Queensland

Vale Professor Geoffrey Brennan

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Professor Geoffrey Brennan.
Professor Rae Frances, Dean and Professor of History, College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University wrote the following tribute.

Geoffrey Brennan was an outstanding scholar, who did ground-breaking work in economics and philosophy and at their intersection and played a major role in the development of PPE as a global interdisciplinary research program. Originally trained as an economist, his early work was focused on issues of public finance. From 1976-1983 he was Professor in the Public Choice Center at Virginia Tech, where he worked extensively with (1987) Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, co-authoring two important books (The Power to Tax (CUP 1980) and The Reason of Rules (CUP 1985)), and a dozen articles. He returned to the ANU in 1984 where he began to engage and collaborate increasingly with philosophers. In his work on democratic theory with Loren Lomasky, Democracy and Decision (CUP 1993), voters were depicted as motivated by "expressive" concerns rather than rent-seeking ones and, in his book with Philip Pettit The Economy of Esteem (OUP 2004), as seeking the good opinion of others rather than their purses. That strand of his work continued in Explaining Norms (OUP 2013), with Lina Eriksson, Bob Goodin and Nic Southwood, which formed the basis for the account of social norms in the World Bank's 2015 World Development Report. Both books underway at the time of his death, and which will be completed by collaborators Hartmut Kliemt and Geoff Sayre-McCord, are at the intersection of philosophy and economics. In addition to all the books already mentioned, Geoff was also a prolific contributor to journals across the three PPE disciplines:  the American Economic Review, the Economic JournalEconometricaOxford Economic PapersPublic Finance and Public Choice in economics; the British Journal of Political Science and Politics, Philosophy and Economics in politics; and EthicsThe Monist the Journal of Political Philosophy, the Journal of Applied Philosophy and Social Philosophy and Policy in philosophy.

Geoff received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career. He was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences in 1987; and received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of St Gallen in Switzerland in 2002. He received the 2013 Annual Distinguished Fellow Award from the Australian Economics Society and the 2014 annual Hayek medal awarded by the German Hayek Society. In 2016, he gave the Brian Barry Memorial Lecture (the LSE's premier lecture in political science). He was President of the international Public Choice Society (the only non-American to hold that office); and has been an editor of several journals including Economics and Philosophy and the Australian Economic Record.

Geoff described himself as very much an ANU product. He did his undergraduate and graduate degrees here; and was a member of ANU academic staff for over forty years (from 1968 until 1978 and again from 1984 until his retirement in 2016), serving as RSSS Director from 1991-6.

Geoff will be remembered by his numerous friends and colleagues at ANU and indeed throughout the world, not only for his outstanding scholarly contributions, but also as an inspiring and joyful collaborator and interlocutor, and as an extraordinarily warm, generous, outgoing, and kind person.


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