Allan James "Jim" Baker : Australian Professor, Philosopher, and Anarchist

July 22, 1922 — March 3, 2017

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About Allan James "Jim" Baker

Allan James "Jim" Baker (22 July 1922 – 3 March 2017), usually cited as A. J. Baker, was an Australian philosopher who was best known for having systemized the realist philosophy of John Anderson. He studied under Anderson at Sydney University and had taught philosophy in Scotland, New Zealand, the United States and Australia.


Baker added intellectual credence to his colleagues, who prided themselves on debating, criticizing, and endlessly disputing life – the examined and unexamined.

Born on July 22, 1922, at Woolloomooloo, to Kenneth Baker, a farmer from Gunnedah and Mary Frederika Baker, (née Cross), bartender, from Moree, he was never far from poverty in his youth. Scholarships and several inspiring teachers encouraged him to pursue a stellar academic career.

His father, , ruined by the seasons and the Great Depression, sold his land, briefly became a publican and ended up working on tramways in Sydney, then as a fettler, repairing railway lines and sleepers. Young Jim, attending 18 schools, sometimes none, devoured books from the traveling "Railway Library" that occasionally visited.

In sixth class at Bogan Gate, a teacher saw talent and urged him to apply for a scholarship to Wolaroi College, Orange. Baker attended as a boarder. Then, in 1935, he attended Sydney Boys High School until, in the last two years, Marist College, Hamilton, Newcastle, near his father's work where he had secured a permanent position.

Good Leaving Certificate results secured a Bursary for an Arts degree at Sydney University, where Baker discovered a passion for Philosophy under John Anderson.

In 1944, gaining First Class Honors in both philosophy and history, Baker was awarded the University Medal. Exempted from military service, his first academic position was in history at the Sydney University College located in Armidale in 1945. He and Violet Hilvardine "Hilva" Cordner, completing her honors year in Psychology, became close.

In 1946, Baker took up the Wentworth Traveling Scholarship to Oxford to study at University College for two years, graduating with a Bachelor of Philosophy The young couple married there and then lived in Dundee, Scotland, where Baker was a teaching Philosophy fellow. A position came up for a lectureship at Sydney University: he successfully applied, returning in 1951, becoming a leading light in the Sydney Libertarians and Sydney Push.

In 1965 he took up the inaugural Chair as Professor of Philosophy at Waikato University in New Zealand. But, missing Sydney, returned at the end of 1968 as Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, later meeting his second wife Mairi Grieve.

Baker lined up with the libertarian strain of Anderson's thinking, a tendency he interpreted and several of A.J. Baker's books systematically expound this philosophy.

In Australian Realism Baker wrote that his "book outlines the realist and pluralist philosophy of John Anderson, Australia's most original thinker…" And that the task was necessary as "Anderson never gave an overall account of his views".

For an original, creative philosopher, as Baker was, to be known primarily as the interpreter and defender of another's work may not seem to be the accolade to die for. Yet Baker's defense and exposition of John Anderson's thinking was no mere summarizing. The act of explaining ideas and concepts to a new audience required intellectual accomplishment of the highest order. The late David Armstrong (1926-2014), perhaps Australia's most original and influential philosopher, thought this a singular achievement. He told me that he and other philosophers, including J.J.C. Smart, were able for the first time to approach Anderson's work within a clear and comprehensive framework.

He was not only an academic philosopher. Baker was a leader of the Sydney Push, inspired and co-founded the Sydney Libertarians and their publications, including The Sydney Line, as well as The Sydney Realist. What that meant entailed hours of debate, discussion, including with opponents, preferably over an ale – hence the jocular notion of "critical drinking".

Baker developed a love of cricket, horse racing, parties, folk songs, jazz, and beer. He was a clever and wily tennis player. His daughter, Jenny, noted that although he was a raconteur who loved a drink in a particular Push pub, he also liked long periods of solitude when he would go away and stay in the "Bush", sometimes having a drink at the local watering hole, sometimes abstaining for weeks. The "Bush" was often Old Bar or Harrington on the mid-north coast.

He is survived by his wife Mairi Grieve; daughter Jenny, and grandchildren Sam, Suzy and Zoe. His first wife died in 2015 and a son, Stephen, died of motor neuron disease in 2014.

(Source: "Jim Baker, leader of Bohemian circle 'Sydney Push' argued philosophy over an ale,", by Michael Easson.)

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I. SOCIAL THEORY. In explaining their position Sydney libertarians often refer to their interest in social theory. But this phrase, “social theory,” can suggest, not only empirical study, but also the making of certain criticisms; and at the same time, the question may be asked: How are these connected with the attitudes and sympathies libertarians have, with their support for particular social causes? Thus (1) we should expect social theory to be concerned with developing true views about the nature and interconnection of social phenomena, and the position of libertarians does depend partly on what they take to be certain facts about how society operates. But (2) this almost always gets connected with criticism an... (From:

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