Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Yet Another Conference!

We interrupt this interruption to our usual, if somewhat irregular, service to bring you this Very Important Announcement. 

Just in case there are any readers out there -- that is, just in case. And on the off-chance that, there should in fact be any, one or two might be interested to know that the 13th International Conference on Persons is this year being held at Boston University from the 3rd to 7th August.

     Anyone who read my report on the last one in Lund (August 2013) will be aware that I am strongly in favour of these events. If it were up to me, they would be made a compulsory part of all philosophy and theology courses at every level, anywhere. Psychology courses too, for reasons that will become clear in a later post.
     Should any of you choose to attend, you will find the most interesting philosophy being done anywhere, and at the very highest levels too. It is, I am convinced, almost as exciting as our very own BPF Oxford Conference -- almost. And if the prospect of encountering exceptional ideas proves insufficient to tempt you, the conference-goer would also meet some of the finest and best people in this or any other business. 

     I readily confess a bias in this matter. As well as knowing a number of the key-players such as Jan Olof Bengtsson, Phil Cronce, and Randy Auxier (who really ought to arrive at every lecture on horseback) -- excellent fellows, all -- I also know the local organiser. It is, if you can believe it, the now legendary James “snake-hips” Beauregard, philosopher, neuropsychologist, wine connoisseur, pizza maker. He’s worth the price of the ticket alone.
     Besides these bums, I am also fortunate enough to know the founders of the ICP: Tom Buford and Charles Conti. Two finer men, better teachers, and more exciting philosophers, one could not wish to meet. Tom always attends; Charles hasn’t done for many years, which is a great shame. In his absence, however, Tom, when called upon to talk about the founding of the ICP, tells the tale of the plate of tacos over which he and Charles dreamt up the idea and so brought us all together in the first place. God bless those tacos. 

     Exactly what Charles Conti -- alleged Italian-American and most definite hater of alliums large and small -- was doing eating tacos, I cannot begin to imagine. 

     Nevertheless, here is the Call for Papers for this year’s conference. I strongly recommend going if at all possible. If it was within my power to force you all to go, I would do so without the slightest hesitation; for your own good, naturally. It will, without a doubt, be the best thing anyone will have been to all year. 
     With, of course, the single, vital, exception of our own BPF Conference in Oxford. 

     So, for anyone thinking that they might attend, stop thinking and, like the chicken that crossed the road, just do it.
Aug. 3rd to Aug. 7th, 2015
Boston University, Boston, MA, USA


Papers in any area or discipline are welcome, so long as their themes are of concern to the ideas and concepts of persons, personhood, and personality as a philosophical, theological, psychological, social, political, historical, creative or linguistic concern.
Papers must not exceed a length of 3000 words and should be prepared for blind review. In the e-mail sent with the submission, we require the following eight items:
1. word count -3000 words maximum
2. author’s name
3. academic status (professor, unaffiliated, graduate student)
4. institutional affiliation (if any)
5. mailing address
6. e-mail address
7. the paper s title
8. an abstract -200 words maximum

Submission deadline for abstracts is MAY 25th, 2015. Abstracts will be accepted on that date, with full texts of paper due by July 1.

Submissions which do not include items 2-8 (if only abstract is being submitted) will be disqualified. Word count is due when full paper is submitted. No more than one submission by the same author will be considered.

Email as an attachment a copy of your paper and/or abstract in rich text format to:

Papers and/or abstracts will be reviewed by a committee. Notification of acceptance will be made via email in early June.

COMMENTATORS: Each paper will have a commentator. Those interested in commenting should send a note to by May 25th detailing availability and areas of interest. Persons whose papers are accepted will be expected to serve as commentators, if asked.

Copies of papers will be available by July 1st. Emails of authors will also be available for purposes of sending your commentary in advance of the conference.

CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For updates and information, visit our website:

REGISTRATION: from noon on Mon. August 3rd. Further details about meals, schedules, and conference fees will be provided as they become available.

