Background to my 2007 Protest continued
return to part 1...
During the visit of Dr Kathy Wilkes in Prague in May 1980 we discussed Kenny’s lecture in my seminar. I told her that Kenny maintained that Socrates was a good man but a poor philosopher, whereas Plato a dubious character but a great philosopher, and that I disagreed: ‘I told him that he presumably drew a cut through Plato’s dialogues and found Socrates only in those which were not up to his standards of great philosophy. I do not make any such cut through Plato’s dialogues. I cannot find in Plato anything that would invalidate Diogenes’ information that according to an ancient tradition Plato’s first dialogue was the Phaedrus.’ Kathy exclaimed ‘It can’t be!’ I suggested that we should read the dialogue together, and she then obtained a grant to work with me for a month in Prague. And so we spent four weeks in July and August 1980 in Prague, my last weeks in Prague before going to Oxford, reading and discussing the Phaedrus.
The ancient biographical tradition has preserved another important piece of information: Plato wrote and published dialogues during Socrates’ lifetime. I could point out to Kathy that this information finds support in the Phaedrus itself. The dialogue begins by Phaedrus’ presentation of an erotic discourse written by Lysias, Phaedrus’ beloved, in which Lysias pleads for sex without love. Socrates rejects Lysias’ erotic conceptions in his two speeches on love. In the first speech he denounces homosexual erotic infatuation as harmful to the property and the social standing of the lover, and as harmful to the body and the soul of both the lover and his beloved. In the second speech, known as the Palinode, he develops a conception of loving attachment between a philosopher-lover and his beloved disciple which is unstained by sex. The philosopher derives his strength for this kind of pure loving relationship from philosophy. Socrates ends the Phaedran palinode with a prayer to Eros that Lysias may be turned to philosophy as his brother Polemarchus has been turned to it (257b). This follows Socrates’ assertion that those who pursue philosophy live a blessed and harmonious life here on earth (256a-b). We know that Polemarchus died at the hands of the Thirty Tyrants in 404 B.C., five years before Socrates’ death, and that it was a sordid affair.
Together with the Phaedrus, we therefore read Lysias’ graphic description of his brother’s death in Against Eratosthenes (17-20):
‘Polemarchus received from the Thirty their accustomed order to drink hemlock, with no statement made as to the reason for his execution: so far did he come short of being tried and defending himself. And when he was being brought away dead from the prison, although we had three houses amongst us, they did not permit his funeral to be conducted from any of them, but they hired a small hut in which to lay him. We had plenty of cloaks, yet they refused our request of one for the funeral; but our friends gave either a cloak, or a pillow, or whatever each had to spare, for his internment ... some twisted gold earrings, which Polemarchus’ wife chanced to have, were taken out of her ears by Melobius as soon as ever he entered the house.’
Kathy agreed that in view of this testimony, to declare Polemarchus after his death an exemplary follower of philosophy (Phaedr. 257b), and as such endowed with blessedness here on earth (in the light of Phaedr. 256a-b), would be a mockery of philosophy in the eyes of Plato’s readers, for the ancients believed that a man’s life can be considered good only if he meets a good end. The death of a person was indicative of the nature and quality of that person’s life, as can be seen from Herodotus (I. 30-31), Aeschylus (Agamemnon 928-9), Sophocles (Trach. 1-3, Oed. Tyr. 1528-30), and Euripides (Heraclidae 863-6, Andromache 100-2, Troiades 509-10). She could not but agree that all this provides grounds for dating the composition of the Phaedrus prior to the death of Polemarchus.
