Maurice William Cranston

(1920—1993) political philosopher

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Maurice Cranston was a Londoner, who was born in Tottenham on 8 May 1920 and who died at his home in Regent's Park on 5 November 1993. He was educated at the Tunbridge Wells Technical Institute which, as he himself reports, ‘was run in the 1930s by a fervent Germanophile … as a kind of Technische Hochschule’ (‘Postscriptum’, p. 252). He there acquired a competence in languages that was to stand him in good stead. He was able to go to the Jesuit Touraine Institute in France, where he began to develop the interest in French intellectual culture that was to become one of his traits. He had planned to go to King's College London, and to pursue a career in political journalism. But the war intervened and he found himself, as a conscientious objector, working in the Civil Defence. More influential was his volunteer work with refugees, where his knowledge of German proved invaluable. The friendships he then made with German refugees, one of whom presented him with a copy of Spinoza's Tractatus logico politicus, first introduced him to political philosophy. Towards the end of the war he enrolled in philosophy courses at Birkbeck College and, when it had ended, he went up to St Catherine's, Oxford, where he read PPE. At Oxford he was persuaded by Friedrich Waismann and T.D. Weldon that ‘linguistic analysis was a proper method for philosophy’ though he remained unpersuaded that it was ‘a method that would dissolve the traditional problems of metaphysics or traditional political philosophy’ (‘Postscriptum’, p. 252). After taking his BA in 1948, Cranston proceeded to a research degree at Oxford and completed a BLitt in 1951. His thesis formed the basis for his first book, on Freedom (1953).


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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