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Andrew David Irvine

Andrew David Irvine
Andrew David Irvine

(1958-07-14) July 14, 1958 (age 65)
Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada
EducationB.A.(Hon.) Sask
Ph.D. Sydney
EmployerUniversity of British Columbia
Notable workSocrates on Trial (2008)
WebsiteUBC - Irvine

Andrew David Irvine, FSCC (born July 14, 1958) is a Canadian academic who teaches at the University of British Columbia. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Sydney University and is a professor of philosophy and mathematics at UBC Okanagan. He has served as vice-chair of the UBC Board of Governors, as head of the UBCO Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science, as president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and as a member of the board of directors of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. An advocate of traditional democratic civil liberties, Irvine has written about the importance of the rule of law for both modern and ancient democracies. He has held visiting positions at several Canadian and American universities and has been recognized as one of British Columbia's most influential public intellectuals.[1]

Academic work

Often cited for his work on the twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell,[2][3][4] Irvine has argued in favour of physicalism[5] and against several commonly held views in the history of modern philosophy, including the claim that Gottlob Frege succeeded in developing a workable theory of mathematical platonism[6] and the claim that Bertrand Russell was an advocate of epistemic logicism,[7][8] a claim that one commentator has concluded is now "thoroughly debunked."[9]

He has defended a two-box solution to Newcomb's problem in which he abandons "the (false) assumption that past observed frequency is an infallible guide to probability"[10] and a non-cognitivist solution to the liar paradox, noting that "formal criteria alone will inevitably prove insufficient" for determining whether individual sentence tokens have meaning.[11]

In modal logic (which studies theories of possibility and necessity), he has argued in favour of the non-normal system S7, rather than more traditional systems such as S4 or S5.[12][13] Unlike other systems, S7 allows logicians to choose between competing logics, each of which, if true, would be necessarily true, but none of which are necessarily the correct system of necessary truths. As Irvine puts it, "just as being physically possible means nothing more than being consistent with the laws of physics, being logically possible means nothing more than being consistent with the laws of logic. However, this leaves open the question of which logic and which consistency relation are to be adopted. S7 gives us the language to discuss the possible denial of necessary truths. S7 gives us the language to assert not only that some propositions really are necessary; it gives us the language also to note that their denials, although impossible, remain possibly possible."[14] In other words, there is a mechanism in which even sets of necessary truths can be compared to their alternatives.

Political work

An advocate of traditional democratic civil liberties, Irvine has argued in favour of free speech rights, both for political reasons[15][16] and in the context of defending academic freedom.[17][18][19][20]

Together with Stephen Wexler, he has argued that modern constitutional protections of the rule of law can trace their roots as far back as Socrates' demand that even lawmakers must be bound by the law.[21][22] It was this demand that led to Aristotle's distinction between psephismata (votes of the assembly) and nomos (statute law), and to the resulting debate over how best to decide questions of legal supremacy within a democracy.[23]

Together with Jason Gratl, he has argued that, in its modern form, the rule of law helps resolve tensions between national security and public accountability[24] and, together with John Whyte, he has argued that care needs to be taken with regard to electoral reform, especially when it comes to implementing proposals focusing on proportional representation.[25]

To help safeguard the legal system from abuse, Irvine has emphasized the importance of three key principles – the rule of law, the separation of powers and democratic accountability.[26] He is often cited in the media on issues ranging from free speech[27][28][29][30] and academic freedom [31] to parliamentary procedure[32] and judicial activism.[33]

Theatre work

In 2007 Irvine premiered Socrates on Trial, a play depicting the life and death of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. The play tells the story of how Socrates was put on trial for corrupting the youth of Athens and for failing to honour the city's gods. The play contains adaptations of several classic Greek works including the slapstick comedy Clouds, written by Aristophanes and first performed in 423 BCE, and the dramatic monologue Apology, written by Plato to record the defence speech Socrates gave at his trial in 399 BCE. The premiere was directed by Joan Bryans of Vital Spark Theatre Company at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver.[34]

In the words of one reviewer, "The play is refreshingly illuminating on the relationship between Socrates' execution and the lasting influence of Aristophanes' negative depiction of him on the evolution of the Athenian psyche."[35] According to another, the play not only gives an entertaining portrayal of Plato's famous mentor, but also a fascinating introduction to the "pompous, arrogant and often petulant" individual presented by Aristophanes,[36] giving modern audiences a greater understanding of why Socrates eventually ended up being sentenced to death.

Bibliographical work

In 1999, Irvine produced scholarly bibliographies of both the primary[37] and secondary[38] literature surrounding the Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell. Together with Dawn Ogden, he also produced the first bibliographical index for Russell's influential book, A History of Western Philosophy.[39] The index is based on the second British edition (of 1979). A conversion table gives page references for both the first American edition (of 1945) and the first British edition (of 1946).