After we arrived at Oxford it was made forcefully clear both to Dr Wilkes and to me that our view on the dating of the Phaedrus was incompatible with pursuit of an academic career. Kathy took me to Cambridge to the annual SAAP [Southern Association for Ancient Philosophy] meeting, and during the drinks on Friday my dating of the Phaedrus was a subject of general mirth: ‘I hear you believe in that long discarded theory of Schleiermacher?’ The situation was comical, for although I had known Schleiermacher as a theologian, I did not know him as a Platonic scholar; in the days of my solitary studies of Ancient Philosophy in Prague I naively thought that if I acquired a proper grasp of the Greek language and thus gained an access to the original texts, I should reduce to a minimum my becoming involved with the secondary literature on the subject. Later, after I did read Schleiermacher, I realized what a fundamental difference divided our respective approaches to the dating of the dialogue. Because Diogenes Laertius, whose dating of the Phaedrus I endorsed, is an unreliable source of information, it was inconceivable for Schleiermacher that he might build his view of Plato on such an uncertain basis. It was his majestic construction of Plato’s philosophy as a system that compelled him to view the Phaedrus as Plato’s first dialogue. In his view every great philosopher begins by conceiving his whole philosophy as in a nutshell, before developing and building it up in detail:
‘Surely everybody who understands the matter and who has the corresponding personal experience will agree that true philosophy does not start with separate special points but with an anticipation at least of the whole ... The beginnings of almost all his philosophy are undeniably to be found in the Phaedrus, but its undeveloped state can be seen there as well.’
Schleiermacher divided Plato’s work into three periods. The first period contained Phaedrus, Protagoras, and Parmenides which in his view laid down the first principles of Plato's philosophy and constituted the elementary part of his system. In the second period these principles were applied to special subjects of ethics and physics: in Theaetetus, Sophistes, Politicus, Phaedo, and Philebus. The last, so-called constructive period is represented by Republic, Timaeus, and Critias. The idea that Sophistes, Politicus or Philebus, which he classed as preparatory, could have been written after the Republic was for him inconceivable: ‘The necessity of giving last place to the constructive dialogues is so great from all points of view that if dependable historical testimonies were found which would prove that the Republic was written earlier than any of the preparatory works, we would stand in the most vexing conflict with our judgment about Plato and we would be thrown into the greatest perplexity of how to make such a want of reason compatible with his great intellect.’ But modern stylometric studies have produced overwhelming evidence that Sophistes, Politicus, and Philebus belong to the group of the late six dialogues that were written after the Republic, and it is on this account that Schleiermacher’s theoretical construction of Plato’s dialogues as a system must be rejected.
In what respect is my approach to the dating of the Phaedrus different from that of Schleiermacher? I was well aware of the uncertainty involved in the ancient tradition according which the Phaedrus is Plato’s first dialogue, but I considered it a duty to try to view Plato on its basis, as long as I found nothing in Plato to prevent me from doing so.
Kathy Wilkes insisted that I must write, and so I dictated to her ‘Socrates in the Phaedrus’. Kathy turned my faulty English into impeccable sentences with great flair and sent the paper to The Classical Quarterly. The Editor, Anthony Long, replied that it was well written and that he thought of publishing it and be damned, but that in the end he decided not to do so, for publishing it would destroy me as a philosopher. In other words, if you think that the Phaedrus could be Plato’s first dialogue, you cannot be accepted into the academic community of philosophers. Shortly afterwards Kathy told me that if I wanted to publish the article elsewhere, I must cross out ‘in cooperation with K. Wilkes’ appended to it. But without acknowledging Kathy’s cooperation I could not attempt to get it published. During the first year of my stay in Oxford I had been invited to almost all British Universities to give a talk, but as far as I can remember, I did not dare to speak about the Phaedrus.
