The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 14.1 (2000) 82-84
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Henry Webb Johnstone Jr.
22 February 1920-18 February 2000
Henry W. Johnstone Jr. died on 18 February 2000, just before his eightieth birthday, after a difficult and courageous struggle with Parkinson's disease. He died as he had lived--writing, editing, reading his journals, and awaiting, as he had in each of the past fifty years, the proofs of his last article. And he did this although he could no longer stand or even swallow without the assistance of his loving wife, Margery.
Henry attended the Hill School; in 1942 he earned a B.S. in Philosophy from Haverford College; after military service he earned first an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1947 and 1950, respectively. Unlike many of his generation, he was solidly trained in the central issues of analytic philosophy and would make use of that training all his life; his dissertation, written under Henry Aiken, was A Grammar of the Sense-Datum Language. Subsequently he would study classics at Bryn Mawr College, earning an M.A. in 1979. He taught first at Williams College (1948-52) and then at The Pennsylvania State University where he taught well past his "retirement" in 1984. He was also a Fellow at the Free University of Brussels and a visiting professor at Trinity College in Dublin, the University of Bonn, and the American University of Beirut.
Henry's life was in many ways one of care and service. He served his country, he served his profession, he served his department and university, he served his students, and, above all, he served his muse. He served his country during World War II as a captain in the Pacific. He served his profession as cofounder of two significant journals. He was (with Carroll Arnold) cofounder and, for twenty-two years and two shifts, editor of Philosophy and Rhetoric. The journal, which owes its beginnings to Henry's concerns about the philosophical basis of rhetoric, succeeded in bringing two communities, insulated from each other since Aristotle, into a dialogue. And as a cofounder (with Carl R. Hausman and Carl G. Vaught) of the new series of The Journal of Speculative [End Page 82] Philosophy, he played an important role in providing not only a forum for the discussion of traditional American philosophy, but also, and for him this was most important, a place to continue its development. He served his department in most administrative ways but above all as a constant voice of moderation. He served the University: I note only a department record that indicates that in 1970 he resigned from the positions of Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies and of Assistant to the Vice President of Research in order to devote full time to teaching and research. And he served students. Henry's "full time" turned out to be a very generous measure. For the last twenty-five years it included time to organize and participate in a local "Aristotelian Society," which met regularly to translate Greek texts. A generation of students who passed through Penn State have benefited from their participation in these meetings.
Henry wrote some eight books and more than 160 articles. Much of this work was moved by an extraordinarily productive dialogue between Henry and himself. Henry was above all a listener. He gave careful and kindly attention to the positions and circumstances of others. He also listened to himself; and in his own case, attention was equally careful and sometimes extremely critical. First Philosophy and Argument, published in 1959, whose thesis that philosophical arguments are ad hominem arguments of a sort grew out of reflections on his own defense of the empiricism he had adopted at Harvard. It has of course been a central work in discussions of philosophical argument since its appearance. Reflections on its last chapter, which Henry himself would say "oracularly maintained that the self is the pivot of philosophical argumentation" (Validity and Rhetoric in Philosophical Argument--An...