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News: Autumn 1992
The Austrian political philosopher and economist Friedrich Hayek died on 23rd March, at the age of 92. An old-fashioned liberal, his book The Road to Serfdom (1944) enjoyed a huge upsurge of popularity in the 1980’s, as the bible of the libertarian right. However, his most important political work is generally reckoned to be The Constitution of Liberty (1961).
On 21st March, a row began at Cambridge University over a proposal to give an honorary degree to the French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida. Three dons stood up at a degree ceremony and indicated their opposition to the award by calling out “non placet”. This sparked a good deal of debate over the following weeks about Derrida’s works and influence. His opponents variously claimed that his works were impenetrable, or nefarious, or meaningless, and that he was generally vastly overrated. Derrida himself steadfastly refused to comment. The Sunday papers gave wide coverage to the dispute.
Dutch philosophy magazine
A philosophy magazine similar in format to Philosophy Now has recently been started in Holland. It is called Filosofie, and is edited by journalist Roeland Dobbelaer.
William Barrett, the philosopher who popularised existentialism in the United States, died of cancer in New York on 8th September.
Allan Bloom, who wrote The Closing of the American Mind, also died recently. So too did Eli Kedourie, professor of government at the L.S.E., and scholar of political philosophy and Judaism.
Doctor convicted for helping patient die
The debate over voluntary euthanasia was given fresh impetus by the trial of a doctor who gave a terminally-ill patient a potentially lethal injection. The patient, Lillian Boyes, was in severe pain and had asked hospital staff to hasten her death. Her consultant, Dr. Nigel Cox, injected her with potassium chloride, which has no beneficial medical effects, although experts were uncertain whether it was the cause of her death shortly afterwards. In September Dr. Cox was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for one year. Mrs. Boyes’ family stood by the doctor, saying that they had no complaint about his conduct. Campaigners for the ‘right to die’, including Ludovic Kennedy, also made statements supporting the doctor.
The British Medical Association said it favoured ‘living wills’, in which people leave written instructions detailing how they wish to be cared for if they become terminally ill.
Career moves : Abimael Guzman
September saw the arrest of Abimael Guzman, philosophy lecturer turned psychopathic terrorist leader. Guzman, formerly with the philosophy department at the San Cristobal de Huamanga University in Peru, took unofficial leave of absence 12 years ago to found the Shining Path guerrilla movement. Among its other achievements, this vicious but imaginative organization pioneered the use of the llama bomb. This involved getting llamas to swallow time-bombs and then tethering the poor beasts outside village post offices in the Andes.
Apparently the San Cristobal philosophy department is still awaiting a report from Guzman on his previous sabbatical, when he went to investigate the workings of Maoism in China. Perhaps he’ll have time to finish it now.