That concludes this Very Important Announcement. . We return you now to the previous interruption of normal service. Interruption resuming in 5… 4… 3…

Monday, 27 April 2015

Conference Report: British Personalist Forum International Conference 2015; Episode 1

We interrupt our usual, if somewhat irregular, service to bring you this 17 part report from the 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference.  Temporarily fleeing 14th Century Ireland, our fearless correspondent returned, all too briefly, to attend this two-day event, which was generously supported by the British Society for the History of Philosophy.

Conference Report:
British Personalist Forum International Conference
18th - 19th March 2015, Oriel College, Oxford

Episode 1: The Golden Dawn of a New Republic
What a bright blue and brilliant sunshine morning that Wednesday morning was.  Bright blue, celestial blue, blue as ol’ Blue Eyes blue eyes; a green-spring sunshine smiling day specially made, or so it seemed, for those of us making our way to Oxford for the 2015 BPF conference.  From the four corners of the earth we came but mostly England.  Some of the finest scholars the world has ever known foregathered there, great minds all; also the usual crowd of loafers, loungers, and barflies.
     We came to do philosophy, which is as good a thing as any to do in Oxford in the springtime; and do it we did.
     We came, moreover, to see one another; old friends and new, well met all; we came to share ideas, to lark about and generally make a nuisance of ourselves.  All these we did likewise and with considerable vim.
     Richard Allen was, in every way, the founder of our intellectual feast.  More than a little gratitude is owed him for his efforts in bringing everyone together and providing us with such a fine space -- physical and personal -- in which to assemble.  Thanks are also due to the British Society for the History of Philosophy for the financial support, which enabled us to stage the whole thing in the first place.

     And thanks to Oriel College for hosting us? Indeed, though somewhat grudgingly, perhaps.  The college, it turns out, is something of a dump; not a full-scale crap-hole but certainly crummy.  For accommodation, we were supplied with grim student digs.  Dandruff flakes of grey-pink plaster stirred restlessly in drifts about a carpet of curious shade.  A grimy bathroom aroused strange, dark, half-memories of horrors unnameable and, God protect us, unthinkable.  The beds, low-slung and squat, clung to the carpet of curious shade with stumpy legs, reminding me thereby of my relations.  Upon them -- the beds, not the relations – lay several weirdly fine and diaphanous objects which turned out to be mattress, pillow, and blanket.  All in all, the perfect setting for a suicide.
     Dinner, served in the main hall, was not quite that.  And nor, fortunately, was it precisely inedible, although it did leave one thinking enviously of the survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.  Should any of those antediluvian comedians who once specialised in the Classic British Rail Buffet Car Joke care to visit Oriel, they will no doubt find sufficient material for a ‘comeback’ tour; along with a considerable quantity of shoe leather.  

Example of Classic British Rail Buffet Car Joke 1:
BR Buffet Car Waiter: Would sir like a traditional British Rail Pork Pie?
BR Buffet Car Customer: Is it fresh?
BR Buffet Car Waiter: I don’t know but the ingredients are written in Aramaic.

     On applying the Sheffield steel, I could not but wonder whether this was the prelude to a visit from Inspector Morse on some deadly gastrointestinal investigation, or to the greasy kebab van (Abra-Kebabra) parked outside the college; quite possibly, the same thing.  Fortunately, I was sat next to James T. Beauregard, he of the lantern jaw and rugged pizza-dough recipe.  A fine fellow indeed, who encouraged me to drink more stomach-cleansing red wine (Château Oriel) than might otherwise have been advisable. In this case it was entirely necessary.

But more on this later.

Example of Classic British Rail Buffet Car Joke 2:
BR Buffet Car Customer 1: I say, I say, I say.  This British Rail Sandwich has no nose!
BR Buffet Car Customer 2: How does it smell?
BR Buffet Car Customer 1: Like post-war economic decline, rising unemployment, and the unions gaining a stranglehold on the government! And asbestos!

