Honderich, Ted 1933-

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Honderich, Ted 1933-


Born January 30, 1933, in Baden, Ontario, Canada; son of John William (a pamphleteer and printer) and Rae Laura (a teacher) Honderich; married third wife, Jane O'Grady, 1989; married fourth wife, Ingrid Coggin, 2003; children: Kiaran, John Ruan. Education: University of Toronto, B.A., 1959; University of London, Ph.D., 1969. Politics: Socialist.


Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Previously lecturer at University of Sussex, Sussex, England; University of London, University College, London, England, 1964, began as lecturer and reader in department of philosophy, professor of philosophy, advanced to Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic. Visiting professor at Yale University, City University of New York, 1970-71, and University of Bath. Royal Institute of Philosophy, chair.


Punishment: The Supposed Justifications, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1969, revised edition, Penguin (New York, NY), 1971, Polity Press, 1989.

(Editor) Essays on Freedom of Action, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1973.

(Editor) Social Ends and Political Means, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1976.

Three Essays on Political Violence, Basil Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1977, revised and expanded edition published as Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy, Incorporating Three Essays on Political Violence, Penguin (New York, NY), 1980.

(Editor) Philosophy as It Is, Penguin (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor) Morality and Objectivity, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1984.

(Editor) Philosophy through Its Past, Penguin (New York, NY), 1984.

A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1988.

Mind and Brain (originally published as part of A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1990.

Conservatism, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.

How Free Are You? The Determinism Problem, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1993, reprinted, 2002.

(Editor) The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1995, reprinted, 2005.

(Editor) The Philosophers: Introducing Great Western Thinkers, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.

Philosopher: A Kind of Life, Routledge (London, England), 2000.

After the Terror, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2002.

On Political Means and Social Ends, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2003.

Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy, Pluto Press (Sterling, VA), 2003.

Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair?, Pluto (Ann Arbor, MI), 2005.

Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9-11, Iraq, 7/7 …, Continuum (London, England), 2006.

Right and Wrong, and Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7 …, Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Punishment: The Supposed Justifications Revisited, Pluto Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2006.

Contributor of articles to books and periodicals. Editor, International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method, The Arguments of the Philosophers, and The Problems of Philosophy.


Philosopher Ted Honderich is a respected voice in his field, having written or edited several volumes on philosophy and its practitioners. His 1980 study, Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy, Incorporating Three Essays on Political Violence, was labeled a "courageous swim against the current" of political thought by reviewer Laurie Taylor in the London Times. A series of essays, the book examines the targets of violence in Britain and the feasibility of fomenting social change or "rectify[ing] social imbalances" through violent acts. The work also considers the moral dilemmas of determining which circumstances justify the use of illegal force to end miseries that remain unchecked by conventional government action.

Among Honderich's more generally accessible works is The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, for which he served as editor. Comprised of nearly two thousand entries from more than two hundred contributors, the book is intended to be both a complete reference work and a volume that general readers will find "amiable" and "diverting." Critics differed, however, on how well Honderich succeeded in this aim. Ward Jones, in the Times Literary Supplement, wrote that "this combination of goals pulls the [The Oxford Companion to Philosophy] in opposite directions." Jones appreciated the more entertaining elements in the book but argued that they detracted from its scholarly rigor and placed more emphasis on personalities than on the actual subject of philosophy. "Its entertainment value exceeds its reference value," Ward concluded. New Statesman and Society reviewer Richard Kearney pointed out that The Oxford Companion to Philosophy covered ancient, medieval, and non-Western philosophies admirably, but betrayed marked bias in its treatment of more modern subjects. Kearney pointed out that Honderich's volume ignored interesting work on imagination by such phenomenologists as Husserl, Sartre, Fink, Ricoeur, and Bachelard, and failed to mention such major figures in French philosophy as Foucault, Kristeva, Lyotard, Deleuze, and several others. Yet the critic pointed out that the book's treatment of the analytical thinkers is "invariably respectful, even reverential." This bias, however, did not detract from the opinion of a Booklist reviewer, who admired The Oxford Companion to Philosophy's "wide variety of interesting, idiosyncratic articles" and highly recommended the book.

In Philosopher: A Kind of Life, Honderich takes a look at his own personal journey and how he came to include the study of philosophy as a part of it. He initially studied literature in college, and he also worked for the Toronto Star while he was still a student, becoming a major reporter for the paper and often meeting celebrities in the daily execution of his job. However, philosophy began to pique his interest more and more, and ultimately he traveled to London in order to study under A.J. Ayer, whom he considered his favorite philosopher. Thus marks the beginning of his dedication to his eventual career. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book slow going, remarking that "Honderich writes so often in a passive, third-person voice that readers may wonder if he is describing himself or someone else."

Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair? serves as an attempt to explain the rationale behind the conservatism of these individuals. Unfortunately, in the eyes of a number of critics, the book falls short of the mark, primarily because the gentlemen in question could not be linked so easily. Julian Sanchez, writing for the Cato Journal, wrote that "a political tradition that really did unite those four figures … by way of some profound shared philosophical principle, that would be hot ice and wonderous strange snow."

Right and Wrong, and Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7 … addresses the political situation in the Middle East and applies what Honderick refers to as the "Principle of Humanity" to the behavior of the insurgents in that region and to the citizens of the United States and their government, and also to the reactions that followed the attacks of September 11th, 2001. He then applies the principle to London and the British reaction to the train bombings on March 7, 2005.

Honderich told CA that he considers his major work to be A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes, published in 1988. This book, widely reviewed in academic circles, presents a thesis on the relationships between mental events and the physiological workings of the brain.



Honderich, Ted, Philosopher: A Kind of Life, Routledge (London, England), 2000.


Booklist, October 1, 1995, review of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p. 353.

Cato Journal, fall, 2005, Julian Sanchez, review of Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair?, p. 644.

New Statesman and Society, October 20, 1995, Richard Kearney, review of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2001, Leslie Armour, review of Philosopher: A Kind of Life, p. 76.

Times (London, England), March 1, 1980, Laurie Taylor, review of Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy, Incorporating Three Essays on Political Violence.

Times Literary Supplement, November 3, 1995, Ward Jones, review of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p. 9.


Ted Honderich Web site,http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho (April 17, 2008).