Jerry on Jerry

“I was involved in three long-running arguments over the course of my career. The first was with the Althusserians, on Marx’s theory of history, and I knew what that was about. The second was with Nozick, on self-ownership, and I knew what that was about. The third was with Dworkin, on expensive tastes, and I still have no idea what that was about.”

(Imperfect paraphrase from memory of conversation a few years ago.)

Dead Socialist: G. A. Cohen, 1941-2009

Jerry Cohen collapsed yesterday and died this morning.

The words that follow were written by Frederick Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge on 15 March 1883, the day after his friend Karl Marx had died, they are words that Jerry knew very well and in which he found inspiration, and they seem appropriate for this very sad morning.

Be that as it may, mankind is shorter by a head, and the greatest head of our time at that. The proletarian movement goes on, but gone is its central figure to which Frenchmen, Russians, Americans and Germans spontaneously turned at critical moments, to receive always that clear incontestable counsel which only genius and a perfect understanding of the situation could give. Local lights and lesser minds, if not the humbugs, will now have a free hand. The final victory is certain, but circuitious paths, temporary and local errors – things which even now are so unavoidable – will become more common than ever. Well, we must see it through. What else are we here for?

And we are not near losing courage yet.

[Picture credit: Chris Bertram]

Philip Pullman’s Oxford Honorary Degree Citation

Quas res melius aliis gentibus gesserunt Britanni? Neque in sphaeristica, ut puto, neque in coquina neque in fabulis musicis fingendis omnibus antecellunt. Sed si fabulas ad puerorum delectationem inventas examinaverimus, adfirmare fortasse audebimus nullum esse populum quem ea in arte non superaverimus. Praeterea, magna pars eorum qui libros pueris optime scripserunt Oxoniam nostram habitavit; plerique in hac universitate studuerunt atque docuerunt. Tamesis prope ripam Grahameius ventum inter salices susurrantem audivit; qui etiam hac in urbe est sepultus. Oxoniae Alicia terram mirabilium intravit; Oxoniae gens hobbitorum nata est; Oxoniae porta ad Narniam est aperta. At hic quem nunc produco hunc ipsum locum vel maioribus laudibus ornavit, quippe qui in suis fabulis Oxoniam lepide descripserit et, ut ita dicam, dramatis sui personam fecerit.

Primus Carolus Kingsley, ut videtur, cum de infantibus aquaticis scriberet, id genus fabulae invenit quod puerum vel pueros in alium mundum transfert et aliquando in nostrum rursus reducit. Quem secutus est Ludovicus Carolus, ubi Aliciam ad terram mirabilium et per speculum misit, postea etiam is qui de Petro Pane scripsit, mox Clivus Lewis, denique hic quem hodie videmus. Hoc tamen modo ab aliis differt, quod mundo illo ficto ad naturam animi humani scrutandam usus est. Socrates quidem daemonis se monitu saepe corrigi credidit; hic daemona unumquemque hominem, sive iuvenis sit sive senex, manifeste comitari fingens, arcana indolis et ingenii nostri in apertum protrahit. Itaque cum puerulos delectat innumerabiles, tum lectores adultos alicit atque arrigit. Quare ut Horatius Romanae se lyrae fidicinem vocavit, ita nos Lyrae Oxoniensis cantorem salutemus.

Praesento textorem fabularum sollertissimum, Philippum Nicolaum Outram Pullman, Excellentissimi Ordinis Britannici Commendatorem, Collegii Exoniensis et alumnum et socium honoris causa adscriptum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.

[over the fold for the translation]

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Pancake Day May Have Been British Values Day, But This Coming Tuesday Is Republic Day!

This just in. No idea who or what is behind it. Sounds fun, though.

Reminder: Republic Day – 17 March 2009

On 17 March 1649, Parliament voted to abolish the office of king, and England became a republic until 1660. We will be marking the 360th anniversary of that historic occasion, and reaffirming the current relevance of the issues raised then – the monarchy and House of Lords, democratic rights and civil liberties – with a rally in Oxford town centre.

Professor David Norbrook to speak

We are delighted to confirm that amongst the speakers will be Professor David Norbrook, Merton Professor of Renaissance English literature at Oxford University, and author of such works as Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance and Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics, 1627-1660.

Also speaking will be city councillors John Tanner (Labour) and David Williams (Green Party), as well as Bill MacKeith on behalf of Oxford and District Trades Union Council, and representatives from a variety of left and progressive organisations from the city. We will also read out a message of support we have received, from the Society for Robespierrist Studies, an association of French scholars who specialize in revolutionary history.

Event: Republic Day outdoor rally
Date: Tuesday 17 March
Time: 6pm to 7pm (approx.)
Location: Carfax

Blue Blood: Screening & Symposium

From the Ruskin School website:

The film director Stevan Riley will be coming to Oxford at 4.30pm on Friday 27 February to screen his brilliant documentary Blue Blood in the auditorium at Magdalen College.

Blue Blood follows a group of Oxford students in the run-up to the Varsity boxing match and stars ex-Ruskin School undergraduate Charles Ogilvie.

Stevan will introduce the film and he, Charlie and others will contribute to a round-table discussion immediately afterwards.

Variety described it as one of the better sports movies in recent memory, but Blue Blood is also a wonderful story about obsession and the search for personal identity.

Admission free.