John Hospers

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John Hospers
Personal Details
Birth: June 9, 1918
Pella, Iowa
Death: June 21, 2011(2011-06-21) (aged 93)
Education: Central College, Iowa
University of Iowa
Columbia University (PhD)
Occupation: College Professor, Philosopher
Party: Libertarian
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John Hospers (9 June 1918 - 12 June 2011), an academic philosopher, author, essayist, and Director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, was the first Libertarian nominee for the office of President of the United States at the National Convention 1972. At the time he had written more than 50 academic papers as well as the academic work that would become his campaign book, Libertarianism: a Political Philosophy for Tomorrow. (The John Hospers Foundation has begun, in 2017, work on a commemorative 50th-anniversary edition of the book, with additional and explanatory essays planned by authors who were friends and colleagues of Dr. Hospers.)

A friend of Ayn Rand since 1971, he published his treatise on Libertarian philosophy titled "Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow" in 1971, and secured the party nomination for president, along with Theodora "Tonie" Nathan for vice president, in 1972. On the ballot in only two states, but official write-ins in four others, and garnering more than 3,670 popular votes, the pair made history when elector Roger MacBride of Virginia cast his vote for the ticket of Hospers and Nathan, rather than the Republican candidate, and eventual winner, Richard Nixon. This made Ms. Nathan the first Jewish person, and the first woman in U.S. history to receive an Electoral College vote, preceding Geraldine Ferraro by a dozen years.

He was again nominated in a top-of-the ticket race in 1974, as the LP candidate for governor, but as the California Party did not have ballot access, he was a write-in candidate.

After his presidential bid, Hospers returned to teach philosophy at the University of Southern California, where he taught until his retirement in 1988. He was inducted into the Hall of Liberty posthumously in 2012.

A common mistaken claim, repeated at times by the party, is that Hospers was openly gay and thus the first such candidate to win an electoral vote. However, Hospers never publicly commented on his sexual orientation and there is no record of it being mentioned at the time of the 1972 campaign. After his death, relatives of Hospers denied the characterization and requested it not be used.

Statement of Principles

Original typed draft of the Statement of Principles

At the 1972 Libertarian National Convention, Hospers was asked to write a statement of principles by David Nolan. After some minor modifications, it passed unanimously.



  • Meaning and Truth in the Arts (1946)
  • Readings in Introductory Philosophical Analysis (with Wilfrid Sellars, 1952)
  • Readings in Ethical Theory (with Wilfrid Sellars, 1953)
  • Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (1953)
  • Human Conduct (1961)
  • Meaning and Truth in the Arts (1967)
  • Introductory Readings in Aesthetics (1969)
  • Artistic Expression (1971)
  • Libertarianism: a Political Philosophy for Tomorrow (1971)
  • Understanding the Arts (1982)
  • Law and the Market (1985)


  • Philosophical Studies (associate editor c. 1972)
  • American Philosophical Quarterly (advisory editor c. 1972)
  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Arts Criticism (advisory editor c. 1972)
  • Restoring Liberty to America (editorial, 1972)
  • The Personalist (editor, 1968-1982)
  • The Monetist (editor, 1982-1992)
  • Liberty (senior editor)


Once, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, John Hospers had this reply:

I am most known as a writer of philosophy, in such books as Introduction to Philosophical Analysis [1967] and Human Conduct [1961]. But I always wanted to be remembered as a great teacher. Universities, however, consider only a teacher's scholarly works and not his/her teaching ability.

I want to be remembered as a philosophical instructor who could clarify questions and present good ideas clearly, avoiding vagueness and confusion in the presentation of ideas. That is probably my main legacy as a teacher. And many of my students have come to remember me in just this way.

A fifty-anniversary tribute to his book is being planned with the working title of "Libetarianism: A political philosophy for today and the future." Contributors include Caryn Ann Harlos, Jo Jorgensen, and Nicholas Sarwark.

Election results

1972 United States Presidential election
Party Name/Running Mate Electoral Votes Percent Votes
Republican Richard Nixon / Spiro Agnew 520 60.67% 47,168,710
Democratic George McGovern / R. Sargent Shriver 17 37.52% 29,173,222
Libertarian John Hospers / Tonie Nathan 1 0.01% 4,819
American John Schmitz / Thomas Anderson 0 1.42% 1,100,896
Socialist Workers Linda Jenness / Andrew Pulley 0 0.11% 83,380
People's Benjamin Spock / Julius Hobson 0 0.10% 78,759
Socialist Labor Louis Fisher / Genevieve Gunderson 0 0.07% 53,814
Communist Gus Hall / Jarvis Tyner 0 0.03% 25,598
Various All Others 0 0.07% 55,977

Preceded by:
Libertarian Party Presidential candidate
Succeeded by:
Roger MacBride
Preceded by:
Libertarian Party California Gubernatorial Nominee
Succeeded by:
Ed Clark

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