But back to the early days at Oxford. I sent ‘Socrates in the Phaedrus’ to Richard Sorabji, a leading classical philosopher. In reply, he suggested that I read Hackforth’s ‘Introduction’ to the Phaedrus, implying that if I do so, I shall never again think that the Phaedrus could possibly be Plato’s first dialogue. He assured me that it would take me less than twenty minutes to read it, and that I would then know as much on the subject as he himself. I did not obey him immediately, for I was afraid that Hackforth would refer me to other secondary literature, that his sources would then in their turn refer me to other sources, and I would be stuck in the quagmire of the secondary literature. And so I spent the first year in Oxford re-reading Plato, trying to find what was wrong with my understanding of his work. This work helped me to understand Plato better, but in the course of it I did find any reason for which to reject the ancient dating of the Phaedrus. In the end I read Hackforth, as recommended. He begins by rejecting the ancient dating of the Phaedrus as ‘the patently absurd belief’, yet he derives all his reasons for doing so from secondary literature. But contrary to my fears, the examination of his sources proved to be more straightforward and much more interesting than I had thought.
Hackforth referred me to von Arnim as the main guarantor of the late dating of the dialogue, von Arnim pointed me to Hermann, Hermann to Schleiermacher, and Schleiermacher to Tennemann, who published his System der Platonischen Philosophie in 1792. When I got Tennemann on my desk in the Bodleian Library, I gasped: the pages were uncut, no reader at Oxford appears to have read his book. I soon discovered his reasons for his late dating of the Phaedrus. He was an enthusiastic disciple of Kant, who in his view discovered the truth about us and about the world in which we live, the truth embedded in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In the last chapter of the Critique Kant suggests that what remains to be done is to provide an account of the history of pure reason, that is of the history of philosophy as it culminated in his discovery of the truth. In other words, philosophers should map out the road upon which pure reason marched towards Immanuel Kant. Tennemann undertook this task, and he began with Plato. His main assumption was that the more truth a philosophic system contains, the more it approximates to Kant. In the Phaedrus Plato comes near to Kant’s idea of a priori when he proclaims that the pre-natal contemplation of Forms is the fundamental precondition for our having and understanding language (249b-c). In Tennemann’s view, Plato could not begin with this dialogue, he had to develop towards it. By dating the Phaedrus late, Tennemann bewlieved to have discovered in Plato the embryonic outline of the whole subsequent history of philosophy as it marched torards Kant.
Having reached this point in my reading, I approached Justin Gosling, the Head of the Sub-Faculty of Philosophy. I asked him for a permission to present the case concerning the dating of the Phaedrus at the Philosophy Centre: ‘I do not know whether Diogenes’ information is correct or not, but an attempt ought to be made to rethink Plato on its basis, for in the Phaedrus there are grounds for taking it seriously.’ Justin Gosling replied: ‘Nobody has time for doing so.’ Nevertheless, he granted me my request.
In the written text of the paper I described my journey from Hackforth back to Tennemann, and then rejected Hackforth’s proofs for the late dating of the Phaedrus as unconvincing. So, for example, in reference to von Arnim’s ‘proof’ of his post-Republic dating of the Phaedrus Hackforth writes: ‘Allowing that the comparison of the soul to a charioteer with two winged horses might be understood without a knowledge of Rep. iv, we must nevertheless, in my opinion, agree with von Arnim that it is unlikely that Plato would have put the tripartite doctrine [of the soul] before the public for the first time in this symbolic form.’ (Hackforth 1952, 4). I could not see why the picture of the soul could not occur to Plato at first in the symbolic form of a charioteer with two horses?
I delivered the text to the Members of the Sub-Faculty well in advance, and then once again read the Republic, which figures prominently in the arguments of von Arnim, Hackforth, and others. Then I suddenly realized: von Arnim’s main proof, on which Hackforth relies, is not only unconvincing, it is wrong. For in the Phaedrus the two lower parts of the soul are as immortal as is its highest part, the intellect; their immortality is essential to the whole picture of the soul as a configuration of charioteer, that symbolizes the intellect, and two horses, which symbolize the lower parts of the soul. In contrast, in the tenth book of the Republic Plato indicates that only the intellectual part of the soul can be immortal, thus clearly rejecting the Phaedran conception: ‘Let us not believe that in her truest nature the soul can be full of variety and difference and dissimilarity’ (611a-b). He is now convinced that if the soul were composed of such divergent elements, it could not be everlasting. In the Phaedran picture even the best of the human souls, the soul of a divinely inspired philosopher is characterized by profound differences, where different parts pull in opposite directions and are engaged in a grave internal strife. The lowest part of the soul, symbolized by the evil horse, is ‘haphazardly composed’ and full of wantonness and boastfulness (253e); it pulls in a direction which is opposite to the direction in which the charioteer wants to steer (254a-e). In the Republic Plato emphasizes that his view that the immortality of the soul is incompatible with internal discord and divergence is a view to which he newly arrived: ‘as the soul is now proven to be’ (611b6-7). When I was delivering the paper, I set aside the written text and argued that the main proof on which Hackforth relies for the post-Republic dating of the dialogue is based on misinterpreting of both the Phaedrus and the Republic.
