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Dewi Zephaniah Phillips

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Dewi Zephaniah Phillips
Dewi Phillips late in life
Born24 November 1934[2]
Died25 July 2006(2006-07-25) (aged 71)
Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales
Alma materSwansea University
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of religion, ethics, philosophy of literature
Notable ideas
A new role for the philosophy of religion: not in uniting theology and philosophy, but in recognising and analysing their different functions[1]

Dewi Zephaniah Phillips (24 November 1934 – 25 July 2006), known as D. Z. Phillips or simply DZ, was a Welsh philosopher. He was a leading proponent of the Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion. He had an academic career spanning five decades, and at the time of his death he held the Danforth Chair in Philosophy of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, California, and was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Swansea University.


Dewi Zephaniah Phillips was born in Morriston, South Wales, on 24 November 1934. He was the youngest son of David and Alice Phillips, and one of three brothers. He attended the Bishop Gore School, Swansea, and studied at Swansea University (1952–58) and the University of Oxford (St Catherine's Society) (1958–61).

From 1959 until 1961 he was Minister of Fabian's Bay Congregational Church, Swansea. In 1959 he married Margaret Monica Hanford. They had three sons.

Phillips began his academic career at Queen's College, Dundee, in 1961, before joining the University College of North Wales, Bangor, in 1963.

In 1965 he returned to Swansea University, to take up a lectureship in the Department of Philosophy. Promoted to a senior lectureship in 1967, he became professor and head of department in 1971. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts (1982–1985) and Vice-Principal (1989–1992).

In 1993 he was appointed Danforth Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont Graduate University in California, and thereafter divided his time between Claremont and Swansea where, in 1996, he became the Rush Rhees Professor Emeritus and Director of the Rush Rhees Archives and Peter Winch Archives based in Swansea University. He held both positions until his death in 2006.

Phillips gave many endowed lectures during his tenure at California's Claremont Graduate University. These included the Cardinal Mercier Lectures (Leuven), Marett Lecture (Oxford), Riddell Lectures (Newcastle), McMartin Lectures (Carleton University, in Ottawa), Hintz Lecture (Tucson), the Aquinas Lecture (Oxford), and Vonhoff Lectures (Groningen).

His teachers at Swansea – J. R. Jones, R. F. Holland, Peter Winch, and, most importantly, Rush Rhees inspired a devotion to philosophy. His research interests included the philosophy of religion, ethics, philosophy and literature, Simone Weil, Søren Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He contributed much to Swansea University's reputation as a centre of Wittgenstein's philosophy. Phillips's distinctive contribution to philosophy, and a handful of other philosophers associated with Swansea, is recognised among professional philosophers as "the Swansea school" of philosophy.

The Swansea school of thought is, perhaps, most thoroughly articulated as a positive research program in Phillips' own book on the subject, "Philosophy's Cool Place" (1999), in which he argues for the merits of "contemplative philosophy." On this view, philosophy is an activity involving both inquiries about reality and elucidations of the various contexts in which people live and speak. In contrast to the New Wittgenstein school of thought, philosophy is not limited to purely "therapeutic" treatments and the removing of philosophical confusion. Here, Phillips is primarily indebted to the work of Rush Rhees. For Phillips, what gives philosophy its unique disciplinary feature is its primary concern with the question of the nature of reality: "How can philosophy give an account of reality which shows that it is necessary to go beyond simply noting differences between various modes of discourse, without invoking a common measure of 'the real' or assuming that all modes of discourse have a common subject, namely, Reality?"[3][better source needed]

Outside philosophy and academia, his commitment to the language and culture of Wales was clear. He was instrumental in the founding of the Taliesin Arts Centre on the university campus in Swansea, and promoted the use of the Welsh language in local schools. He was honoured by membership of the Gorsedd Circle of the National Eisteddfod.

Phillips died of a heart attack in Swansea University Library, on 25 July 2006. He was 71.

Published works[edit]

D. Z. Phillips was perhaps best known for his publications in the philosophy of religion, but he has also published articles in ethics, philosophy and literature, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Welsh language publications in Welsh literature. He was editor of the journal Philosophical Investigations (Blackwells) and the Swansea Series in Philosophy (Palgrave), as well as the Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion and Wittgensteinian Studies series. Selected publications:

  • Athronyddu Am Grefydd (Philosophising About Religion)
  • Belief, Change and Forms of Life
  • Concept of Prayer, The
  • Death and Immortality
  • Dramâu Gwenlyn Parry
  • Faith after Foundationalism
  • Faith and Philosophical Enquiry
  • From Fantasy to Faith
  • Ffiniau (Y Lolfa)
  • Interventions in Ethics, London: Blackwell, 1992
  • Introducing Philosophy: The Challenge of Scepticism
  • Kant and Kierkegaard on Religion (co-edited with Timothy Tessin)
  • Moral Practices (with H O Mounce)
  • Philosophy's Cool Place
  • Problem of Evil and the Problem of God (2005)
  • Recovering Religious Concepts
  • Religion and Friendly Fire
  • Religion and Hume's Legacy (co-edited with Timothy Tessin)
  • Religion and the Hermeneutics of Contemplation
  • Religion without Explanation
  • R.S. Thomas: Poet of the Hidden God
  • Sense and Delusion (with Ilham Dilman)
  • Through a Darkening Glass, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982
  • Wittgenstein and Religion
  • Wittgensteinian Fideism? (Co-written with Kai Nielsen)


  1. ^ Philosophy of Religion (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. ^ "Professor D.Z. Phillips". Independent.co.uk. 8 August 2006.
  3. ^ DZ Phillips, Philosophy's Cool Place (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 11.

External links[edit]