Peter Kivy

Peter Kivy, my old friend and colleague from Rutgers, was the nicest person you could wish to meet: funny, civilized, humane, generous, kindly, and a real friend. We used to drive back to Manhattan together after a long day at Rutgers and have delightful conversations on the New Jersey Turnpike. But he had a sharp and acerbic wit and a strong moral sense: nothing wishy- washy about Peter! He also told terrific jokes. Above all, he was a serious and accomplished philosopher. The last time I saw him was in Miami a year or so ago, where we sat and talked on my back porch like old times (much lamentation about the state of things).


I remember when it was desirable to find citations relevant to what one had written: it anchored one’s work to that of others, so that it didn’t seem merely eccentric. How nice to find some obscure reference backing up what one wanted to say! But the proliferation of journals and people writing in them has changed this: now there is just too much to keep up with, especially if you write in multiple areas. If you cite everything relevant, you drown your own work in citations. Already one risks offending people and not being deemed sufficiently “scholarly” if one tries to keep one’s citations under control (and they don’t look pretty as they eat up the page). How far can this go? What if every paper you write has at least 500 relevant sources for you to cite? How will it be in fifty years? Will you be expected to cite all the relevant stuff? (This is not even to mention reading all of it.) I’ve already decided to cut citations drastically in my writing: it has just become too unmanageable.

American Philosophy

One finds people bemoaning the state of “the philosophy profession” these days, but I never see it noted that it is American philosophy that is eating itself alive. I haven’t observed that philosophy in other countries is undergoing a similar crisis (though there may be some spillover). Title IX is an American thing (I won’t call it a law). From where I stand (I’m English) the problems we are witnessing are distinctively American, resembling other forms of American hysteria, intolerance, extremism, stupidity, mob mentality, and violence. Recognizing this may help in addressing these problems. (Sorry to be so blunt.)

New York

I just returned from a trip to New York in which I gave a paper on consciousness to a conference at Suffolk County Community College (respondent Ed Erwin); attended my friend Gregory Soros’ thirtieth birthday party (on a boat by Chelsea piers, followed by late-night ten-pin bowling); spent time with a brilliant and brave political exile (“John”) from Malaysia at Gregory’s place in Soho (we listened to a lot of Prince songs); had a long and profound dinner with Tom Nagel; and ended with a delightful lunch with George Stephanopoulos. All round a very good trip.

Philosophy in Five Years

I think the field will be a complete shambles. It’s already imploding from the inside, but in five years most of the distinguished people will be gone. Political schism will continue to tear the profession apart, probably getting even worse. Intellectually things are not going in a good direction. Maybe other countries will assert themselves, leaving American philosophy to deteriorate. I would say that American philosophy is about half as good as it was fifteen years ago and that it will be half as good again in five years.

Hard Day’s Night

I happened to watch Richard Lester’s film about the Beatles. Oh what a time that was! All of John, Paul, George, and Ringo came across beautifully. What struck me was the way the interludes of the Beatles singing songs seemed like oases in a tawdry world: so pure, so innocent, so full of life. Nothing like that could exist today. We have lost so much. I was in a group myself at the time and now think of it as a period of rare optimism and humanity.