Sylvia and Michael Tooley in Bled, Slovenia,
                    May, 2007

Sylvia and Michael Tooley in Bled, Slovenia, May, 2007

Sylvia and Michael have two daughters - Sandra and Suzanne .

Sandra has a daughter - Sofia.

Suzanne has four sons - Anthony, Joshua, Donny, and Joey

Our Time in Australia

Sylvia and I met in Australia, where she was completing her Ph.D. on the Frankfurt school Authority, Social Character, and Personality.  In all, we spent over 15 years in Australia, for about nine of which I was a research fellow at the Australia National University, and for six of which I held the Chair in Philosophy at the University of Western Australia. Both of us found Australia very congenial. It is a more laid-back society than America, and we very much approved of the fact that it is a society where there is completely free, universal healthcare. I also found the Australia philosophical society both very congenial, and very stimulating. I had, however, resigned a tenured Chair at the University of Western Australia in 1988 for an untenured research position at the Australian National University, and as the end of that appointment approached, I had to find a position elsewhere, and we both are very pleased that I wound up at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1992.

While in Australia, we heard what I think is the most impressive “national pride” song I’ve ever heard – it should really be Australia’s national anthem, rather than the rather insipid “Advance Australia Fair.” It was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of 'The Seekers' and Dobe Newton of 'The Bushwackers' and set to music composed by Bruce Woodley. Here is a video by the Seekers, including the great Judith Durham, that I especially like:

Our Visit to Japan

One of the most enjoyable trips that Sylvia and I made was to Japan, in the spring of 1999. This visit was arranged by Professor Masaki Ichinose of the Philosophy Department of the University of Tokyo, who had applied for a fellowship from the Japan Society of the Promotion of Science to make possible my visit, and who ensured that our visit was most congenial one.

During that visit I gave three lectures to the Philosophy Department at the University of Tokyo, along with lectures to the Philosophy Departments at  Nihon University, Tokyo Metropolitan University, and Keio University, all on topics in the philosophy of time, plus a lecture on the moral status of cloning humans to the Japanese Society of Bioethics, at Kyoto University. I found the critical feedback in the discussions that followed those lectures very helpful, and I enjoyed the very congenial conversations with faculty, research associates, and graduate students about a wide variety of philosophical questions in the receptions that followed.

In addition to my interactions with Japanese philosophers, Sylvia and I explored Tokyo very extensively during our month-long visit, and found it to be a very impressive city indeed – quite different from any city we have ever visited. We also very much enjoyed our trip to Kyoto when I gave the bioethics talk. It would be nice at some point to return to Japan.

Lectures in Japan   

Michael Tooley
                    Lecturing at Tokyo University,1999

Michael Tooley in a Seminar at Tokyo University,1999


My favorite recreational activities are shooting pool, playing golf, downhill skiing, and playing chess and bridge.

Shooting Pool

1. My favorite books on pool are Willie Hoppe's Billiards as It Should Be Played, Phil Capelle's Play Your Best Pool, Ray Martin and Rosser
Reeves’ The 99 Critical Shots in Pool, and two books by Robert Byrne - Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, and Advanced Technique in Pool and Billiards. Byrne's books are especially interesting because he had a friend who was a physicist, and, as a result, one finds discussions of things that are not in any other books on pool, such as the "throw effect", which shows that the familiar "ghost ball" technique of aiming is not quite right.

2.  I have developed a method of aiming, which I quite like, that involves a mathematical calculation. However, although I’ve explained the method to many people, no one has yet said, “I must use that method!” But if you’re interested, here they are the details:

Rules for Aiming at Pool


There are many great instructional golf books, including ones by Jack Nicklaus and David Leadbetter, but the one that I recommend to people learning the game is Ben Hogan’s 1957 book Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.  What I especially like about Hogan’s book is that he thinks in terms of cause and effect, reflecting the fact that he did a great deal of experimenting with his golf swing, starting out as a left-handed golfer, then switching to using a right-handed swing, but with a cross-handed grip (!) before experimenting with both the interlocking grip and the standard Vardon grip.

It seems to me that the only real progress that has been made in the golf swing since Hogan’s time is that most professional golfers have a much greater slope in their upper bodies at address – often around 45 degrees – than what Hogan recommended, and if one thinks in terms of the physics, it’s clear that that greater slope will result in greater acceleration of one’s arms during the downswing.

