Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jason Cowley meets Bryan Magee


I have mentioned Bryan Magee on this blog several times. How he wrote a brilliant short book on Karl Popper that led me to the philosopher. How he was evacuated to Market Harborough as a boy during World War II.

He also interviewed some of the world's leading philosophers in two television series. The first of them, Men of Ideas, was broadcast in the early months of 1978. Later that year I started my degree in Philosophy at York having learnt much from it.

Men of Ideas also proved that talking heads make the best television if those heads are interesting enough,

Magee will be 88 on Thursday and now lives in a nursing home in Oxford. Jason Cowley has been to see him and writes about their meeting in the New Statesman.

They spoke of philosophy:
Even now, alone in his one room, late in life, he remains wonder-struck. “What the hell is it all about?” he asked. “What are we doing here? What’s going on? I feel the weight of these huge questions. And I know I can’t get the answers to them, and I find that oppressive.” 
In Ultimate Questions, Magee writes of being “driven to the view that total reality consists of some aspects that we are capable of apprehending and others that we are not”.
And of politics (Magee was a Labour and then SDP MP):
Magee follows the news and politics closely and considers the vote for Brexit to have been a “historic mistake”. More than that, it has dislocated him, as it has many others. 
“What this has made me understand is that I’ve lost my understanding of what’s going on. We must live with the consequences. But we will have serious problems long into the future, and the most serious problem is what you call ‘the elite being out of touch’ and being wrong about one huge thing after another. Society has changed, or is changing in ways we haven’t properly grasped.”
Cowley concludes:
Bryan Magee may now live in one room in Oxford and be unable to walk, but this remarkable man’s intellect is unbounded and his mind roams restlessly free. And just as he did as a child in Hoxton all those years ago, he cannot stop grappling with the human predicament. He is pursuing answers to questions he knows can never be answered, and yet will go on pursuing them for as long as he can, until the flickering flame of life is extinguished. 

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