John was born and raised in Waverly, Iowa, the son of a country doctor and a nurse. He did his undergraduate work at Yale and his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin. He retired as department head of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee in 2010. Before coming to Tennessee, he taught at Wellesley College, University of Tennessee (in the '70s), Humboldt State University, Maryville College, and East Tennessee State University. At ETSU, John was half-time in the college of medicine. He is now retired and does not expect to publish more academic papers in philosophy.