     The conference itself, which is all any of us were really interested in, was a great success in every way imaginable.  A very fine collection of papers was presented to a crowd eager with anticipation and positively thrumming with excitement.  Brows were furrowed, heads were scratched, and notes were scribbled.  We were, as James B. would say, one giant ear.  No sooner had the speakers gasped their last syllable than discussion and debate flowed most energetically -- on one occasion, almost excessively so -- as we giant ears opened our big mouths and jumped in with both feet.   
     The conference theme, should any of you be unaware (for shame), concerned the contribution of British philosophers to the Personalist tradition.  The resulting haul was excellent; so good, in fact, that there wasn’t room for all and a number of first-class papers had to be turned down. Fortunately for us all, we expect to be able to bring you some of those in the next few issues of Appraisal.  Abigail Klassen‘s analysis of Galen Strawson on the “self”, which appears in the Spring Issue, is a prime example; and there are more to come.
     Of those that made the conference ‘cut’, the usual suspects -- Farrer, Macmurray, and Polanyi -- were well represented.  Fearlessly, David Treanor, James Beauregard, Tihamer Margitay, Endre Nagy, and, of course, myself stepped forward to do our duty.  As one would expect, Collingwood and Kolnai also made their appearance; the former presented by Anna Castriota, the latter by Elizabeth Drummond Young.  Thanks to Francesca Norman, John Gibbins, and Richard, a few new names were also brought to the table; names such as H. L. Mansel, John Grote, and W. R. Sorely, for example.  Personally, as it were, I was delighted to see Stuart Hampshire and P. F. Strawson represented by Karl Simms and Charles Conti respectively.  I cut my philosophical teeth on Hampshire and Strawson thanks, as it happens, to Charles.  Their anti-Cartesian conception of the “self” as physically embodied, socially embedded, was the ladder I climbed to reach the difficult and subtle heights of Farrer’s Finite and Infinite.
     All of these, however, we shall return to over the remaining 34 instalments.  

     Most important of all, of course, the cup of friendship was filled many times and passed freely among us.  Fortunately, a number of those who swigged that cup drank deep enough to let themselves be persuaded to join the BPF and pay real money for the privilege of doing so.  All such new members are very welcome, not least because their contributions mean that we shall not be forced to embezzle money from St. Anna Glypta’s Orphanage again this year.  On behalf of the BPF Committee and the orphans, you have our sincerest gratitude.
     Among those new members, Anna Castriota and Benjamin Bacle deserve special mention as they have agreed to join the committee; Anna as secretary taking over from Mark Arnold. Benjamin, who arrived in the guise of innocent bystander, was warned of the likely consequences.  That he succumbed and took the ‘King’s Shilling’ is his own fault and none other’s.  Likewise, David Treanor has also joined the committee and now represents the Southern Hemisphere (second-best hemisphere there is).
     Another successful, and most noteworthy, coup on the recruitment front, was our acquisition of a president.  Thanks to the sterling efforts of our charming and persuasive chairman, Alan Ford, Raymond Tallis made the leap from keynote speaker to Big Cheese.  The title is, for the moment, purely honorary, which means Ray will not have access to the launch codes for any nuclear arsenals and cannot declare war on other countries or philosophical societies (for now; so just watch it, Macmurray Fellowship).  Nevertheless if all goes to plan, you may expect to see the town halls of Great Britain adorned with giant posters of Prof. Tallis, while members of the BPF, dressed in alarmingly smart uniforms, march through the streets.   

¡Viva El Presidente! ¡Viva La Revolución!

     Needless to say, Ray doesn’t know anything about this yet.

     This concludes the first in our new 25 part series: The 2015 British Personalist Forum International Conference, A Report, the remainder of this episode having been redacted for security reasons.  We hope you will join us again during the next few weeks for the remaining parts 2 to 34.