The discussion was very short. Theodor Scaltsas asked whether I wouldn’t agree with him that the conception of the soul in the Phaedrus and in the Timaeus is the same; if so, the Phaedrus must be late, for the Timaeus was written after the Republic. I answered that in one respect the conception of the soul in these two dialogues appears to be the same, for in both the soul is composed of three parts, but in another respect it is profoundly different. For firstly, in the Timaeus the two lower parts of the soul are mortal (69c), whereas in the Phaedrus they are immortal, and secondly, in the Phaedrus Plato’s proof of the immortality of the soul is based on its having no beginning, its never being non-existent, never being generated (245d), whereas in the Timaeus the generation of the soul is one of the main themes of the dialogue (34cff). Professor Ackrill, who chaired the meeting, then asked me whether my view of Plato in any significant way differed from Shorey’s theory. I replied that there was indeed some basic similarity between Shorey’s and my views, for I hold just as he that the theory of Forms underlies all Plato’s dialogues, but that nevertheless there was a fundamental difference between our views. For Shorey viewed Plato’s philosophy as a system characterized by the unity of thought, whereas I saw a profound shift from Plato’s early Phaedran view of the soul to his later view in Republic and Timaeus. In the Phaedrus all human souls saw the Forms prior to their incarnation (249b), whereas in the Republic the farmers and artisans cannot see the Forms and therefore are excluded from education that might lead them to the Forms (496a). In contrast to the Phaedrus, in the Republic there is no word about pre-natal contemplation of Forms, and no word of Recollection; the place where proper knowledge of the Forms can be acquired is here on Earth (514a-519d; 618b-e). In the Timaeus it is said expressly that only gods and a small race of people participate in intellect that can see the Forms (51e), which corresponds to the race of philosophers in the Republic (501e). I suggested that Plato’s abandonment of the Phaedran view of the soul was an essential concomitant of, if not a precondition for his conception of the ideal state, in which the lower classes are precluded from any possibility of participating in intellectual activities. When he wrote the Republic, had he still adhered to his Phaedran view that all human souls had seen the Forms prior to their first incarnation, I suggested, his ideal state would have been a monstrous project on his own terms, for it would have prevented the majority of people from ever regaining their original state which was theirs prior to their corruption and fall. For their living a moral life in the ideal state would not prevent their succumbing to the gravest fate in their subsequent incarnation, which only those souls could confidently escapethat were nurtured by philosophy (Rep. 618b-619e). After my answering Ackrill’s question, nobody showed any sign of impatience, nobody was leaving the room, yet Professor Ackrill abruptly closed the meeting: ‘We must end, the building must be locked for the night.’ All my subsequent attempts to discuss the dating of the Phaedrus and its importance for our interpretation of Plato’s dialogues, have been repudiated by Oxford dons to this day.