Together with Edmond Rivère and Stephanie Tolman, Irvine is the author of the first comprehensive, scholarly bibliography of Canada's premier literary prize, the Governor General's Literary Awards.[40] The original version of the bibliography covers the history of the awards from their inception in 1936 through to the end of 2013 and appeared in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada in 2014. The bibliography was later expanded and published in book form with the University of Ottawa Press.

Literary references

In 1994, Irvine served as inspiration for the character Hardy Orbs in the dystopian novel, Fair New World. The novel was written by Lou Marinoff under the pseudonym Lou Tafler. A twentieth-fifth anniversary re-issue in 2019 contained a foreword purportedly written by Orbs.[41]


  • Physicalism in Mathematics (ed.), Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990 ISBN 0-7923-0513-2
  • Russell and Analytic Philosophy (with Gary A. Wedeking, eds), Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1993 ISBN 0-8020-2875-6
  • Bertrand Russell – Life, Work and Influence (ed.), London: Routledge, 1999 ISBN 0-415-13055-7 (Volume 1 of Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge. 1999. ISBN 0-415-13054-9)
  • Bertrand Russell – Logic and Mathematics (ed.), London: Routledge, 1999 ISBN 0-415-13056-5 (Volume 2 of Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge. 1999. ISBN 0-415-13054-9)
  • Bertrand Russell – Language, Knowledge and the World (ed.), London: Routledge, 1999 ISBN 0-415-13057-3 (Volume 3 of Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge. 1999. ISBN 0-415-13054-9)
  • Bertrand Russell – History of Philosophy, Ethics, Education, Religion and Politics (ed.), London: Routledge, 1999 ISBN 0-415-13058-1 (Volume 4 of Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge. 1999. ISBN 0-415-13054-9)
  • Bertrand Russell: Critical Assessments (ed.), London: Routledge, 1999 ISBN 978-0-41513-054-7 (Combined volume)
  • Argument (with John Woods and Douglas Walton), Toronto: Pearson, 2000, 2003 ISBN 0-13-085115-9 (1st edn); ISBN 0-13-039938-8 (2nd edn)
  • David Stove's On Enlightenment (ed.), New Brunswick: Transaction, 2003 ISBN 0-7658-0136-1 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4128-5186-2 (paper)
  • Mistakes of Reason (with Kent Peacock, eds), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005 ISBN 0-8020-3866-2
  • In the Agora (with John Russell, eds), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006 ISBN 0-8020-3895-6 (cloth), ISBN 0-8020-3817-4 (paper)
  • Socrates on Trial, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008 ISBN 978-0-8020-9783-5 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8020-9538-1 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8020-9538-1 (e-pub)
  • Philosophy of Mathematics (ed.), Amsterdam: Elsevier / North-Holland, 2009 ISBN 978-0-444-51555-1
  • David Stove's What's Wrong with Benevolence (ed.), New York: Encounter Books, 2011 ISBN 978-1-59403-523-4
  • The Governor General's Literary Awards of Canada: A Bibliography, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2018 ISBN 978-0-7766-2739-7 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-7766-2740-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-0-7766-2741-0 (epub), ISBN 978-0-7766-2742-7 (Kindle)
  • Les Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général du Canada: Une bibliographie, Ottawa; Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa, 2018 ISBN 978-2-7603-2727-6 (hardback), ISBN 978-2-7603-2728-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-2-7603-2729-0 (epub), ISBN 978-2-7603-2730-6 (Kindle)
  • Canada's Storytellers: The GG Literary Award Laureates / Les grand écrivains du Canada: Les lauréats des Prix littéraires du GG, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2021 ISBN 978-0-7766-2803-5 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-7766-2804-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-0-7766-2805-9 (epub), ISBN 978-0-7766-2806-6 (Kindle)


