Sommerville

John

1905–1994

SOMERVILLE, John (b. March 13, 1905, New York; d. January 8, 1994, San Diego, ca) – an American philosopher, scientist, and public figure; worked tirelessly for the sake of world peace, human dignity, and survival of the planet.

Somerville taught at the City University of New York and the West University of California in Point Loma.

During thirty-five years of teaching he published many works and as a visiting professor or lecturer he visited fourteen us and foreign universities, including Charles University in Prague, the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow, and the University of Philosophy in Bucharest.

As a researcher of social philosophy and ethics, and a world-renowned expert in Marxism, he worked incessantly towards overcoming the Cold War and to creating a dialogue between American and Soviet philosophers. Largely thanks to his efforts the first joint conferences of American and Soviet philosophers, in Mexico City (1963) and New York (1964), were organized.

Somerville always put individual and global pacification above personal or professional achievements. At the age of seventy he wrote his first play, The Crisis: The True Story of How the World Almost Ended.

Dedicated to ethical issues and the dangerous behavior of President J. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis, this sobering play was translated into many languages and widely staged in North America and beyond, including in Sweden, Germany, and Japan.

His second play, The Last Inquest, was staged by several university drama clubs. Devoted to world peace and the prevention of nuclear destruction, Somerville was the first philosopher to encourage North American philosophers to oppose the inhumanity of the nuclear threat, and gave us a new word with which to discuss the threat of nuclear destruction (“omnicide”).

The organization International Philosophers for the Prevention of Nuclear Omnicide(ippno), renamed International Philosophers for Peace and the Union of American and Japanese Experts against Nuclear Omnicide, owe their emergence and existence to Somerville’s inspired labor, energy, and organizational skills.

For those who heard his message, it was powerful and unequivocal:

Those who are not doing anything against the [nuclear] weapons actually vote for omnicide.

His writings and activities were highly appreciated by writers and scholars such as Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, and Bernard Lown. In 1987 ippno, the organization he created, received the status of Messenger of Peace from the un during the un’s Year of Peace.

Works: Soviet Philosophy: A Study of Theory and Practice (1944); (ed. With R.E. Santoni), Social and Political Philosophy (1963); The Philosophy of Marxism (1967); (ed. with G. Parsons), Dialogues on the Philosophy of Marxism (1974); and The Peace Revolution (1975).