Brian O'Shaughnessy (philosopher)

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Brian Joseph O'Shaughnessy
Born 10 September 1925
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Died 7 July 2010(2010-07-07) (aged 84)
Occupation Philosopher, writer
The grave of Brian O'Shaughnessy, Highgate Cemetery

Brian Joseph O'Shaughnessy (10 September 1925 – 7 July 2010)[1] was an Australian philosopher of mind, who lived in London and taught at King's College London.

He published influential papers on the nature of physical action and the will, at a time when this was quite unfashionable. In The Will, there are three main themes:[2]

1. All physical action involves striving, or trying. E.g. when you lift your finger effortlessly, the movement is produced by trying to move your finger, and the physical action of moving your finger is a mixture of that trying, along with the physical movement which manifests its successful outcome.

2. Action is a primitive aspect of the mind, and need not to be analyzed in terms of desire and belief, or intention.

3. "The mind looks to be irremediably infected with the body - a reflection of his dual aspect theory of the will.


He was born in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne in Australia, where his father was a doctor.[2]

He studied at Xavier College and then attended Melbourne University, firstly studying engineering before changing to philosophy. He graduated in 1950 and then went to England to continue his studies at Oxford University.[3]

He is buried in Highgate Cemetery in north London in the first section on the left immediately upon entering the Eastern Cemetery.

Major works[edit]


  1. ^ Obituary,; 14 July 2010; accessed 16 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Brian O'Shaughnessy". King's College London. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  4. ^