One problem with instructional golf books is that the writers rarely think in terms of the physics of the golf swing. As regards that, there are three books that I think are especially useful, namely, The Search for the Perfect Swing, by Alastair Cochran and John Stobbs (1968), The Science of the Golf Swing, by David Williams, and The Physics of Golf, by Theodore Jorgensen. Of these, the last is the best, since Jorgensen was a professor of physics, and worked out equations for the golf swing that he used to draw important conclusions.



 I played chess a great deal as a teenager, and then didn’t play it again until I met some keen chess players when I was a research fellow at the Australian National University in the late ‘70s. At that time, I switched to a tactical style, playing aggressive openings such as the Max Lange Attack, and gambits frequently, including the King’s Gambit, the Evans’ Gambit, the Morra Gambit against the Sicilian Defense, and a gambit version of the Advance variation against the French Defense.

            Playing such highly aggressive openings requires, however, a very thorough knowledge of all of the responses, since otherwise one is likely to wind up down a pawn with no compensation.  Unfortunately, I’ve never had a great memory, and in the end I found playing chess was taking up too much time.



Sylvia and I haven’t played much bridge recently, as we like to play with friends, and there aren’t many bridge players in the Philosophy Department.

            For those of you who do play bridge, I think that you’ll enjoy following:


One of the questions that was asked in the PhilPapers Survey that was carried out in 2009 was this: God: theism or atheism? The result was that 72.8% chose the “Accept or lean toward atheism” answer, while 14.6% chose the “Accept or lean toward theism” answer. By a wide margin, then, most philosophers are not religious.

            Nevertheless, it seems to me that philosophers are strangely quiet with regard to religious views. True, if one takes an introductory course, it will often include a section on philosophy of religion, where students will typically be exposed to arguments for and against the existence of God.  But if philosophy of religion textbooks are any indicator, it is very rare that there is any focus on particular religions, such as Christianity, even though such religions often involve beliefs against which there is very strong scientific evidence, such as belief in a young earth, or in demonic possession, or very implausible moral beliefs, such as that both homosexuality and all sex prior to marriage, including masturbation, are morally wrong, or that one ought to worship a deity who has created a world where the majority of the human race will wind up spending eternity in hell. Why aren’t such beliefs subjected to critical examination?

            Happily, there are at least a few exceptions to this philosophical practice of giving a free pass to the religions of the world. David Lewis, for example, in a posthumously published paper, focused on the Christian belief in hell, and the final paragraph of his paper is as follows:

“Non-believers have been able to excuse their religious friends on the grounds that they are probably not clear-headed about the commitments of their worship. We can think of them as good people who have not seen the perpetrator’s dark side. In bringing the problem of divine evil to their attention, I am presenting them with a choice they have previously avoided. Ironically, I may be making it impossible for myself to admire many whom I have previously liked and respected.”

(“Divine Evil,” in Philosophers without God – Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, edited by Louise Antony, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.)


Some of my Favorite Anti-Religious Literary Pieces and Passages

 Shakespeare, Macbeth (V, 5):

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day 
To the last syllable of recorded time, 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! 
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more: it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing. 


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:     Prometheus

Decke deinen Himmel, Zeus                                 Cover your heavens, Jove,
Mit Wolkendunst                                                    with misty clouds
Und übe, dem Knaben gleich                                and practice, like a boy,
Der Disteln köpft,                                                    beheading thistles,
An Eichen dich und Bergeshöhn                          on oaks and mountain peaks!
Musst mir meine Erde                                            On earth you must leave me
Doch lassen stehn                                                    still standing,
Und meine Hütte, die du nicht gebaut,               and my cottage, which you did not build,
Und meinen Herd,                                                  and my hearth
Um dessen Glut                                                       whose warmth
Du mich beneidest.                                                 You envy me.

Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres                                       I know nothing poorer
Unter der Sonn als euch, Götter!                           Under the sun than you gods!
Ihr nähret kümmerlich                                           Wretchedly you nourish
Von Opfersteuren                                                    your majesty
Und Gebetshauch                                                    on sacrificial tolls
Eure Majestät                                                            and flimsy prayers,
Und darbtet, wären                                                 and would starve if children        
Nicht Kinder und Bettler                                        and beggars were not
Hoffungsvolle Toren.                                             hopeful fools.

