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David Braybrooke, 1924-2013

Distinguished political theorist passes away

Posted: August 9, 2013

David BraybrookeThe Department of Government is saddened to report the passing of professor emeritus David Braybrooke at the age of 88.

Braybrooke was born Oct. 18, 1924. He interrupted his undergraduate studies at Hobart College to volunteer for the U.S. Army in 1943, and he served for more than three years before returning to complete his bachelor’s degree. Braybrooke then studied economics at Harvard, returned to Hobart to teach in their Western civilization program, and then went to Cornell University to earn his doctorate in philosophy, where he wrote a dissertation on welfare and happiness; his first journal article, “Farewell to the New Welfare Economics,” was published in June 1955 in Review of Economic Studies.

Braybrooke began his career as an instructor at the University of Michigan, but soon moved to Bowdoin College, and then progressed to Yale, where he taught in an interdisciplinary economics and politics honors program and began collaborating with Charles Lindblom. Denied tenure at Yale while simultaneously winning a Guggenheim Fellowship, Braybrooke, in 1963, moved to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he stayed through 1989. In 1990 he accepted the Centennial Commission Chair in Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and joined the Department of Government (and Philosophy). He had stints as president of the Canadian Philosophical Association and vice president of the American Political Science Association, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Braybrooke was a political philosopher in the analytic tradition, and, as Susan Sherwin wrote in the introduction to Engaged Philosophy: Essays in Honour of David Braybrooke,* his “aim is to help guide policy debates by allowing participants to determine appropriate rules for attending to the needs of citizens of nations and of the world in a fair and achievable way." His concern for this theme is evident in his 1968 book, Three Tests for Democracy: Personal Rights, Human Welfare, Collective Preference (Random House), and culminated in the four books published by the University of Toronto Press since 1998: Moral Objectives, Rules, and the Forms of Social Change; Natural Law Modernized; Utilitarianism: Restorations, Repairs, Renovations; and Analytical Political Philosophy: From Discourse, Edification.

*The biographical information here is drawn from this chapter. Engaged Philosophy ... Susan Sherwin and Peter Schotch, eds. University of Toronoty Press (2007). The photo, by Cara Schotch, is also taken from this book.

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