Leslie Sutherland Dewart (1922-2009) was born Gonzalo Gonzales Duarte in Madrid, Spain but was raised in Cuba. At the age of 19, he came to Canada with the intention to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as a pilot in bomber-reconnaissance missions during WWII. After five years of service, Duarte gained Canadian citizenship and changed his name to Leslie Dewart to reflect this development.
Dewart enrolled at the University of Toronto and in 1951 received his Honours BA in Psychology, in 1952 his MA in Philosophy, and in 1954 his PhD in Philosophy. After a brief posting in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Detroit (1954-1956), Dewart returned to the University of Toronto where he was employed for the rest of his career. Initially, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of St. Michael’s College (also referred to as USMC), but in 1961 was promoted to Associate Professor and was also cross-posted to the Department of Philosophy at the School of Graduate Studies. In 1968 he became a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at USMC wherein he was involved in the Faculty of Theology (1968-1988), the Institute of Christian Thought (1969-1979), and the Graduate Centre for Religious Studies (1976-1988). In 1979, Dewart obtained his L.L.B. from the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1980. After his retirement in 1988, Dewart wrote legal briefs for Harris & Jones Law Firm as well as continuing to lecture and supervise students in the Department of Religious Studies as a Professor Emeritus.
Dewart’s philosophical specialization was the understanding of the nature of consciousness, which he explored within humanity’s development of religion and language. Dewart was a prolific writer, having written 31 articles, 8 paper contributions to collected works, and 5 books during his life: Christianity and Revolution: The Lesson of Cuba (Herder & Herder Inc., 1963), The Future of Belief (Herder & Herder Inc., 1966), The Foundations of Belief (Herder & Herder Inc., 1970), Evolution and Consciousness: The Role of Speech in the Origin and Development of Human Nature (University of Toronto Press, 1989). His sixth book, Hume’s Challenge and the Renewal of Modern Philosophy, was published posthumously by his widow, Doreen Dewart in 2016.
Dewart’s other appointments included: Chair of the University of Toronto Combined Departments of Religious Studies (1970-1971); associate editor of Continuum (1964-1970); associate editor of Internationale Dialog Zeitschrift (1967-1974); associate editor of Concurrence (1968-1970); member of the editorial board of Studies in Religion-Sciences réligieuses (1970-1980); Public Affairs Editor of Insight: A Journal of Catholic Opinions; member of the advisory board for the Journal of Ultimate Reality and Meaning (1974-1978).