The post-war years saw a revival of philosophical fortunes in Oxford. Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) was elected to the Waynflete chair in 1945, and did much to raise the standard of philosophy in the University. The intake for PPE under Ryle, who had himself been one of the very first to read for the new school, 10 swelled rapidly soon exceeding that of its classical parent, and the number of philosophy teachers grew to meet the demand. Intended to offer a broad education (not until 1970 was it possible to concentrate on only two out of the three subjects) the school also gave to philosophers a new modern focus, further separating it out from classics. Although the tradition in classical philosophy remained strong, as indeed it has done to this day. One of Ryle’s most important innovations concerned graduate studies. He knew that the Oxford D.Phil (first established in 1917), with its three years of close study on a single problem, was insufficient preparation for a teaching career, and he proposed a new degree combining both written papers and a short dissertation. The B.Phil, introduced in 1946 and first examined in 1948, was extremely successful. Its rapidly growing intake helped to fill the large number of new philosophy departments created in new universities in the country after the war.
As editor of the journal Mind from 1947 to 1972 and author of the influential book The Concept of Mind (1949) Ryle was a philosopher of national importance. His philosophy focused on language and the misleading ways it can be used, an emphasis taken even further by a second Oxford philosopher of the time, J.L.Austin (1911-60). Elected to the White’s chair in 1952, he was the chief exponent of what became known as ‘ordinary language philosophy,’ which for a while dominated the scene. Focusing on the nuances of everyday language, his Saturday morning sessions became famous.
Two further celebrated philosophers of the time were A.J.Ayer (1910-1989) and Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997). Ayer, who had originally been an undergraduate at Christ Church but subsequently taught at UCL, returned to Oxford in 1959 to take up the Wykeham chair. His graduate seminars, first pioneered at UCL, soon became a vital part of the Oxford scene. Best known for his work in the history of ideas and in political philosophy, Berlin was also the founding Principal of Wolfson College.
The process of philosophical diversification, first begun with PPE, continued as new degrees were introduced, and the first class lists were published in Philosophy, Psychology and Physiology (1949), Philosophy and Maths (1970), Philosophy and Physics (1971), Philosophy and Theology (1972), and Philosophy and Modern Languages (1975). Though its collection of books as a discrete collection dates from 1904, it was only in 1963 that philosophy gained its first permanent home at no. 12 Merton Street, with a single librarian/administrator. 11 It moved in 1975 to no.10 Merton Street when History moved out. In 2012, the Faculty of Philosophy left Merton Street to move into its current home at the Radcliffe Humanities building on Woodstock Road.