Barbara Day in The Velvet Philosophers gives the most comprehensive justification for my exclusion from academic philosophy at Oxford. In her account a significant role is given to Ralph Walker. I therefore wrote to him in May 2004 to clarify some of her points, and I am still waiting for his reply:
Dear Ralph Walker,
In The Velvet Philosophers Barbara Day writes that in the Sub-Faculty of Philosophy you ‘voted against the invitation to Tomin, on the grounds that someone with his background would be ill-equipped to deal with the competitive academic world of the West’ (p. 67). May I ask you, what knowledge about my background prompted your doing so? Barbara Day adds that ‘The fact that some of his [i.e. Tomin’s] theories on Plato were dismissed by other academics was less important than the narrowness of his specialization; his knowledge of certain parts of Plato’s work was more thorough than that of any philosopher at Oxford, but his limited acquaintance with the breadth of western philosophy would have been unacceptable in any of the posts for which he diligently applied’ (p. 67). If Barbara Day expresses your opinion, who or what was your source of information concerning me?
Had you asked me, I would have told you that in my teens I read Bergson, Driesch, Rousseau, Marx and Engels in Czech translation, the philosophico-religious works of Tolstoy in Russian, and Gandhi in English. My study of Marxist philosophy began with the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, which I read for the first time during the long months of a pre-trial confinement in prison in Banská Bystrica in 1957, when I was nineteen years old. (I did so to the great displeasure of the prison-guards: ‘How dare you think that you could understand The Capital!’). I would have told you that during my imprisonment I thoroughly improved my knowledge of German, and so after my release from prison I read in German most of Nietzsche, most of Husserl, Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit, Kant’s three Critiques plus some of his minor works, that I was a co-translator of the second volume of Hegel’s Vorlesungen ueber die Geschichte der Philosophie (published in Prague in 1965), that in the early seventies I wrote a book on Descartes (published in samizdat edition Petlice), that I studied Masaryk and Patočka in Czech, Malebranche and Rousseau in French, Spinoza in Latin, Schelling in German, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Russell, Wittgenstein, Santayana and Kierkegaard in English. I would have informed you that at the end of the sixties I decided to learn Ancient Greek and that during the seventies I read in the original Plato and Aristotle, the fragments of the Pre-Socratics, Xenophon, Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Plutarch. Had you known all this, could you have still maintained that I was not well prepared to compete with Oxford philosophers?
We met in the summer of 1983, if you recall? I asked for your advice and help. In those days, my sole income was provided by the Northern Dairies Educational Trust; I had been granted £2.500 a year. My fourteen year son Marek wanted to spend part of his holiday with me at Oxford. I hoped he could stay with me in my little flat at Lathbury Rd, but the landlord objected: ‘This was not agreed when you had rented the room.’ I did not know what to do, and in my desperation I went to the University Offices. I told the Porter that I had come to Oxford at the invitation of the Master of Balliol, that I did my best to do justice to that invitation by studying hard in my chosen subject, but that I ended by being unable to even provide for a fortnight holiday for my son: ‘Would it be possible for me to find someone at the University Offices with whom I could talk about my situation?’ The porter said that he remembered my case very well, having read about me at the time of my arrival at Oxford. He asked me to wait, and said that he would try to arrange for me a meeting with the Proctor or his Deputy. That’s how we met. After I had explained to you why I came to see you, you said to me: ‘You cannot write, Mr Tomin. How could anybody offer you an academic post?’
I did not know on what grounds you had formed your opinion about me, but I was determined to do my best to provide you with reasons for correcting it. At the beginning of the 1990s I was temporarily deprived of the permission to lecture at the Sub-Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University; I sent to you my lectures in the hope that you would find them worthy of presentation at the Sub-Faculty and that you would intervene on my behalf so that I could lecture at the Philosophy Centre for free (that is without any remuneration) as I had done during the 1980s. But you sent the lectures back to me, without even looking at them: without opening the envelope. My return address on the envelope was enough to make the content untouchable. Your opinion that I could not compete with the academics at Oxford, and that I could not write, could be in no way disturbed or undermined.
In the course of our interview in 1983 you asked me where I lived and who was my landlord. I refused to tell you that, for I did not want the landlord to be dragged into our dispute. Yet, after our meeting, as I approached the house in which I was living, the landlord was already waiting for me: ‘Your son is welcome to stay with you in our house.’ I admired the speed with which you had managed to obtain the information concerning my abode; it could not have taken me more than ten minutes to get back.
