Brief Encounters: Notes from a Philosopher’s Diary
BRIEF ENCOUNTERS: NOTES FROM A PHILOSOPHER’S DIARY
Anthony KennyA description of Kenny’s life through some of his encounters with famous personalities.
This intriguing book is somewhat tangential to the normal range of reviews in The Reader, but will be of considerable interest to all serious students of religion, philosophy and politics. Sir Anthony Kenny, our most distinguished academic philosopher, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1955, and became a curate in Liverpool. Increasing religious doubts led, however, to his laicisation in 1963 when, as a result of his excellent academic qualifications and prowess, he became a Fellow of Balliol, and Tutor in Philosophy at Oxford University. This story is narrated in his autobiography, A Path from Rome (1985). Kenny’s career subsequently flourished. He became Master of Balliol, President of the British Academy and Chair of the Board of the British Library. Brief Encounters acts as a supplement to the 1985 biography by describing Kenny’s life through encounters with a galaxy of famous personalities whom he knew. I use the word ‘galaxy’ advisedly. We meet prime ministers (Macmillan, Heath and Thatcher), Cardinals (including Heenan and Murphy-O’Connor), Kings, Presidents and other leaders (including Clinton and Mandela); novelists, scientists and politicians of every hue. Kenny has something fresh and interesting to say about each one. This is not name-dropping - these are genuine new insights, and Kenny has provided exciting new material for future biographers. All his relationships were mutually cordial, with the apparent exception of Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach of Ireland. The priests and religious leaders are of particular interest. There are fine, sympathetic portraits of Austin Farrer, Henry Chadwick, Richard Harries and Desmond Tutu. We also see another side to Richard Dawkins (with whom Kenny disagrees, despite his own professed agnosticism). This entertaining book may not be an essential addition to a ministerial library, but it will fascinate and amuse its readers and even (perhaps) provide new anecdotes of the great and good for use in sermons.
Also available in paperback from 19th September 2019 - £9.99.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Stephenson