Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Link of the Day: Best Tribute to the late G.A. Cohen

Primary version of this post at Barry Stocker's Weblog, where the picture of Cohen can be viewed instead of clicking on the link below.

Image above is a photograph of the late G.A. Cohen (I believe this is from a joke at the expense of Isaiah Berlin, who had been Cohen’s teacher, parodying his interests in the minutiae of the intellectual history of the Enlightenment).

Colin Farrelly’s tribute at his In Search of Enlightenment blog.

Today brought the sad news of the death of Gerald Allen Cohen, a distinguished political philosopher of Canadian origin, who a was an Oxford Professor in the last part of his career. He moved from Marxism to a very radical form of egalitarian liberalism, and did very important work in both phases; and which can be found in journal articles and several books. Several of his doctoral students have become very respected figures in political philosophy themselves. I certainly did not meet him, or hear much about his as a person during his lifetime, but what I have seen today suggest there was an enormous amount of affection for him as a man, as well as intellectual respect for his work.

Colin Farrelly’s tribute brings out an admirable person, as well Cohen’s importance as a theorist. In a really great touch Farrelly includes the text of Cohen’s favourite poem, ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Tennyson. Apparently Cohen read it every week for many years, and it seem highly touching and poignant now, as it gives voice to an ageing hero facing death. In another great touch, Farrelly has linked to a podcast of Cohen giving an academic talk in which he refers to the poem.

There will be many more tributes, but I don’t think any will surpass this as a tribute to Cohen and as a moment of mourning for him.

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