I appreciated the landlord’s kindness, but I refused his offer, for I had found a solution to my problem. I decided that my son and I would go on a cycling trip to Lands End. It took us eleven days to arrive there; we slept rough, and our only cover was my old coat. And yet, it turned out to be the best holiday that I had with my son. The enjoyment of the unexpected beauty of the English countryside was not spoiled for me by your words ‘You cannot write, Mr Tomin’, although these words resounded in my ears as we cycled, and even entered my dreams. From day to day and from night to night my determination grew: ‘I must write.’ As soon as I returned to Oxford, I wrote the ‘Pursuit of Philosophy’, which remains one of the best short pieces that I have written so far.
After reading in Barbara Day’s book that ‘his [Tomin’s] limited acquaintance with the breadth of western philosophy would have been unacceptable in any of the posts for which he diligently applied’, I wrote a letter to ask her from what source she derived this information. She did not answer. In fact, in real life I had been accused of doing the opposite. The Master of Balliol wrote to me in a letter of August 24, 1983: ‘Ever since the sad news of the deprivation of your citizenship, I have been advising you to look for an academic job, and have offered to help you find one. So far as I know you have never acted on this advice and indeed when an academic job was offered you by Lehigh University you decided not to take it up.’
Having thus informed her English and Czech readers of my scholarly deficiency - the book was simultaneously published in English and in Czech - Barbara Day goes on: ‘For Julius, the rejection letters confirmed a suspicion that the world was in the grip of conspiracy; that he was being silenced by a similar “nomenklatura” as had kept him out of the academic world in Prague.’ The paragraph in which she says these words begins
‘Within the year the problems foreseen by the more sceptical philosophers began to make themselves felt. One of them was Ralph Walker, a philosopher from Magdalen College who became a trustee of the Jan Hus Foundation in 1983. He was to play an important role in preparing structural courses for the Czech students; but in the Sub-Faculty of Philosophy he had voted against the invitation to Tomin ...’
Is it possible that these two items, what she says about me and what she says about you, were somehow linked in her mind? When she worked on her book, she visited me at Oxford to discuss with me my encounters with Oxford dons. On that occasion I informed her of our meeting at the University Offices. I told her that you asked me who paid the school fees for my son who studied at Radley College, and that when I told you that I did not know, that my son’s education was arranged by Kathy Wilkes, you warned me that if I continued to raise complaints about my situation, my son might lose his place at the public school. I ended the story by noting that at that point I could not help seeing a similarity between you and the Communist functionaries who used children of Czechoslovak citizens as hostages: if one did not behave as one was supposed to, one’s children had no chance of entering higher education. Is this how her words concerning ‘a similar nomenklatura’ came about?
I cannot deny that I did see certain similarities between my situation at Oxford and my situation in Prague, but when Barbara Day insists that ‘His [Tomin’s] reactions were the same as those in his previous life: he fired off bitter letters of accusation and denunciation in multiple copies to universities, individual philosophers and newspapers,’ I cannot agree. For she and her sources would be hard pressed to unearth anything resembling a letter of complaint on my part prior to my meeting with you in 1983. And although shortly afterwards I did write to several British Universities, there is no bitterness in those letters. What saved me from feeling bitter was the combination of word with action with the help of which I confronted British philosophers. But let me give you an opportunity to judge for yourself. For comparison, I quote a substantial part from a letter to British Universities and from a letter to the Communist Party daily Rudé Právo. I begin with the latter.
