Hyman, John

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Hyman, John


Office— Queen's College, University of Oxford, High St., Oxford OX1 4AW, England. E-mail— [email protected].


Writer, philosopher, editor, and educator. Oxford University, Queen's College, fellow and member of philosophy faculty, 1988—, chairman of philosophy faculty, 2003-05. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, Getty Scholar, 2001-02; Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, fellow, 2002-03.


Oxford University, St. John's College, North Senior Scholarship, 1984-88; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, postdoctoral research fellowship; Oxford University, Trinity College, junior research fellowship.


The Imitation of Nature, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1989.

(Editor)Investigating Psychology: Sciences of the Mind after Wittgenstein, Routledge (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor, with Ralf Stoecker)Agents and Their Actions, Rodopi (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), 2001.

(Editor, with Helen Steward)Agency and Action, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Objective Eye: Color, Form, and Reality in the Theory of Art, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Wittgenstein and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, edited by S. Schroeder, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001;Wittgenstein, Culture, and the Arts, edited by R. Allen, Routledge, 2001;Wittgenstein and Religious Belief, edited by R. Arrington, Routledge, 2001; and Art History versus Aesthetics, edited by J. Elkins, Routledge, 2005.

Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Philosophy Quarterly, Philosophy, British Journal of Aesthetics, Think, Monist, and Mind.


John Hyman is a writer, philosopher, and educator at Queen's College, Oxford, in England. A fellow of Queen's College since 1988, he focuses his research on topics that include epistemology and metaphysics, philosophy of mind and action, aesthetics and philosophy of art, and the life and work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, noted a biographer on the University of Oxford, Queen's College Philosophy Department Web site. In addition to his book-length works, Hyman is a frequent contributor to scholarly journals in these and other subjects.

Hyman also serves as an editor, and in Agency and Action, edited with Helen Steward, he gathers a collection of papers from the Royal Institute of Philosophy's 2002 conference on the subject of agency and action. The book's contents cover topics such as the relationship between concepts of act, agent, cause, and effect; the nature of actions; how self-knowledge, emotion, freedom, and autonomy function in human life; and how the concept of action is conceptualized and applied in criminal law.

The Objective Eye: Color, Form, and Reality in the Theory of Art stands as the "first book-length study of pictorial art by an analytical philosopher which is equally accessible to philosophers and historians of art," noted the University of Oxford, Queen's College Philosophy Department Web site biographer. In the book, Hyman delves deeply into the concept of realism as a component of the theory of art. In doing so, he also closely analyzes theories and concepts of color as well as the general concept of artistic depiction.

In the early days of modernism and realist painting, critics and philosophers found reason to reject the style as antithetical to the goals of art. "The true aim of art, it was declared, is not the depiction of actual forms, but the expression of feeling, or the creation of new forms," noted reviewer Edward Skidelsky in the New Statesman. In his analysis Hyman explores at considerable length the theory that "pictures represent the world not by imitating it directly, but by simulating its effects on the viewer's senses. Pictures, so this argument goes, are instruments of illusion, and the history of pictorial art is one of the refinement of illusionistic techniques," Skidelsky related. In the end, Hyman asserts, the realism of any given picture is "not its tendency to deceive the eye, but rather the range of questions we can ask about its content," Skidelsky wrote. In presenting his ideas and theories, "Hyman writes fastidious, elegant prose, without the technicism that so often mars analytical philosophy," Skidelsky concluded.

Hyman told CA: "[Twentieth-century Austrian art historian] Ernst Gombrich's pathbreaking book Art and Illusion first got me interested in writing about the visual arts. [Twentieth-century Austrian philosopher Ludwig] Wittgenstein's writings, which I studied under Peter Hacker's guidance, are the single most important influence on the way I think about the purpose and value of philosophy. My work is influenced by other philosophers as well, notably my doctoral supervisor, Sir Peter Strawson.

"In the preface to The Objective Eye, I quote [twentieth-century English novelist and critic] George Orwell's remark that writing a book is like a long bout of some painful illness. That conveys a fairly good impression of my writing process. The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how hard it is to express ideas in the simplest and most direct way possible."



British Journal of Aesthetics, July 1990, Richard Woodfield, review of The Imitation of Nature, p. 280; April 1994, T.S. Champlin, "Hyman on Naturalism and the Ram Jug," p. 146; Volume 47, 2007, Anthony Savile, review of The Objective Eye: Color, Form, and Reality in the Theory of Art, pp. 432-440.

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 65, 2007, Zed Adams, review of The Objective Eye, pp. 441-443.

London Review of Books, January 25, 2007, Stephen Mulhall, "Because It's Pink," review of The Objective Eye, p. 26.

New Statesman, August 21, 2006, Edward Skidelsky, "A Matter of Perspective," review of The Objective Eye, p. 48.

Philosophical Books, Volume 31, 1990, Frank Sibley, review of The Imitation of Nature, pp. 250-252.

Philosophy, October, 1992, Marie McGinn, review of Investigating Psychology: Sciences of the Mind after Wittgenstein, p. 559.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 1990, review of The Imitation of Nature, p. 21.


Interdisciplines,http://www.interdisciplines.org/ (November 18, 2007), biography of John Hyman.

University of Oxford, Queen's College Philosophy Department Web site,http://www.queens.ox.ac.uk/ (November 18, 2007), curriculum vitae of John Hyman.