Meeting philosophers

While doing my PhD at St Andrews I started a student philosophical society.  There already was a staff one, but its meetings featured largely technical papers, and I wanted something jazzier.  I invited all the famous philosophers I'd read, and invited them up to address us.  We didn't pay them a fee, but covered their travel and accommodation.  We did this by running a parallel Late Night Film Society, charging admission to students to watch classic movies, including the best of the “Carry On” series of saucy comedies.

The programme was amazing.  In a year and a half we entertained Karl Popper, Gilbert Ryle, R M Hare, P F Strawson, Isaiah Berlin, H L A Hart, W H Walsh, Hermann Bondi and others.  Not surprisingly, meetings were well attended, something we encouraged by passing round decanters of cheap port during the lectures.  I enjoyed the pleasure of the company of each of them for a few hours in addition, walking through St Andrews or on its beaches with them, eagerly discussing their work.

These were some of the giants of 20th Century philosophy, and it invariably surprises people when they learn that I met them all personally when I was a student at St Andrews, and that I still have signed copies of their books.