In the 1970s I visited the French Library in Prague, where I discovered the complete Budé edition of Greek authors [in this edition the Greek texts are accompanied by parallel French translations]. One day, as I was going downstairs on the way to leave the Library, I saw that a door was open to a room in which there was a pile of newspapers. There were some French students in the room who did not mind my coming in. The newspapers on the table were issues of Le Monde. It was for the first time in my life that I saw it and could take it in my hands, for the only newspaper available to Czech readers in the public reading room in the library was the Communist Party daily L’Humanite. I took the first issue, the second, the third ... laying each aside. It was the sixth or seventh issue from the top that I opened and began to read. The issue was that of Sunday 29-Monday 30, June 1975. You can imagine my excitement when I found the heading: A la suite de la confiscation par la police d’une partie de ses manuscrits Le philosophe tchechoslovaque Karel Kosik ecrit a J.-P. Sartre ‘Mon existence a pris deux formes: je suis mort et en meme temps je vis.’ [‘In consequence of the confiscation of some of his manuscripts a Czechoslovak philosopher Karel Kosik wrote to J.P. Sartre “My life has acquired two forms: I am dead and I live at the same time”’] Kosík’s letter was followed by Sartre’s entitled: La reponse de Sartre: ‘si Kosik est coupable, alors tout homme qui pense a ce qu’il fait est coupable’. [‘Sartre answered: “If Kosík is guilty then every person that thinks is guilty.”’] The title quotes Sartre’s words from the penultimate paragraph, to which Sartre added: C’est a partir de cette idee simple qu’il faudra envisager les actions par lesquelles, en vous aidant, nous nous aidrons nous-memes. [’Beginning with this simple thought we will have to contemplate actions by which, in helping you, we shall help ourselves.’]
The exchange of letters between Kosík and Sartre that prompted me to recount Kosík’s main complaints in my letter to Rudé Právo: ‘1. For years Kosík has been prevented from performing work that would correspond to his abilities. 2. He has been excluded from participation in the activities of academic institutions. 3. He cannot publish. 4. One thousand pages of his manuscript were confiscated by the police.’ Then I added: ‘I should like to know, whether all this is happening in accordance with the laws of our republic. If it is not happening in accordance with our laws, what can I do as a Czechoslovak citizen to help promote the restoration of legality. If it is happening in accordance with our laws, which laws are these, and what can I do to facilitate such a change of our laws that this type of treatment of a citizen of this country becomes precluded in future.’ (My ‘Correspondence with Rudé Právo’ was published in Samizdat Petlice in 1975.)
In ‘A Letter to British Philosophers’ from May 12, 1984 I wrote:
‘It was Rt. Hon. Norman Tebbit, while yet Secretary of State for Employment, who inspired me in one of his talks with the idea of getting on a bicycle. I simply want to express my wish to be accepted as a partner in an endeavour to involve students in philosophy.
Originally, I wanted to visit eight universities during this summer term, each week of the term one university. My plan calculated on my getting on the road without being invited. In the course of my preparations I lost the courage needed for attempting to visit British universities uninvited. I nevertheless informed the eight universities about my abortive plan, sending them my paper ‘Pursuit of Philosophy’ as a ‘sample’ of my thought. As a result, two universities invited me to come. Let me express my gratitude and admiration for philosophers of Lancaster and Aberdeen, for to be ready to listen to what an unemployed colleague has to say takes a lot of intellectual courage.
I shall leave Oxford on Thursday May 24, 1984; on Monday May 28 I will talk at Lancaster University on ‘Philosophy from the viewpoint of an unemployed philosopher’, on Tuesday on ‘Plato as he cannot be discussed’; on Monday June 11, I shall talk at Aberdeen University on ‘Philosophy with pleasure’. I chose my title for Aberdeen to counter Gosling and Taylor’s The Greeks on Pleasure (Oxford 1982). Let me quote from their book: ‘Aristotle’s ecstatic language about the delights of philosophizing is not likely to arouse an answering echo among many practitioners, let alone among nonphilosophers.’ (p. 5-6). With high unemployment among intellectuals for years to come it is the task of primary importance to rediscover philosophy as an essential intellectual activity, to rediscover delight in thought.’
Can’t you see the difference?
With best wishes, Julius Tomin
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