  1. ^ Douglas Todd, "Who are B.C.'s Biggest Thinkers? Meet the Top 50," Vancouver Sun, 25 August 2000, A1, A12
  2. ^ Giannis Triantafillou, "Bertrand Russell is Relevant even Today," Eleftherotipia (Greece), 21 January 2010
  3. ^ Juan Ignacio Rodriguez Medina, "Las buenas razones de Bertrand Russell," Il Mercurio (Chile), 19 August 2012
  4. ^ Anon., "Guides to Russell's Writings," Bertrand Russell Archives, 29 November 2010,
  5. ^ James Robert Brown, "Logic, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science," The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2012, "Logic, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science - the Canadian Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  6. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Frege on Number Properties," Studia Logica, vol. 96 (2010), 239-60
  7. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Epistemic Logicism and Russell's Regressive Method," Philosophical Studies, vol. 55 (1989), 303-27
  8. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Russell on Method," in Godehard Link (ed.), One Hundred Years of Russell's Paradox, Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter Publishing Company, 2004, 481-500
  9. ^ Conor Mayo-Wilson, "Russell on Logicism and Coherence," Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies, vol. 31 (2011), 66; for a less sympathetic appraisal, see Anders Kraal, "The Aim of Russell's Early Logicism: A Reinterpretation," Synthese, vol. 191 (2014), 1493-1510
  10. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "How Braess' Paradox Solves Newcomb's Problem," International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 7 (1993), 141-60 at 157
  11. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Gaps, Gluts, and Paradox," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supplementary vol. 18 [Return of the A priori] (1992), 273-99 at 294
  12. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "S7," Journal of Applied Logic, vol. 11 (2013), 523-529
  13. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "A Science like any Other," Journal of Applied Logics, vol. 8, no. 7 (2021), 2219-2234,
  14. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "S7," Journal of Applied Logic, vol. 11 (2013), 527
  15. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Free Speech, Democracy, and the Question of Political Influence," in W. Wesley Pue (ed.), Pepper in Our Eyes: The APEC Affair, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000, 29-40
  16. ^ Andrew David Irvine and David Sutherland, "Know Thy Neighbour's Views," Globe and Mail, 08 April 2005, A15,
  17. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Let Truth and Falsehood Grapple," University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 67 (1998), 549-66
  18. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Bertrand Russell and Academic Freedom," Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies, vol. 16 (1996), 5-36
  19. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "What do the Armed Forces, the Supreme Court and Canada's Universities have in Common?" Inside Policy (Macdonald-Laurier Institute), (2020),
  20. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Escaping the Echo Chamber," C2C Journal, (2020),
  21. ^ Andrew David Irvine and Stephen Wexler, "The Other Trial of Socrates," Quadrant, vol. 62 (2018), 50-3
  22. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Origins of the Rule of Law," in D.F. Hardwick and L. Marsh (eds), Reclaiming Liberalism, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, 179-217
  23. ^ Stephen Wexler and Andrew David Irvine, "Aristotle on the Rule of Law," Polis, vol. 23 (2006), 116-38
  24. ^ Jason Gratl and Andrew David Irvine, "National Security, State Secrecy and Public Accountability," University of New Brunswick Law Journal, vol. 55 (2005), 251-71
  25. ^ John Whyte and Andrew David Irvine, "Searching for Democratic Vitality: An Analysis of Electoral Reform," Policy Dialogue, no. 17 (Winter 2008), 3-4
  26. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Principles to Ensure the Law is Not Abused in Canada," Commentary (The Macdonald-Laurier Institute), March 2022,
  27. ^ Neal Hall, "Little Sisters' Appeals to Highest Court," Vancouver Sun, 19 February 1999, A6
  28. ^ Shawn Ohler, "Human Rights Tribunal Says Columnist's Opinion Anti-Semitic," National Post, 04 February 1999, A4
  29. ^ Colin Freeze, "Protesters Cynical about an Apology," Globe and Mail, 27 March 2002, A6
  30. ^ Mark Hume, "Teacher's Suspension Sparks Free Speech Fight," Calgary Herald, 24 April 2003, A3
  31. ^ Barbara Kay, "Propaganda in the Classroom" National Post, 15 December 2004, A17
  32. ^ Jason Unrau, "Professor Queries Speaker's Ruling," Whitehorse Star, 12 December 2008
  33. ^ Neil Seeman, "Who Runs Canada?" National Post, 24 July 1999, B3
  34. ^ Anon., "Stage Listings," Vancouver Sun, 29 May 2008, "Stage listings". Archived from the original on 2015-02-15. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  35. ^ Alapin, Maya, Review of Socrates on Trial, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2008.08.08
  36. ^ Anon., "Socrates on Trial," Riveting Riffs Magazine, 2008,
  37. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Select Primary Bibliography," in Andrew David Irvine (ed.), Bertrand Russell: Life, Work and Influence, London: Routledge, 1999, 217-46
  38. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Select Secondary Bibliography," in Andrew David Irvine (ed.), Bertrand Russell: Life, Work and Influence, London: Routledge, 1999, 247-312
  39. ^ Dawn Ogden and Andrew David Irvine, "A Bibliographical Index for Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy," Russell, vol. 19 (1999), no. 1, 63-83
  40. ^ Andrew David Irvine, "Bibliographic Errata regarding the Cumulative List of Winners of the Governor General's Literary Awards / Liste cumulative des lauréates et des lauréats des Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général, 2011," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 50 (2012), 51-61; Andrew David Irvine, "The Governor General's Literary Awards: An Introduction," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 52 (2014), 7-33; Andrew David Irvine, "The Governor General's Literary Awards: English-language Winners, 1936-2013," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 52 (2014), 35-161; and Andrew David Irvine and Edmond Rivère, "Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général: Lauréats en langue française, 1936-2013," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 52 (2014), 163-267
  41. ^ Lou Tafler, Fair New World, third edition, Cardiff, CA: Waterside Publishing, 2019, xiii-xxiii
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Andrew David Irvine
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