Gaita, Raimond 1946–

views updated

Gaita, Raimond 1946–

PERSONAL: Born 1946, in Germany; immigrated to Australia, 1950; son of Romulus (a blacksmith and laborer) and Christine Anna (Dörr) Gaita; married Yael Stybelman; children: (from previous marriage) Katerina, Eva, Dahlia, Michelle. Education: University of Melbourne, B.A. (with honors), M.A.; King's College, London, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home—Melbourne, Australia. Office—Department of Philosophy, King's College, University of London, London WC2R 2LS, England; and School of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University, 115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia 3159. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Kent at Canterbury, England, lecturer in philosophy, 1976–77; King's College, London, England, lecturer in philosophy, 1977, professor of moral philosophy, 2000–; Australian Catholic University, Victoria, Australia, professor of philosophy, 1993–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Victoria Award for Literature, for Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception; Nettie Palmer Prize for Nonfiction and Victorian Premier's Literary Award, both 1998, both for Romulus, My Father; shortlisted for Braille Book of the Year award, Queensland Premier's Award for Contribution to Public Debate, and Australian National Biography Award.



(Editor) Value and Understanding: Essays for Peter Winch, Routledge (New York, NY), 1990.

Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Romulus, My Father (memoir), Text Publishing (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1998.

A Common Humanity: Thinking about Love and Truth and Justice, Text Publishing (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1999, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.

The Philosopher's Dog: Friendships with Animals, Text Publishing, (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2002, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) Why the War Was Wrong, Text Publishing (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2003.

Contributor to publications, including Particularity and Communality in Ethics, 1996; Renegotiating Ethics in Literature, Philosophy, and Theory, 1998; Why Universities Matter, 1999; and Best Australian Essays, 1998, 2000, and 2001.

Contributor of essays to periodicals, including Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Investigations, Meaning, Inquiry, and Arena Journal.

SIDELIGHTS: Raimond Gaita is a professor of philosophy both at the Australian Catholic University and at King's College, London. He has written many papers and essays for nonacademic publications but is probably best known for two key works: his Nettie Palmer Prize-winning book Romulus, My Father, a memoir about his own father, Romulus Gaita, and his popular book The Philosopher's Dog: Friendships with Animals.

Romulus, My Father tells the story of Romulus Gaita's life, from his birth in poverty in a Romanian-speaking part of Yugoslavia to his move to Germany while still a teenager and his subsequent move to Australia after his marriage and the birth of his son, Raimond. Much of the narrative is set in a farmhouse in central Victoria called "Frogmore." Through all the hardships he encounters, including a constantly cheating wife who deserts Romulus and Raimond and ends up committing suicide, Romulus manages to retain his sense of decency and honesty and clings to the principles he holds most dear. Jamie Grant, reviewing the book for Quadrant, called Romulus, My Father a "compelling … read," and noted that "the book is as much the autobiography of Romulus's son as it is an extended obituary of the father." Spectator reviewer Michael Davie found that Gaita "uses the relationship [with his father] and the depths of his father's suffering as the text for an original meditation on life itself."

Gaita once told CA: "When Romulus, My Father became a bestseller I was astonished [because] I had never considered myself a writer with a capital 'W' and because my philosophical writing had often been considered difficult to understand. More than the acclaim, however, I was gratified that the [subject] of my father's life should have moved so many people. Because the writing is so simple … I knew it was his life coming through the story … that had moved them. When someone wrote saying that he had read only three books in the last ten years or so [one being Romulus, My Father] … and that he liked Romulus at least as much as the other two, I realized I had done something important."

In his next book, A Common Humanity: Thinking about Love and Truth and Justice, Gaita expands on philosophical theories propounded in particular by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, and he concludes that much of modern moral philosophy is on the wrong track. Jean Curthoys, writing in the Australian Book Review, stated that vital but ambiguous ideas are "thoroughly elucidated" by Gaita in A Common Humanity. In dealing with issues such as the Holocaust, Gaita holds that the lives of saints might be better moral models than the abstract concepts, for example, of Immanuel Kant. Kant was an eighteenth-century German philosopher who stressed respect for all humans and the necessity for morality in the world. David Gordon, writing in the Library Journal, found A Common Humanity a "stimulating book," while Samuel Gregg, writing in Quadrant, noted that "it is always refreshing … to read a [philosophy] book in which the author is not afraid to use words like good and evil without relativising them." Though Gregg found problems in Gaita's argument for basing the foundation of our moral judgments on the "preciousness of human beings," the reviewer still felt Gaita's book was "worth reading." Arena Journal contributor Lloyd Reinhart called A Common Humanity "an insightful, challenging and profoundly humane book," and one that "may help establish [Gaita] as Australia's new public moral philosopher."

Gaita moved to other moral questions with his 2002 work The Philosopher's Dog: Friendships with Animals. The book explores human beings' relationships with animals and includes insights on what we learn about animals—what they feel, sense, and know—as well as what we learn about ourselves by such a connection. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, pointed to the author's "deep and provocative" writing in this title. Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that Gaita provides "entertaining animal stories and delicate philosophical reflections on them." A Kirkus Reviews critic referred to The Philosopher's Dog as "a litmus test for self-professed nature lovers."



Arena Journal, annual, 2000, Lloyd Reinhart, "Is Love What We Need?," review of A Common Humanity: Thinking about Love and Truth and Justice, p. 139.

Australian Book Review, November, 1999, Jean Curthoys, "The Sacredness of Human Life," pp. 15-16.

Booklist, July, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of The Philosopher's Dog: Friendships with Animals, p. 1808.

Choice, January, 1992, A.S. Rosenbaum, review of Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception, pp. 758-759.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004, review of The Philosopher's Dog, p. 429.

Library Journal, November 15, 2000, David Gordon, review of A Common Humanity, p. 72.

M2 Best Books, September 1, 2004, "Australian Authors Embark on Book Tour in China."

New Statesman & Society, November 29, 1999, Roger Scruton, review of Romulus, My Father, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 2004, review of The Philosopher's Dog, p. 44.

Quadrant, June, 1998, Jamie Grant, "Uncompromising Values," pp. 77-78; June, 2000, Samuel Gregg, review of A Common Humanity, p. 81.

Spectator, January 8, 2000, Michael Davie, "Down and Out, Down Under," p. 30.

Times (London, England), July 15, 1999, Alex O'Connell, "Tough Times in Short," p. 51.


Guardian Online, (March 1, 2003), Stephen Law, "Do Dogs Have Minds?," review of The Philosopher's Dog.

King's College, University of London Web site, (December 15, 2005), "Professor Raimond Gaita."

Nexus: Australian Broadcasting Corporation Web Site, (May 21, 2004), Ian Henschke, "In Person: Raimond Gaita."

Southern Cross University Web site, (December 15, 2005), "Professor Raimond Gaita."

About this article

Gaita, Raimond 1946–

Updated About content Print Article