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Peter Long

Peter Long, who died recently at the age of ninety-three, taught in the Department of Philosophy from 1961 to 1991.  The following tribute has been contributed by Emeritus Professor David Holdcroft.

Peter was the son of working class parents in Macclesfield. He had a twin brother who unfortunately was handicapped, which was a matter of deep concern for Peter throughout his life. He left school at the age of fourteen training as a pharmacist during the day and attending classes in Greek and Latin during the evenings. During his national service he was posted to India; he found his work on signal intercepts tedious, not least because he believed that none of his superiors actually read them.

After demobilisation he was accepted as a mature student to read philosophy at University College London. The Department led by Professor A J (‘Freddie’) Ayer, who was one of the leading philosophers of his generation and the author of Language Truth and Logic, was a strong one.  But though Peter was a late starter he distinguished himself and graduated with first class honours. He went on to Cambridge to study under Professor John Wisdom on a fundamental principle of modal logic, ab esse ad posse (from the fact that something exists it follows that it is possible). Subsequently he was awarded a prize fellowship at Trinity College Cambridge, which was a great honour – Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein had all been fellows there. Three years later, in 1961, James Cameron, the Professor of Philosophy at Leeds, persuaded him to join a growing department where he remained until his retirement in 1991.

Peter worked on central issues in logical analysis arising primarily from the writings of Frege and Wittgenstein. In 1979 in collaboration with his colleague Roger White he published a translation of the posthumous writings of Frege; and for many years he taught a special subject on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. His work was meticulous, closely argued and the product of deep thought, so that the number of his publications was relatively modest. However, in 2000 Routledge published a collection of his essays, Logic, Form and Grammar, in a distinguished series. The first of these addressed problems with traditional accounts of hypothetical reasoning which he had been working on for many years. He was delighted with the reception of his book, in spite of the fact that he complained that Amazon misrepresented its content.

Peter was a cultivated man who disliked many aspects of contemporary life. He loved music, especially Mozart, poetry and a fine bottle of wine – preferably red. He owned a grand piano, and to encourage young musicians he organised concerts in his home attended by his friends.

His brother predeceased him.