REASON Profile: John Hospers


If Dr. John Hospers had not believed that only through the political process could enough attention be gained (via the media) to make millions of Americans aware of the existence of libertarianism as a political (or antipolitical) movement, he would not have consented to become the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1972 (nor accepted the draft as the California LP gubernatorial candidate in 1974), since he insists that he is a writer and educator more than a politician. Basically he is an activist who is at home in both theory and practice, balancing his position as chairman of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California with an intensive schedule of speaking engagements on behalf of libertarianism that take him from Alaska to the Bahamas (and most points in between).

Born in Pella, Iowa in 1918 Hospers received his B.A. from Central College and his M.A. from the State University of Iowa (both in English) and his Ph.D. (in philosophy) from Columbia University. Before coming to U.S.C. he taught at Columbia, University of Minnesota, and C.U.N.Y. He is presently editor of the philosophical journal THE PERSONALIST (and advisory editor of the JOURNAL OF AESTHETICS AND ART CRITICISM and PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES), the author of about 50 periodical articles and reviews, as well as the author of several books, including LIBERTARIANISM (1971), HUMAN CONDUCT (1961), INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS (1967) and PRINCIPLES OF LIBERTY (in progress).

Dr. Hospers enjoys reading poets such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tennyson and Coleridge; and among novelists lists Ayn Rand, Henry Fielding, George Eliot, Marcel Proust and Stefan Zweig as some of his favorites. His tastes in music range from Bach and Handel to moderns such as Mahler, Prokofieff, and Sibelius; and he enjoys the art of Cezanne, Seurat and Gaugin. Dr. Hospers' hobbies include traveling, boating, and swimming (he's also a gourmet cook) and, most of all, reading and writing.

Spending his childhood in a free-enterprise Dutch colony in Iowa (English is his second language!), Dr. Hospers had his libertarian tendencies strengthened by personal acquaintance with Ayn Rand and he shares with her the conviction that in the long run the education system offers the best means to achieve a libertarian society—"but this seems at the moment the worst fountainhead for libertarians—business, medicine, the trades and professions, including agriculture, on the whole understand and take to libertarianism much better."