Sandy gave were a continuation and development of John's courses while some took John as a departure point and contained substantial and original criticism and development. The ethics course that Sandy gave was one of these. It developed the positive ethics that John had argued to. Through a series of arguments, and based on “Mind as Feeling” it took ethical entities to be mental entities; emotions. The course then proceeded with a classification of these as goods and evils. These lecture courses could form the basis for a number of books.

Some time before retiring Sandy decided some recognition of the contribution he made to philosophy and the university was due. He applied for a senior lectureship. Although he had published little in journals he pointed out in the “Following John Anderson” paper that he had of course incorporated some considerable criticism and development of his position (Joints) in lectures to my students (p. 130). A number of his former students (including myself) were very pleased to support this application. This allowed us to show in some measure the respect, admiration and love we felt for him. Sandy was a great teacher. He practised the position that he put forward in “Following John Anderson” where he said this is what I believe philosophy should strive for: (1) not to contradict reality, and (2) to be understandable (or at least explainable) to the uninitiated. This is not to say that there was anything that was easy in Sandy's courses. They were always a struggle, but the theory never did violence to reality. As students we were caught up in the inquiry that Sandy practised. Sandy had a combative spirit. The week before Sandy died he had had a fall in the local bank. He had broken his glasses. He was going to claim back from the bank the cost of the repair and said that on reflection he would write to them saying that he may sue them at a future time if his health deteriorated as result of the fall. He seemed in reasonable spirits.

Sandy had many friends over the years that either assisted or offered assistance and friendship to him. Sandy referred to those that were close and those that were not so close as fiends and enemas. He had a toast for his fiends that went something like this; Heres to thems that like us, they're damned few, and they're dead. To a dear fiend, farewell.

I'd like to ask another fiend, Tony Allen to continue this.