C.O. Evans, 1934 - 2000

Dr. Evans was a distinguished philosopher of mind and an early pioneer in the field of consciousness studies. He also happened to be an exceptionally talented teacher. A genuine and compassionate man, his professional competencies and personal qualities were widely admired by students and colleagues alike.

Although his contribution to philosophy was original and profound, Cedric did not use the classroom to promote himself or his work. Making the progress of his students his sole objective in teaching, he always sought only to help them learn how to articulate their deepest insights and engage creatively in productive philosophical dialogue. As one student put it, in sheer amazement at his extraordinary skill as a facilitator, "You expressed exactly what I MEANT to say, not what I ACTUALLY said!".

When pressed for a biography to be used at this site Dr. Evans provided the following short essay. He described himself in a low-keyed manner with characteristic charm, grace, and humility. Also present, however, is a sharp intellect that is equally characteristic. His life's work, which can only be described as ahead of its time, continues indeed to pose a serious philosophical challenge to those who are today at the cutting edge of consciousness research.

Before I went to college, I discovered philosophy when I read a critique of F.H. Bradley by Bertrand Russell. It awakened in me a whole new world of the possibilities of thinking. At my first University, the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg South Africa, I was fortunate to have two great teachers. Professor E.E. Harris was an idealist philosopher, and Mr. F.S. McNeilly was a linguistic philosopher. I learned the thrill of philosophical discovery from Harris, and the beauty of argument from McNeilly. When I continued my philosophical education at Merton College Oxford, my tutor was the Senior Tutor of Merton College, Mr W. H. Walsh. Mr Walsh rose to the position of Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. At Oxford I heard the lectures of Sir Isaiah Berlin, Sir Peter Strawson, J.L. Austin, R.M. Hare, Jeoffrey Warnock, and George Kennan. I met Gilbert Ryle who was then at the height of his fame. His book The Concept of Mind 1 was the single greatest challenge to my philosophical propensities. The philosophy examiners for my oral examination for the degree of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics were J.L Austin, and Martha Kneale the logician. My supervisor for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Edinburgh was Dr. Frederick Broadie. My external examiner was Professor H. H. Price. The philosopher who accepted my book The Subject of Consciousness 2 for publication in the Muirhead Library of Philosophy was Professor H.D. Lewis.

As a teacher of philosophy I have been equally blessed by a number of great students. These include James Moulder, Ian Bunting, Ian McDonald, Rinty Van Straaten, David Tucker, John Fudjack, John Schumacher, Mike Zenzen and Stephen Pike. I have a great affection for many students not on this list.

I have taught philosophy at universities in South Africa, Scotland, the United States and Australia.

Just as Hume awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, so did Kant awake me from my transcendental slumbers. I was determined to do justice to self-experience. It seemed to me to be all too often true that under the treatment of philosophers the self became the absentee-landlord in the house of consciousness. I set about putting that right. All my subsequent work has been aimed at consolidating the advance made to the philosophy of consciousness in my published work.

When I published my book on consciousness not a single reference to consciousness could be found in the indexes of any leading work in the philosophy of mind. That was thirty years ago. Now it is probably the most frequently found word in the philosophical lexicon. And yet "consciousness" still remains a woolly concept in the hands of modern practitioners. I am convinced that a view in which attention gives structure to consciousness can dispel that woolliness and put us on a sure path for the integrative work of which consciousness is capable.

C. O. Evans, 8/23/99

Cedric passed away in June of 2000, only a few short months after our work together on this site was completed. Additional materials will be posted here at some point in the future, in accordance with his wishes. But the site itself - which in content, design, and overall feeling tone bears the distinctive stamp of his character and concerns - will remain, for the most part, as it came to be under his gentle guidance.

So much could be said, and indeed has been said, in praise of this remarkable man. Although not repeating these things here will leave me feeling rather unsatisfied and empty, Cedric did not want a fuss to be made over him. Perhaps this actually leaves matters as they should be. For it was his work that was afterall most precious to him,

C.O. Evans
and it speaks for itself. In addition, from the manner in which a portion of that work has been organized and presented at this site, discerning visitors will not fail to pick up on the simple, unaffected dignity and integrity with which he seriously but joyfully approached it, and the irrepressible enthusiasm that he had for creative thought and open, inter-disciplinary dialogue and debate. His sly sense of humor - which had a delightful way of sneaking up on one from behind - might nevertheless easily escape notice. And the disarming smile, which was always there, now remains in memory only, and in some very charming photos.

John Fudjack, 8/4/2001


Notes and references

1. The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle (Chicago, 1984).
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2. The Subject of Consciousness, C.O. Evans (London, 1970).
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