Stewart Candlish interview, 18 April 2013, 25 April 2013 and 9 May 2013

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Stewart Candlish interview, 18 April 2013, 25 April 2013 and 9 May 2013




Malcolm Stewart Candlish was born in Brighton in 1943. He graduated from the University of Leicester in 1967 with a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and an MA. In 1968 he accepted a teaching appointment at UWA. The Professor at that stage was Selwyn Grave. Stewart was a Lecturer from 1968-1972 and a Senior Lecturer from 1973-1989. From 1990 to 2001 he was Associate Professor of Philosophy. He retired in August 2007.


Candlish, Stewart


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Stewart Candlish


Shenton Park, W.A.


Interview 1: 50 minutes, 32 seconds
Interview 2: 56 minutes, 56 seconds
Interview 3: 36 minutes, 3 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 23 minutes, 31 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Born 1943. Memories of austerity and cold. Studied science at school in Brighton. Discovered philosophy in his final year at school.
01:34 Father read Dennis Wheatley novels which Stewart also read. These books in the library were very close to philosophy and psychology, Read A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell which inspired him to explore the subject more thoroughly.
03:20 Studied at Leicester University. Applied for a scholarship to do a higher degree. Offered a job for the English Atomic Energy Authority.
06:00 He started to apply for jobs in England and the Commonwealth to teach Philosophy. Was offered 4 jobs – 2 in Australia and 2 in New Zealand. He took the one at UWA. The Department had been recommended by his supervisor as he knew some people in it.
06:58 Embarked on the Canberra on 14 January 1968 from Southampton and arrived in Fremantle on 3 February 1968. The Suez Canal was closed so they came around the Cape.
07:39 It was blisteringly hot and he had no idea that anywhere could be so hot – the description of a Mediterranean climate was misleading! Trying to find somewhere to live and the beginning of term was fast approaching.
09:00 When he heard a kookaburra outside the Arts Building he initially thought that the heat had driven somebody mad!
10:58 Encountered a red back spider in University House, a giant centipede in his bed and a scorpion in Myers Street, Nedlands.
11:30 Noel Bodycoat was the staffing officer and had asked him what he needed in the way of accommodation. The mining boom made accommodation scarce but he secured a flat in Broadway, Nedlands for what he considered were London prices. He lived here until he got married in 1971.
13:54 He had initially been given one week’s accommodation at Steve’s Hotel paid by the University and UWA paid 50% of the cost in the second week. Inflation was high. Consumer goods in Perth were more expensive as were fish and cheese. Wine was very reasonable!
17:07 There was no induction into the department – new staff left to their own devices. He was expected to live up to his responsibilities. You were thrown in at the deep end.
18:03 Professor Selwyn Grave was away when Stewart arrived. He was an avid climber. He would give advice but didn’t interfere. Prof Grave and Patrick Hutchings were New Zealanders. Julius Kovesi was a Hungarian refugee. An Oxford trained Indian called Surendra Sheodas Barlingay arrived at about the same time as Stewart to teach logic. George Seddon was on staff and is now better known for his environmental and landscape work but taught the Philosophy of Science. He moved to New South Wales about 3 years after Stewart arrived.
22:04 Barlingay left after a couple of years and was replaced by John Moore. There was a lot of coming and going of staff over the years.
22:36 R L Franklin, Ray Pinkerton and Ross Robinson had resigned before Stewart arrived.

Track 3
00:00 Discussion of contrast between Leicester University and UWA. The character of the departmental staff was very different. Staff in the Philosophy Department at UWA was more bourgeois than Leicester. Four of them were Catholic and family men. Leicester was much more social.
02:00 Student numbers at UWA were much more than Leicester. Classes and tutorials were bigger. Lectures of 200 and tutorial groups of 15 students. Had to learn how to hold their attention.
04:25 UWA taught what is now called Distance Education. They would come in during the vacation to attend classes. There was a lot of preparation and providing of written materials. There was a lot more formal effort. Heavy essay marking loads. Comments were expected. At this time the essays did not count towards the grade.
06:47 All the assessment was done by end of year exams. This involved 3 weeks of exam marking.
08:08 The student drop-out rate was higher than the UK but then only 2% of the British population got into university. The drop-out rate at Leicester was about 10% and would be 25-30% at UWA. This would have been almost the same as other disciplines.
10:30 The challenges of lecturing to large groups. Had to be more like a stage actor. Wearing gown to the first year lectures helped although it was unbearable in the March heat. Gowns were not worn to second year lectures and didn’t last much longer for first year teaching.
13:20 First year lectures were in the Murdoch lecture theatre twice weekly at 11am and repeated at 6pm for part-time students. Many were school teachers.

Track 4
00:00 The appeal of philosophy having been studying science. Examples of difficulties using physics as an example.
04:39 Example of difficulties he experienced in chemistry. Atomic structure.
05:50 Examples in mathematics – using calculus – concept of infinitesimal. George Berkeley.
07:39 Translations of foreign languages. How accurate can they be?
08:13 How do historians reconcile conflicting documentary evidence?
09:10 When you begin to ask these questions you are beginning to do the philosophy of science – mathematics- language- epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) – and the philosophy of history.
09:39 Ethics is also a component of this. Moral thinking is also a branch of philosophy.
11:18 A lot of students who come into moral philosophy can find it very difficult as they already start with a definition.

