Alan Ryan

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Ryan, Alan James (1940– )

Ryan is a philosopher who wrote John Stuart Mill (1970), Bertrand Russell: A Political Life (1993), and John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism (1995). In the latter book, Ryan argued that the thought of John Dewey is more relevant today than ever before, that a revival of his ideas is needed. He was not, Ryan found, as far left politically as some had claimed, and his philosophic style was to “reconstruct” the institutions and linguistic habits we had grown accustomed to.

His Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education (1998) is concerned with evaluating contemporary higher education in the United States. The work shows the influence of Dewey, Mill, and Russell, three about whom he has written extensively.

Ryan per New Yorker cartoonist Tom Bachtell

He has been a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Essex in his native England; was a visiting professor of political science at the City University of New York; was professor of politics at Princeton (1988-1996); and since 1996 is Warden (Head) of New College, Oxford.

Also, Ryan has been described as a self-acknowledged, aggressive atheist of the Bertrand Russell vein, a Mill, Dewey, and T. H. Green scholar.

The Teacher

Ryan's secondary education was at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, 1951 - 1959, after which he attended Balliol College, Oxford, 1959 to 1962. He graduated from University College, London, in 1963, and received his M.A. in 1967 and his Doctorate of Literature in 1993.

His teaching appointments include

Assistant Lecturer/Lecturer, University of Keele, 1963-6
Lecturer, University of Essex, 1966-
Fellow and Tutor in Politics, New College, Oxford, 1969-9
University Lecturer in Politics, 1969-78
Reader ad hominem, 1978-9
Professor of Politics, Princeton University, 1988-96
Warden (Head) of New College, Oxford, 1996-

His visiting appointments include

Visiting Professor, Hunter College, CUNY, 1967-
Visiting Professor, University of Texas at Austin, 1972
Visiting Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, 1973
Visiting Fellow, Australian National University, 1974-5
Visiting Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1977
Visiting Professor, University of the Witwatersrand, 1978
Visiting Fellow, Australian National University, 1979
Visiting Professor, University of Cape Town, 1982, 1983, 1984
de Carle Lecturer, University of Otago, 1983
Mellon Visiting Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, 1991-2
Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, 2002-3


Elected Fellow of the British Academy, 1986
Official Member, Council for National Academic Awards, 1975 -83
Delegate, Oxford University Press, 1982-7
Finance Committee, 1986-7
Senior Consulting Editor, Bertrand Russell Project, 1987-
Executive Committee, Conference for the Study of Political Thought, 1988-
Associate Editor, Ethics, 1991-
Chair, Conference for the Study of Political Thought, 1992-1996
Convocation Lecturer, Lawrence University, 1993
Whidden Lecturer, McMaster University, 1993

Reviews Written

Ryan has written reviws in the following publications:

Mind, The Philosophical Quarterly, Political Studies, Political Theory, The Historical Journal, The English Historical Review, The American Historical Review, The American Political Science Review, The Journal of Politics, Albion, New Society, The New Statesman, The Times Higher EducationSupplement, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer,The Washington Post, New York Times, and Newsday.

He has written upwards of a dozen "op-ed" contributions for the London Times. Since 1996, he has been a frequent contributor to The Independent and the Times Higher Education Supplement.


The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill, Pantheon Books/Macmillan, 1970. (Revised 2nd ed., 1987)
The Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Macmillan/Pantheon Books, 1970. (15th impression, 1990)
J.S. Mill, Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1975
Property and Political Theory, Blackwell, 1984
Property, Open University Press/University of Minnesota Press, 1987
Russell: A Political Life, Allen Lane/Hill & Wang, 1988, OUP, 1993
John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism, Norton, 1995
Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education, Hill & Wang, 1998, revised UK edition, Profile Books, 1999

Books Edited

(ed and intro.), Social Explanation, Oxford, 1973
(intro.), An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (pp. vii-lxvii of Vol. IX of The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, University of Toronto Press, 1978)
(ed. and intro.), The Idea of Freedom, Oxford University Press, 1979
(ed. and intro.), Utilitarianism and Other Essays by Mill and Bentham, Penguin Classics, 1987
(joint editor), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought, Blackwell, 1987
(joint editor), Perspectives on Thomas Hobbes, Oxford University Press, 1989
(ed and intro.), Justice, Oxford University Press, 1993
(intro.), J-J Rousseau, Social Contract and Discourses, Everyman Library, 1994
(intro.), Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Everyman Library, 1994
(intro.), Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, 4th edn, Harper, 1995
(ed and intro.), Mill: A Critical Edition, Norton, 1997
(ed and intro.), Liberty and The Subjection of Women by J.S. Mill, Penguin, 2006


For lists of Ryan's occasional publications; essays in books edited by others; essays in learnèd journals; articles in less learnèd journals; and longer reviews, see Ryan's homepage

{The Nation, 25 September 1995}