Liz McKinnell

Personal recollection (Interlocutor or correspondent)

Mary Midgley

General Recollections and Thoughts

I first met Mary when I invited her to speak at a conference on ethical naturalism, when I was studying for my MA in Durham in 2005. I remember being extremely intimidated by her at the time, more because of my admiration for her than anything else. She was an excellent speaker, and also put me very much at my ease, although I am fairly sure I lost comprehensively in a discussion that we had on the concept of rights (I thought they were much more useful than she did!)

Since then I met her on a number of occasions, although not as much as I would have liked. What always struck me was how intensely democratic her approach was, communicating philosophy to everyone regardless of their academic rank or qualifications, but without ever losing any intellectual rigour.

A comment on intellectual indebtedness

I owe an enormous debt to Mary in the way that I do philosophy. I have learned a great deal from her stylistically, and also that the style is not easily separable from the substance. She impressed upon me the importance of images, narratives, myths, and patterns of thought, something that eventually led me to a new interest in the philosophy of literature, from romantic poetry to fairy tales. She also taught me that it is important to know the history of our ideas, and that the uses that concepts served in the past are not necessarily ones that we need today.

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