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Andrew Belsey


Andrew Belsey, Lecturer in Philosophy 1973–2007, has died in Canterbury. He was born in Hilton, Cambs. After growing up in Kent, he completed a degree in sociology at Rutherford College, Newcastle, and then took another first degree in philosophy at the University of Warwick in 1967–9, this time in two years. He went on to pursue research at Cambridge University before taking up his first post in the then University College Cardiff in 1973.

Of his classes, he said, ‘There was something special about philosophy students, in that they never drifted into the subject but always came with a genuine interest and commitment. And some of them were so highly gifted that I was able to realise my own limitations.’

He also praised his Cardiff philosophy colleagues for their exceptional cooperation and goodwill, and wrote two fair-minded encyclopedia entries about one of them. We found him an impressively knowledgeable, obliging, efficient and dependable colleague. He chaired the Board of Studies in the period 1994-6, a period during which Philosophy was rated as ‘Excellent’ in the Teaching Quality Assessment. However, he refused on principle to apply for promotion.

His loyalty to Cardiff was continuous but not unconditional, where the governing regime of University College Cardiff was concerned. As a member of the Senate in the 1970s and 80s, Andrew helped to bring into being, at least for a time, a fairer, more democratic university, playing a large part in the Cardiff Branch of the Association of University Teachers and in the Non-Professorial Staff. Yet one of his most powerful weapons against oppression was witty and unerring parody of bureaucratic pomposity.

His special concerns were the history and philosophy of science and, later, social ethics. In the early days in Cardiff, his teaching duties included philosophy for scientists. The first article he published was on ‘The Moral Responsibility of the Scientist’ in Philosophy, 1978, and this was followed two years later by a spirited critique in the same journal of what he and others regarded as the misogyny of J. R. Lucas.

Later he published, among other papers, ‘Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy, Or, How to Be a Good Philosopher’ (in Ratio, 1991), and for several years edited the newsletter of the Society for Applied Philosophy. With Ruth Chadwick, he published Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media (Routledge, 1992) and with Robin Attfield, Philosophy and the Natural Environment (Cambridge University Press, 1994). He also participated in the team teaching the new MA in Social Ethics from 1988 to 1994, some of whose students went on to attain doctorates and/or lectureships, and one a bishopric.

His wider interests included visual representation. With Catherine Belsey he published an essay on portraits of Elizabeth I and another on Christina Rossetti’s relationship to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Andrew retired in 2007, and one year later he was awarded an MA with Distinction in Typography by Reading University.

His output also included a number of short volumes of epigrammatic verse, and several sonnets. His poetry appeared in many print and electronic journals.

Following his retirement, Andrew retired to Kent, a county he had always regarded as home. He died of cancer on 7 April 2019.

Professor Robin Attfield, after consultation with Catherine Belsey.