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 The 1970s. The Vietnam War. Stewart attended two marches in Perth.
03:23 Selwyn Grave said that UWA was the only quiescent campus during the Spanish Civil War. Plenty of student turbulence in other places – including Leicester University that has student sit-ins. UWA very quiet by comparison.
05:10 A journalist came to see him regarding student blockades at UWA. The universities in Paris are in the city whereas the UWA campus was not. There would have been no impact.
06:42 There were student demonstrations protesting about the dangers of crossing Stirling Highway from the colleges to campus. They were successful in getting two tunnels built.
07:45 Stewart believes that he was agitating more than the students. He argued for and succeeded in getting student representation on the Faculty of Arts
09:10 Asked to write an article about student unrest and how they could make an impact. Suggested that they should put pressure on the library resources. This was in the days before computers and electronic copies of articles. Not considered to be a glamorous way of protesting. Student agitation more about moral vanity rather than trying to make a change.
12:15 Contrast with the rest of Australia. Marxists on staff at Flinders University. Notorious events c1968 or 1970 at the Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference. Refused to accept any moderates as Chairs.
14:15 Meanwhile the University of Sydney Philosophy Department was divided into two – liberal and traditional and Marxists and Feminists. Further information can be found in James Franklin's book entitled Corrupting the Youth.

Track 3
00:00 Retirement of Professor Selwyn Grave in 1981. Mandatory retirement at age 65. He moved to Tasmania.
01:28 Selwyn Grave was a very nice man. He was very democratic. He took his share of the grunt teaching including first year teaching and marking. A good example to his staff and earned a great deal of personal loyalty.
02:58 Had a temper which he kept in check with iron self-control and a strong sense of duty. Amiable but volatile underneath. The students never saw this side of him. In fact he could be too gentle with them!
04:46 He held the Department together by force of personality and loyalty but when he left things began to unravel and tensions came to the surface.
05:16 He was almost a character from another era. He disliked using the telephone. In fact, it turned out that he didn’t really know how to use it!
07:56 He had terrible handwriting – only the secretary and Stewart could read it with relative ease. All articles had to be written in longhand. This meant that you had to get things right as everything then was typed up. Before the days of computers you couldn’t change things so readily. Comments on essays were written by hand. Amusing incident where a student couldn’t read what Selwyn Grave had written in the margin. In point of fact, he said that the student that he had appalling handwriting!
10:45 The department was consulted regarding his replacement but appointments at professorial level were made by a committee. There were power brokers in Australia who decided who was getting what Chair of Philosophy and in what order. They were generally influential people from interstate.
13:03 The next Professor was Michael Tooley who was Canadian and had worked at ANU. There was some local resistance to him due to his book entitled Abortion and Infanticide. This was a controversial work then and remains so today. He was called ‘Professor Herod’. In fact he was a genial colleague.
16:46 He did not stay long and left in the 1980s. He was not made welcome and did not enjoy administration. Now at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Track 4
00:00 Philosophy is a discipline that could fit into any faculty and is often not totally comfortable in any.
02:24 Philosophers are often not popular wherever they are because they ask unsettling questions. Stewart would attend Psychology lecturers and ask questions about their experimental methods. It is natural for philosophers to question and argue. Where is the evidence? Others find this unsettling.
07:54 The Philosopher got on better with the Historians who would join in with theoretical discussions in the tea room. Philosophers tend not to be able to moderate the way that they work to take account of other people’s sensibilities so people in the Faculty of Arts might have found them odd.
09:23 Philosophy and Classics tend to be partnered together in institutions that are structured in way that it can work – such as at Oxford University.
12:08 When Stewart was lecturing on a Platonic dialogue to first years, he was perplexed by the argument. There were many translations; some were very good and some not so good. Translations done by Classical scholars did not really understand the argument. They tried to make the language too flowery and had expanded the text thereby losing the sense of it.
16:01 What are the ethics of translation? To enable staff members from Philosophy and Classics to work together on, say, translations of Plato would take a great deal of time and co operation. There wasn’t the structure in place at UWA to enable this to happen.
19:16 Several law students on the Arts/Law degree course came and studied Philosophy. Many of them were extremely good. One Honours dissertation was to do with intention in the criminal law of Western Australia. Stewart introduced some concepts in the Philosophy of Mind course to be more relevant to law students as many of the judgments debate criminal responsibility, negligence, recklessness and intention.

Interview 3

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 The Centre at Albany
01:52 Recording of lectures at UWA and use of local tutor. Visits from UWA lecturers 1-2 times each semester.
02:36 Lecture recording becoming a standard. Local students listened at home.
04:06 Problems of the recording technology.
05:36 The Albany students.
06:55 The local tutor.
09:20 Philosophy Café movement.
11:26 Philosophy Café format at Shenton College and St Hilda’s.
12:30 Long term effect of recording lectures.

Track 3
00:00 Study leave a standard condition of employment. One year in seven. A duty, then a right, then a privilege.
04:36 First leave taken in 1974.
04:48 Being able to buy books in the UK – much cheaper than in Australia. Very difficult to obtain. The University Bookshop was just for student text books. Deputation of academic staff
08:10 Buying up big in bookshops while on study leave.
09:17 Organising study leave. Visits to universities of Sussex, Cambridge, ANU, Illinois, Durham
11:26 Writing a study leave application.
11:59 Study leave report supplied to the Senate. These were posted on notice boards in the library. Deputy High Sheriff of the County of Wiltshire.

Track 4
00:00 Editor of The Australasian Journal of Philosophy in 2007. One of the world’s top 10 general journals.
02:50 350 submissions pa of which the journal would publish 30. Now in May 2013 submissions are over 600 articles a year. A significant commitment.
03:47 Publish material from unknown authors. Double blind reviewing now.
05:33 When he gives up the editorship things will have to change. Too onerous to teach full time and be editor.
06:19 UWA has had the honour of hosting the journal. First time edited in WA. Founded in Sydney in 1923.
06:52 The Library benefits from receiving books sent for review.

Track 5
00:00 Conclusion



Candlish, Stewart, “Stewart Candlish interview, 18 April 2013, 25 April 2013 and 9 May 2013,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed April 20, 2024,