Professor Johnson was born in Detroit in 1940. He earned his BA at Xavier University and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1972. First hired as an instructor in the department at Windsor in 1966, he retired in the fall of 2006 after 39 years during which he served two terms as Head of Department as well as on some major university committees. In 1971, along with his colleague, Professor Blair, he developed a new approach to logic they called “informal logic” which led to the publication in 1977 of their textbook, Logical Self-Defence. In 1979, Johnson and Blair founded the Informal Logic Newsletter, which became the journal, Informal Logic, in 1985. Among Johnson’s books are The Rise of Informal Logic (1996) and Manifest Rationality: A Pragmatic Study of Argument (2000).
When Johnson was a PhD student at the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Harry Nielsen stimulated his interest in the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Some years later, Professor Johnson was instrumental in bringing Nielsen to the Windsor philosophy department.
In 1986 Professor Johnson developed a course titled “The Philosophy of Rock” which he taught at intervals to undergraduates. He was affectionately referred to as “Dr J.” by his students. Johnson has conducted seminars and workshops on informal logic and critical thinking across North America and in Europe. In 1993, he received a 3M Teaching Fellowship for outstanding university teachers In 1994 he was awarded the rank of University Professor by the University of Windsor; in 2000 he received the Distinguished Research Award by the International Society for the Study of Argumentation; in 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Professor Johnson lives in Windsor and, although he retired in 2006, he still pursues his research on informal logic and argumentation theory. Most recently he has turned his attention to visual arguments, a popular topic about which he remains skeptical.