The Sydney Line
Since the nineteenth century, Sydney has generated a way of thinking that amounts to a distinctive intellectual tradition. It is not exclusive to Sydney, nor has it ever been the mainstream position in this city, but this is where it has established itself and thrived. It can be identified by what it is for and against.
In philosophy, it backs realism rather than idealism; objectivism rather than subjectivism; empirical induction rather than theoretical deduction; logic rather than rhetoric.
In politics, it is sceptical of social engineering and pessimistic about the ability of the state to promote social amelioration. It favours multiracialism but not multiculturalism. It does not believe all cultures are equal and rejects moral, cultural and cognitive relativism. It has always preferred internationalism to nationalism, in both economics and culture. Within these parameters, its politics have ranged from the anti-Stalinist Left to the anti-Communist Right, from bohemian to bourgeois.
It has a low opinion of:
- anything beginning with 'post', especially postmodernism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism;
- anything ending with 'studies', especially cultural studies, gender studies, peace studies and environmental studies.
It derives from the Classical tradition of Greece and Rome and the British sceptical Enlightenment, especially the writers of eighteenth-century Edinburgh. It has long opposed the French radical Enlightenment and German Romanticism, as well as their derivatives: Marxism, Nazism, and contemporary identity group politics.
The Sydney Line was long identified with the University of Sydney philosopher, John Anderson. Its quintessential representative was another philosopher, David Stove. While it is now out of favour in the academy and in most of the media, and is today very much a minority taste, it is still preserved in the journal Quadrant and in the work of a number of authors who live in Sydney and its environs.
The recent publication of a new edition of the 1887 Australian political classic Liberty and Liberalism by the Free Trade politician and barrister, Bruce Smith, reveals another dimension of the same tradition.
This website publishes recent articles and lectures by Sydney author and publisher, Keith Windschuttle, plus other works and links that pursue similar interests and are conceived within the same tradition. See, especially, the following links:
David Stove, philosopher
David Stove email group
Stove's competition to find the worst argument in the world
"A Farewell to Arts", by David Stove
David Armstrong on John Anderson
Peter Coleman on John Anderson
Clive James on John Anderson
"The Evils of Inductive Skepticism", by Donald Carey Williams
Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia, by James Franklin
Bruce Smith, liberal and free trader, in print and online
"The greatest thinker in the world ... ever", Julian Baggini on David Hume
Masthead illustrations, from left: Keith Windschuttle in debate with Henry Reynolds, "The truth about our Aboriginal history", National Press Club, Canberra, 19 April 2001 (photo Jackie Ghossein); George Tobin, In Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, 1792, (Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales); Keith Windschuttle in debate with Henry Reynolds and Greg Lehman, "Contesting the frontier: Truth and method in Australian history", Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sydney, Wallace Lecture Theatre, 28 May 2003 (photo John Windschuttle)