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John Hospers

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John Hospers
Hospers in 1998
Born(1918-06-09)June 9, 1918
DiedJune 12, 2011(2011-06-12) (aged 93)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party
Academic background
Alma materCentral College, Iowa
University of Iowa (MA)
Columbia University (PhD)
Academic work
Era20th-century philosophy
Main interests

John Hospers (June 9, 1918 – June 12, 2011) was an American philosopher and political activist. Hospers was interested in Objectivism, and was once a friend of the philosopher Ayn Rand, though she later broke with him. In 1972, Hospers 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.[1]


John Hospers was born on June 9, 1918, in Pella, Iowa, the son of Dena Helena (Verhey) and John De Gelder Hospers. He graduated from Central College in 1939 before earning an MA in English from the University of Iowa in 1942 and a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in 1946. He conducted research, wrote, and taught in areas of philosophy, including aesthetics and ethics. He taught philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Brooklyn College, California State College Los Angeles (1966–1968) and at the University of Southern California, where for many years he was chairman of the philosophy department and professor emeritus.[2]

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.[3][4]

Multiple sources, including the Libertarian Party, have referred to Hospers as the first openly gay person to run for president of the United States.[1][5][6] However, The Guardian’s obituary stated that his family “strenuously denied” he was gay.[7]

Hospers died in Los Angeles on June 12, 2011, at the age of 93.[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 non-fiction. 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] Hospers also disagreed with Rand about free will (with him favoring determinism, while she advocated a libertarian view) and conscription (Hospers supported it, Rand was opposed).[12] Rand broke with Hospers after he, in his position as moderator, critiqued her address, and she felt he had criticized her talk on "Art and Sense of Life" before the American Society of Aesthetics at Harvard.[13]

1972 presidential candidacy[edit]

Hospers campaigning in 1972

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.[14] The Libertarian Party was poorly organized, and Hospers and Nathan managed to get on the ballot in only two states[15] (Washington and Colorado), receiving 3,674 popular votes.[16]

Hospers and Nathan received one electoral vote from faithless elector Roger MacBride, a Republican from Virginia, resulting in Nathan's becoming the first woman and the first Jew to receive an electoral vote in a United States presidential election.[15][17][18]

Later views[edit]

By 1991, Hospers had left the Libertarians for the Republican Party, where he helped establish the Republican Liberty Caucus.[7] He adopted more conventionally conservative views in his later writings: in 1998, he wrote an article rejecting open border immigration, and in a 2007 revision of his book Libertarianism, he said he supported the Iraq War.[7]


Hospers' books include:[14]

  • 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.[19]

Hospers was editor of The Personalist (1968–1982) and The Monist (1982–1992),[14] and was a senior editor at Liberty magazine.[20] Additionally Hospers wrote the article "Art and Morality" for the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics (JCLA), Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer 1978.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Walker, Jesse (June 13, 2011). "John Hospers, RIP". Reason Online. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  2. ^ "Who Is John Hospers? First Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate (1972)" Archived April 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, www.Johnhospers.com.
  3. ^ John Hospers: The Intellectual Portrait Series Archived March 14, 2005, at the Wayback Machine, Liberty Fund.
  4. ^ "The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with John Hospers | Online Library of Liberty". oll.libertyfund.org. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  5. ^ Riley, John (November 23, 2018). "In final tally, Libertarian gay couple outperforms top Republican in D.C. elections". Metro Weekly. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  6. ^ "Gay Libertarian couple outpolls GOP in DC". Libertarian Party. November 11, 2018. The first openly gay presidential nominee of any U.S political party was John Hospers
  7. ^ a b c O'Grady, Jane (July 13, 2011). "John Hospers obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  8. ^ "John Hospers, first Libertarian presidential nominee, dies at 93". Libertarian Party (press release). June 13, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  9. ^ Rand, Ayn (1995). Berliner, Michael S. (ed.). Letters of Ayn Rand. Dutton. pp. 502–564. ISBN 0525939466.
  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 0385191715.
  12. ^ O'Grady, Jane (July 13, 2011). "John Hospers obituary". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Branden, Barbara, The Passion of Ayn Rand. ibid. p. 324.
  14. ^ a b c Boaz, David (2008). "Hospers, John (1918– )". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; Cato Institute. pp. 228–229. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n139. ISBN 978-1412965804. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024.
  15. ^ a b Dionne, E. J. Why Americans Hate Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. p. 269. ISBN 978-0671682552
  16. ^ "1972 Presidential General Election Results", Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.
  17. ^ "RIP Tonie Nathan, the First Woman to Receive an Electoral Vote". March 21, 2014.
  18. ^ Doherty, Brian (2008). Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. PublicAffairs. pp. 392–393. ISBN 978-1586485726.
  19. ^ White, James E. (2005). Contemporary Moral Problems. Cengage Learning. p. 321. ISBN 978-0534584306.
  20. ^ Cox, Stephen (June 17, 2011). "John Hospers, R.I.P." Liberty. Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2012.

External links[edit]

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