Professor Philip Stratton-Lake (1959-2022)
05 January 2023
It is with a heavy heart that the University announces the passing of Professor Philip Stratton-Lake, a longstanding member of the Department of Philosophy in the School of Humanities.
Philip had been quite ill on and off for several years but took a decided turn for the worse in September 2022. He died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital on 20 December 2022, just a few days after his 63rd birthday.
He leaves behind his beloved wife, Linda, son Alec, along with Alec’s wife Lucia among many friends and loved ones. Philip was fortunate to be able to attend Alec and Lucia’s wedding shortly before his passing.
Valued by colleagues and students
Philip joined the Philosophy Department in 1998 from Keele University.
As a senior and longstanding colleague, he held every conceivable role in the Department over many years. These included Senior Tutor 1999-2005; Admissions Tutor 1998-2005; Head of Department 2006-2009; MA/MRes Co-ordinator 2009-2011 and more recently; Head of the School of Humanities 2011-2016; and Research Division Lead 2016-2022.
So valued were Philip’s managerial skills that while Head of Humanities he was also tasked, for a short time, with being Acting Head of the School for Literature and Languages.
In addition, Philip taught a wide range of undergraduate modules, mainly in his area of research expertise, moral philosophy. He was on many occasions both an internal and external PhD examiner, and innovated in numerous ways, in particular acting as driving force for the introduction of the highly successful undergraduate programme in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
He was also very successful in attracting graduate students via AHRC-funded programmes such as the Doctoral Training Partnership and was always a highly sought-after doctoral supervisor.
As a lecturer, Philip was dedicated, conscientious, and well-liked by his students. Those enrolling on his modules could be certain of a high-quality learning experience where clear, rigorous but entertaining teaching was leavened by Philip’s own cutting-edge research. His passing is a great loss to our students.
As a researcher, Philip had a tremendous reputation as a moral philosopher, writing an important monograph on Immanuel Kant’s ethics.
He also edited the now standard edition of W.D. Ross’s The Right and the Good – an ethicist on whom Philip was a world expert – and a seminal volume on ethical intuitionism.
The prestigious Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy commissioned him to write its article on ‘Intuitionism in Ethics’ – a mark of his recognition as perhaps the world’s foremost exponent of this important ethical theory.
In addition, Philip published many papers, chapters in collections, and reference articles.
Not only was his razor-sharp intellect on display in the production of consistently first-rate research, but we also witnessed it in many staff and visiting speaker seminars, workshops and conferences. Philip was the master interlocutor – formidable but fair in all respects.
Unpretentious, modest and brilliant
As a colleague, the entire Department testifies to Philip’s warmth, collegiality, and tireless support of colleagues.
As a senior manager his advice was unfailingly sage. Philip knew how to get to the heart of a problem, see the options available, and recommend the surest path. Not having him around to consult leaves a large gap in our small but close-knit community.
More importantly, this is a gap that was also filled by Philip’s infectious laugh, his enviable wit, his love of a good joke – whether high-brow or low-brow.
Philip was the rounded academic we all aspire to be. He had a full life outside the ivory tower – racing his beloved Lotus Elise, playing electric guitar, using his seriously impressive DIY skills both inside and outside, playing squash, going to the gym, even running the Reading Half Marathon.
Indeed, Philip was the model of what an unpretentious, modest but brilliant academic should be. He knew what he knew and what he did not. He listened and learned from others.
We, however, learned more from him. His absence leaves a gaping hole and our hearts go out to his family and loved ones.
Written by Professor David Oderberg, Head of the Department of Philosophy, University of Reading
Professor Philip Stratton-Lake’s funeral will take place on Thursday 12 January at 3pm, at Reading Crematorium/Cemetery, All Hallows Road, Caversham, Reading, RG4 5LP.