Passings: John David McFarland, a Founding Years friend and admired scholar

Professor Emeritus John David McFarland died on Oct. 17 in Toronto. He was born in Toronto on June 3, 1928. Early in his academic life, McFarland established himself as an outstanding thinker and academic. He graduated from Oakwood Collegiate and then from the University of Toronto in 1956, first in his class, first in his year and first in the university.

Next, he studied at the University of Chicago through a scholarship and from there he went to Magdalen College in Oxford in 1958, where he studied with Professor Gilbert Ryle, the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford and the most influential figure in British philosophy in the middle years of the 20th century. McFarland’s thesis adviser was Richard Walsh, professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. McFarland became friends with Ryle and Walsh and valued his relationship with them for the rest of his days.

Following the establishment of York University, McFarland was one of the first instructors hired and was a member of the Founding Years group of the fledgling university. Together with fellow academic Lionel Rubinoff, now professor emeritus of philosophy at Trent University, the pair formed the Philosophy Department at Glendon. McFarland loved the old mansion that became Glendon College and then eventually the Glendon Campus. (For more on the University founders, see this early article by Historian John Court (BA ’63), which was originally published in the York University Gazette (online) on March 24, 1999.)

In 1966 Magdalen College, University of Oxford, admitted McFarland to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his thesis “Kant’s Concept of Teleology.” McFarland served as a professor of philosophy at York University from 1964 to 1994. During that time, he also served for several years as Chair of the Department of Philosophy and in 1974-75 as Chair of the Senate of York University.

McFarland will be greatly missed by his close friend, Professor John Warkentin, a geographer and senior scholar at York University.

Friends, former colleagues and students of McFarland’s are invited to join his family and friends at Christie Gardens, 600 Melita Cres., Toronto, on Monday, Nov. 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. for a celebration of his life. All are welcome.