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roy holland

Emeritus Professor Roy Holland, MA, BPhil

Emeritus Professor Roy Holland, former Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, died on 5th March 2013.

The following obituary has been contributed by Professor Holland’s family:

Roy Holland was born in Manchester in 1923 and went from Manchester Grammar School where he was a Foundation Scholar to University College Oxford where he was a Scholar in Classics. He was evidently a fine Classicist for his First in the Honours School of Greek and Latin Literature was awarded without Viva.

In due course he was called up for military service which took him as a regimental officer to Africa and South East Asia. These postings delayed his return to Oxford but also made him eligible for an early MA which he was able to take as his first degree in 1948. He was awarded a Postgraduate Scholarship to work on philosophy with Gilbert Ryle. During his time with Ryle he had regular contact with two other luminaries, J.L. Austin and Friedrich Waismann, who were presenting their ongoing writings week by week for seminar discussion with postgraduates recommended to them. He wrote his thesis independently on the topic of Memory and published a section of it in the leading journal Mind in 1954.

He left Oxford in 1950 when he was receiving offers of lectureships. The appointment he took was at the University College of Swansea, which had a strong department of philosophy: the member he replaced was on his way to a Cambridge Chair. However it was not the kind of distinction just mentioned that gave the department its rare and special character. This came from a connection that it had with the most important philosopher in the whole of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein used to visit Swansea to stay with Rush Rhees, a friend, former pupil and later an executor of his will, who was teaching in the philosophy department. In 1950 Wittgenstein was ill with cancer and died in 1951. Roy Holland was able to hear Wittgenstein only once in discussion. The important thing was being able to teach for a number of years alongside one of Wittgenstein's closest associates and come to have as friends two others, Norman Malcolm and M. O'C. Drury, each of whom contributed to a series of books called Studies in Philosophical Psychology, originated and edited by Roy Holland during that period. Sir Anthony Kenny, President of the British Academy, was also acontributor to the series which naturally had a reputation for quality.

Turning to the quality of Roy Holland's own writings, the first thing that strikes anyone looking at his list of publications is the number of articles published first in the journals that were taken up for republication, not by him but by editors of book collections containing what they regarded as exemplary material. The Mind 1954 article already mentioned is an example of this. Stuart Hampshire included it in a book collection entitled Philosophy of Mind which was part of a series called Sources in Contemporary Philosophy. Soon afterwards a paper given to the Aristotelian Society about the employment in Ethics of a conceptual distinction between two worlds was published a second time in a book of essays put together in Oxford by I. T. Ramsey. American editors did the same kind of thing with work he had published in American journals.

Roy Holland's American reputation was established in 1962 when he was awarded a senior Fulbright Scholarship and taught for a year at the University of Rochester. The Senior Fulbright was the most prestigious award then available: it gave its holders and their families a stay in Washington where they were shown all the main institutions of government at work and even taken to the White House for a handshake from the President.

Roy Holland was a fine teacher who gave encouragement to his pupils, a number of whom went on to occupy professorial positions. Following his appointments at Swansea and Rochester, he taught for a number of years at the University of Leicester, where he was made Reader in Philosophy. From 1967 when he was appointed to his Chair in Leeds until 1983 when he retired from it, he was a careful and generous administrator within his department. He was also active on the philosophical scene nationwide, conspicuously so in fact since he was for instance a Council Member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Another longstanding philosophical institution in which he was active was the Aristotelian Society, of which he was elected President for the session 1981-2 and on the Council of which he continued for many years. The Aristotelian Society is not particularly concerned with classical philosophy but covers its entire range.  It organises in conjunction with another important institution, The Mind Association – and Roy Holland was a President of that too – a large annual international conference called the Joint Session. He was a member of the Management Committee for two journals, Analysis and Philosophical Books and on the Editorial Board of a third, Philosophical Investigations.

His own philosophical writings were still attracting attention at the end of his life. His work was the topic for discussion at a session of the British Wittgenstein Society's Conference in 2011. And a paper on the Philosophy of Religion requested by the Australasian Journal of Philosophy in 1956 was included in a showcase edition of the journal, its 90th year Virtual Special Issue, on the Internet in 2012.

The title of Emeritus Professor was conferred upon Roy Holland by Leeds in 1986.  In 1994, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales, Swansea.

In 1951 he married Marie Elizabeth Nicholls who survives him along with their four children.

A Requiem Mass was held on Monday March 18th.