Friday, April 04, 2014


Peter Aspden lunches with Mary Midgley for the FT (site registration required):
Midgley went to Oxford during the war, and she has fond memories of a time, she says, when there was a spirit of genuine inquiry in the air. “When I was at Oxford, I suppose some people thought about their careers but not the sort I talked to.” Her “sort” included Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe. “There has been a surge in interest in us today because here we were, four women philosophers [who became prominent], and that hasn’t happened since! The important thing was that we were not put under this kind of cheese grater, with a lot of people from Harvard shouting at us. The men who were there were conscientious objectors, disabled, or ordinants, they weren’t so keen on putting everybody down all the time. I really think it is a vice in professional philosophy, a real crime.”

There was a certain kind of machismo about the winning of arguments, I say. “It’s quite interesting isn’t it? Plato gives this very good explanation of why we shouldn’t just be trying to win arguments all the time, and then look at what Socrates does – he utterly and single-mindedly does precisely that! I think the Athenian law courts have a lot to answer for. All right, it is an important part of our reasoning, but it is not everything. It has to be balanced.”

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