John Hospers

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John Hospers
John Hospers.jpg
John Hospers (1972, age 54)
Personal details
Born (1918-06-09)June 9, 1918
Pella, Iowa, U.S.
Died June 12, 2011(2011-06-12) (aged 93)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Libertarian
Alma mater Central College, Iowa
University of Iowa
Columbia University

John Hospers (June 9, 1918 – June 12, 2011)[1] was an American philosopher and politician. In 1972 he became the first presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, and was the only minor party candidate to receive an electoral vote in that year's U.S. Presidential election.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Hospers was born on June 9, 1918 in Pella, Iowa, the son of Dena Helena (Verhey) and John De Gelder Hospers.[3] Hospers graduated from Central College. Hospers earned advanced degrees from the University of Iowa and Columbia University. He conducted research, wrote, and taught in areas of philosophy, including aesthetics and ethics. He taught philosophy at Brooklyn College and at the University of Southern California, where for many years he was chairman of the philosophy department and professor emeritus.[4]

In 2002, an hour-long video about Hospers' life, work, and philosophy was released by the Liberty Fund of Indianapolis, as part of its Classics of Liberty series.[5]


Hospers' books include:[6]

  • Meaning and Truth in the Arts (1946)
  • Introductory Readings in Aesthetics (1969)
  • Artistic Expression (1971)
  • Libertarianism – A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow (1971)
  • Understanding the Arts (1982)
  • Law and the Market (1985)
  • Human Conduct (now in its 3rd edition, 1995)
  • An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (now in the 4th edition, 1996)

Hospers was editor of three anthologies, and contributed to books edited by others. He wrote more than 100 articles in various scholarly and popular journals.[7]

Hospers was editor of The Personalist (1968–1982) and The Monist (1982–1992),[6] and was a senior editor at Liberty magazine.[8]

Friendship with Ayn Rand[edit]

During the period he taught philosophy at Brooklyn College, Hospers was very interested in Objectivism. He appeared on radio shows with Ayn Rand, and devoted considerable attention to her ideas in his ethics textbook Human Conduct.[9]

According to Rand's biographer, Barbara Branden, Hospers met Rand when she addressed the student body at Brooklyn College. They became friends, and had lengthy philosophical conversations. Rand's discussions with Hospers contributed to her decision to write nonfiction. Hospers read Atlas Shrugged (1957), which he considered an aesthetic triumph.[10] Although Hospers became convinced of the validity of Rand's moral and political views, he disagreed with her about issues of epistemology, the subject of their extensive correspondence.[11] Rand broke with Hospers after he criticized her talk on "Art and Sense of Life", before the American Society of Aesthetics at Harvard.[12]

1972 presidential candidacy[edit]

In the 1972 U.S. Presidential election, Hospers and Tonie Nathan were the first presidential and vice-presidential nominees, respectively, of the newly formed Libertarian Party.[6] The Libertarian Party was poorly organized, and Hospers and Nathan managed to get on the ballot in only two states[13] (Washington and Colorado), receiving 3,674 popular votes.[14]

Hospers and Nathan received one electoral vote from faithless elector Roger MacBride, a Republican from Virginia, resulting in Nathan becoming the first woman to receive an electoral vote in a United States presidential election.[13][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Hospers, first Libertarian presidential nominee, dies at 93". Libertarian Party (press release). June 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  2. ^ Walker, Jesse (June 13, 2011). "John Hospers, RIP". Reason Online. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Who Is John Hospers? First Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate (1972)",
  5. ^ John Hospers: The Intellectual Portrait Series, Liberty Fund.
  6. ^ a b c Boaz, David (2008). "Hospers, John (1918– )". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. 
  7. ^ White, James E. (2005). Contemporary Moral Problems. Cengage Learning. p. 321. ISBN 9780534584306. 
  8. ^ Cox, Stephen (June 17, 2011). "John Hospers, R.I.P.". Liberty. Retrieved July 31, 2012. 
  9. ^ Rand, Ayn (1995). Berliner, Michael S., ed. Letters of Ayn Rand. Dutton. pp. 502–564. ISBN 0-525-93946-6. 
  10. ^ Hospers, John. Atlas Shrugged: A Twentieth Anniversary Tribute, Libertarian Review, Vol. VI, No. 6, October 1977.
  11. ^ Branden, Barbara (1986). The Passion of Ayn Rand. Doubleday & Company. pp. 323–324, 413. ISBN 0-385-19171-5. 
  12. ^ Branden, Barbara, The Passion of Ayn Rand. ibid. p. 324.
  13. ^ a b Dionne, E. J. Why Americans Hate Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-671-68255-2
  14. ^ "1972 Presidential General Election Results", Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.
  15. ^ Doherty, Brian (2008). Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. PublicAffairs. pp. 392–393. ISBN 9781586485726. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
First Libertarian nominee for President of the United States
Succeeded by
Roger MacBride