Adam Morton (1945-2020) (updated)


Adam Morton, a philosopher who over the course of his career held appointments at several institutions, most recently at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has died.

Professor Morton wrote on a range of topics in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy mind. His books include Should We Colonize Other Planets?Emotion and ImaginationBounded Thinking: Intellectual Virtues for Limited AgentsOn Evil, and The Importance of Being Understood: Folk Psychology as Ethics, among others. You can explore some of his research here and here.

Prior to his appointment at UBC in 2011, Professor Morton was at the University of Alberta, the University of Oklahoma, and for 20 years (1980-2000) the University of Bristol. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1971.

In addition to writing academic philosophy, Professor Morton also wrote stories, some of which are here.

UPDATE (10/30/20): The Department of Philosophy at UBC has posted an in-depth obituary for Dr. Morton here.

guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rachel Cooper
Rachel Cooper
8 months ago

I’m very sad to hear of Adam Morton’s death. My first job was at Bristol and I co-taught a course with Adam. He was extremely clever and generous, and helped me a good deal. He also sat in on my lectures and started twitching whenever I said anything with which he disagreed.Report

Jenny Saul
Jenny Saul
8 months ago

When I first arrived in the UK, I remember being very nervous at my first Joint Session, and Adam was so incredibly warm and welcoming. Over the years, it was always a delight to see him.
Report

Jonathan Westphal
8 months ago

This is very sad news. I met Adam Morton during my PhD defence at the University of London. I had written about colour, and I was very surprised when. Morton said opening the discussion, ‘Now you have been thinking about colours. How will you apply what you say to sounds, for example?’ We spent all our time on this topic. Looking back it was a very clever way of probing what I had done, or rather my grasp of what I had tried to do. I quickly felt that Morton was an unusually deep and human person. He was the kind of person who made you feel that life is true, that there is much to be discovered, and that what is to be discovered is real and fresh and interesting. I have thought about Adam Morton many times since that experience, and when I met him from time to time, my feeling was reinforced and confirmed.Report

Stephen Hetherington
Stephen Hetherington
8 months ago

I’m sorry about Adam’s death. I knew that, for quite a while, he had lived with a serious medical condition, and I was impressed by how well he had maintained his intellectual energy during this prolonged period. He had a rare gift as a philosopher, of being able to write equally well and thoughtfully both for peers and for students. When I first met him, I had just finished reading *Philosophy in Practice*, a very distinctive introductory book, and I was excited to have the chance to chat with him about that book in particular. Adam had a lively and original mind. He really did think for himself. I admired his clarity and boldness, the clean lines of his writing and the directness of his thinking. He was also gentle and friendly in manner. It was a pleasure and an honour to know him.Report

AsstProf
AsstProf
8 months ago

I never had the pleasure of meeting Professor Morton, but one of his papers on imagination inspired the second half of my thesis on imagination. Thank you for your work and legacy.Report

STEPHEN MENN
STEPHEN MENN
8 months ago

Adam was wonderful to talk with. I’ll really miss him. My experiences with him were like Jonathan Westphal’s and Stephen Hetherington’s. And I too admired the way he dealt with his illness.Report

STEPHEN MENN
STEPHEN MENN
8 months ago

Not everyone in the profession will know the story of Adam’s thesis, which I first heard from Calvin Normore, who took over Adam’s office at Princeton in the late 1970s. Calvin found in his filing cabinet a now-empty file folder labelled “Adam’s Thesis.” “Adam’s Thesis” turned out to be Adam’s thesis. Adam’s thesis was called “Adam’s Thesis” because it was about the imposition of names (“θέσις” in Greek, as in Plato’s Cratylus)–like Adam’s giving names to the beasts. Adam officially submitted the thesis under that title–you can find it in the Princeton catalogue. Apologies to Calvin and to Susanna if I’m getting any details wrong. Report

Rob Wilson
8 months ago

Adam was the most interesting and delightful of my colleagues in philosophy at the University of Alberta in my 17 years there, a place enlivened by his hiring there. He was an exceptional thinker and person. Adam somewhat reluctantly gave up unicycling while at Alberta and I enjoyed catching up with him in Vancouver after he settled in BC on the philosophers’ island. My condolences to Susanna.
Report

Paul Benacerraf
Paul Benacerraf
8 months ago

Thank you for posting these remembrances of Adam, whom I still hold very dear.

PaulReport

Sean Hermanson
Sean Hermanson
8 months ago

Being newly arrived in Norman, I reconnoitered the philosophy dept. on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Though expecting empty hallways, I came across a man riding a unicycle. We hit it off and I still recall his fondness for hiking, “Plum” the pickup truck, the oboe, and spartan furnishings. Report

Stephen Morton
Stephen Morton
8 months ago

Thank you for the kind words about Adam, my father. I gather he was a fine and respected philosopher; though I’m afraid I read very little of his philosophical work, he was just my dad.

A few of your names are familiar to me. Paul Benacerraf, I certainly remember your name from my childhood.

Thanks again,
Stephen
Report