Da ich ein Kind war,                                               When I was a child,
Nicht wusste, wo aus nach ein,                             not knowing my way,
Kehrt ich mein verirrtes Auge                               I turned my erring eyes
Zur Sonne, all wenn drüber wär                           sunward, as if above there were
Ein Ohr, zu hören meine Klage,                            an ear to hear my lamentation,
Sich des Bedrängten zu erbarmen.                       a heart like mine
                                                                                    to care for the distressed.

Wer half mir                                                             Who helped me
Wider der Titanen Übermut?                                against the Titans’ wanton insolence?
Wer rettete von Tode mich?                                   Who rescued me from death,
Von Slaverei?                                                           From slavery?
Hast du nicht alles selbst vollendet,                     Have you not done all this yourself,
Heilig glühend Herz?                                             My holy glowing heart?
Und glühtest jung and gut,                                    And young and good you glowed,
Betrogen, Rettungsdank                                         betrayed, with thanks for rescue
Dem Schlafenden da droben?                                To him who slept above.

Ich dich ehren? Wofür?                                           I honor you? For what?
Hast du die Schmerzen gelindert                         Have you ever eased the suffering
Je des Beladenen?                                                    Of the oppressed?
Hast du die Tränenen gestillet                              Have you ever stilled the tears
Je des Geängsteten?                                                 Of the frightened?
Hat nicht mich zum Manne geschmiedet            Was I not welded to manhood
Die allmächtige Zeit                                                by almighty Time
Und das ewige Schicksal                                        and eternal Fate,
Meine Herrn under deine?                                     My master and yours?

Wächtest du etwa,                                                   Did you fancy perchance
Ich sole das Leben hassen,                                      that I should hate life
In Wüsten fliehen,                                                   and fly to the desert
Weil nicht alle                                                          because not all
Blütenträumen reiften?                                           By blossom dreams ripened?

Hier sitz ich, forme Menschen                               Here I sit, forming men
Nach meinem Bilde,                                                in my own image,
Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei,                        a race to be like me,
Zu leiden, zu weinen.                                             to suffer, to weep,
Zu geniessen and zu freuen sich,                          to delight and to rejoice,
Und dein nicht zu achten,                                      and to defy you,
Wie ich!                                                                      as I do.

Translation by Walter Kaufmann, 20 German Poets (New York: The Modern Library, 1962), pp. 8-11.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:     Epigram 20 from “Venetian Epigrams”

Juden und Heiden hinaus!                                     Jews and heathen away!
So duldet der christliche Schwärmer.                  Is the tolerance of the Christian.
Christ und Heide verflucht!                                   Christians and heathens be damned,
Murmelt ein jüdischer Bart.                                   Murmurs a Jewish beard.
Mit den Christen an Spies                                      Christians ought to be stabbed,
Und mit den Juden ins Feuer!                               And Jews consigned to the flames!
Singet ein türkisches Kind                                     Thus sings a Turkish child,
Christen und Juden zum Spott                              Scorning both Christians and Jews.
Welcher ist der Klügste? Entsheide!                     Which of these is the wisest? Decide it!
Abersinde diese Narren in deinem Palast,          But as long as these fools abide in your
Gottheit, so geh ich vorbei                                     palace, Godhead, I pass it by.

Translation by Walter Kaufmann, 20 German Poets (New York: The Modern Library, 1962), pp. 28-29.


From Edward Fitzgerald’s Translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

O threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain –– This life flies
One things is certain and the rest is Lies,

The Flower that one has blown forever dies.


Heav’n but the vision of fulfill’d Desire,
and Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire
Cast on the Darknness into which Ourselves,
So late emerg’d from, shall so soon expire.


A Moment’s Halt –– a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste –
And Lo! –– the phantom Caravan has reach’d
The Nothing it set out from –– Oh, make haste!


What! Out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke?


What! –– from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what he lent him dross-allay’d ––
Sue for a Debt we never did contract
And cannot answer –– Oh the sorry trade!


Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make
And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d –– Man’s forgiveness give –– and take!


Ah Love! Could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits –– and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s desire!