John Foster (philosopher)

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John Foster (5 May 1941 - ? 2009) was a British philosopher. He authored several books, among which The Case for Idealism and A World for Us: The Case for Phenomenalistic Idealism, which defend Berkelian subjective idealism.[1]

John Foster was tutorial Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford from 1966 to 2005 and has been Emeritus Fellow there until his death.[citation needed]


Foster was born in North London and grew up in Southgate. He studied at Mercers' School, but transferred to the City of London School to do A-levels after Mercers' was closed—he wrote a letter to The Times to protest the closing of the school. He started studying Classics at Lincoln College, Oxford but transferred to Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology ('PPP') after discovering a distaste for studying ancient history. Foster became friends with A.J. Ayer although was strongly critical of Ayer's philosophy; he later wrote a book on Ayer's work that Anthony Quinton described as "the only serious monograph about his philosophy".[2]

Foster was a devoted Christian and an outspoken pro-life campaigner. Foster met his wife-to-be Helen in 1963 and the two married in Royal Tunbridge Wells in 1967. He joined the Church of England; in 1989 both John and Helen converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.[2]

Prime Minister David Cameron was taught by Foster, and said of him and his idealist philosophy: "He was always trying to convince me that you couldn’t prove the existence of anything apart from the thoughts in your head. There are moments in this job when that would be a lovely reality to have."[3]


  • Foster, John (1982). The Case for Idealism. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. ISBN 0-7100-9019-6
  • Foster, John (2008). A World for Us: The Case for Phenomenalistic Idealism. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-929713-4.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Garrett, Brian Jonathan (2010). "John Foster, A World For Us: The Case for Phenomenalistic Idealism. Review". Philosophy in Review XXX (6): 397–399. 
  2. ^ a b Sinclair, Peter (2010). "John Foster Remembered". The Brazen Nose: 135–141. 
  3. ^ Beardsworth, Tom (20 September 2013). "Cameron visits Brasenose". Cherwell.