Graham Priest: A True Leader

Arvo MM
Thursday 21 June 2018

President, Australasian Association for Logic; Chair of the Council, Australasian Association of Philosophy; Elected Life Member, Clare Hall, Cambridge… With more than 240 papers published and 6 books, the list of his achievements never seems to end. The distinguished Professor Graham Priest has had an impressive academic career, to say the least, but what differentiates him from most people is far from an impressive award, it is the example he sets, it is his natural and wise leadership that really makes him stand out and, ultimately, the reason why you are now reading a post on what he represents.

Graham Priest [2]
Graham priest is exactly the kind of person that defies the stereotype, held both outside and inside of academia, that a great academic cannot be a well-rounded person, that a man that is capable of producing research at the very edge of knowledge does not have the time to be well read in many other fields; that he cannot understand the complexities and intricacies of art if he has spent too long thinking about mathematical sciences or that he cannot possibly have the time to exercise on a regular basis or practice tai-chi. This common belief comes from the apparent fact that the cost of being a renowned expert must have been that you only had time to specialise in that one thing and nothing more. It partly comes from a western idea that developing the body antagonises the goal of developing the mind. And it comes from the thought that if that you, by any chance, have the highest academic goals, then you must give up all those other hobbies and interests that you enjoy and take up a good part of your day because they are a waste of time.

I think this is exactly the wrong way to approach life and that Graham Priest is a valuable leader because he sets a path for many to follow that illustrates how to go about getting rid of this dangerous stereotype. Graham Priest is a leader that inspires me on many fronts, the academic is only one of them. He clearly has achieved academic excellence, which I think is admirable in itself. But the kind of excellence that he brings to the table is uncommon. He is an integral academic, one that is not afraid to cross boundaries between subjects like mathematics, philosophy, politics, psychology and after graduating from a maths degree at Cambridge he went on to spend almost the rest of his life exploring all the sorts of philosophy areas one could think of. He dares not vow to the traditional canon of overspecialisation; instead, he takes initiative and links ideas together in a creative way. People have only recently started to realise the importance of interdisciplinary richness and how an unexpected piece of knowledge in one area might spark a brilliant idea in some other.

Graham Priest and his caption saying:  “…and the Scottish water was bloody freezing” [3]

Priest challenges stereotypes, thinks outside the box, brings together fields that most people often categorise as completely separated and disjoint: mathematics and philosophy, eastern and western traditions, philosophy and martial arts… These are all examples of things he has combined as if they were not that different to begin with (they probably are not). Priest is a leader that shows originality and lives a congruent life, he has great influence through his work and yet he is never pretentious. His humbleness is one of his main virtues when we analyse why he is a great leader. Moreover, he leads a healthy life and remains approachable and friendly (which I know from my personal experience). As the pre-socratic philosopher Thales once said: “What man is happy? ‘He who has a healthy body, a resourceful mind and a docile nature’.”[1] I suggest the reader one must learn from Thales, remember to never be content with just a resourceful mind and aspire to all three.

My Laidlaw research has led me to work extensively with philosophy of mathematics, a field Graham Priest has led for several years. In particular, his two books In Contradiction and Non-Classical Introduction to Logic have been extremely useful in my research. He is someone I truly look up to but not just because of his intellectual achievements but because of who he is and how he lives his life. To me, that is exactly the kind of legacy that I look for in a good leader and not just an example of how to be good at one particular thing but an integral example of how to lead a superb life altogether.

I would like to thank Lord Laidlaw and everyone that took part in this joint effort to make this scholarship happen. Overall, I think I have made really good progress and I feel fortunate to be learning so much through my research project and the leadership workshops.

[1] As quoted by Diogenes Laërtius. Accessed from Perseus Digital Library:

[2] Graham Priest. Photo by Maureen Eckert. Accessed from

[3] Graham Priest by the North Sea in Scotland. Accessed from

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