Brian Barry is dead

by Harry on March 11, 2009

Via Leiter I see the very sad news that Brian Barry is dead. As anyone who knew him can tell you Brian was some sort of force of nature; irascible, funny, impatient, kind, clever and subtle, but sometimes obtuse and sledgehammering. A founder of analytical political philosophy, who became irritated by its unworldliness, and who moved, as far as I can tell, from the middle of the political spectrum gradually but relentlessly to the left, while the world determinedly moved the other way. And he was verbose. Polity got me to read an early version of Why Social Justice Matters, telling me that it was commissioned to be 30,000 words long…… (by the way, that manuscript was the first time I saw Unequal Childhoods cited, which means he must have read it, and written about it, within days of its publication — so much for his early advice to me that “in this life you either read, or you write, you can’t do both”).

The last time I saw him was on a flying visit to Swift, when he and Anni dropped in, almost (but not quite) without warning, for a drink. It was an unexpected pleasure to see them, and Brian dominated the conversation, as he sometimes did. He’d recently been in the States and had visited his ex-wife, to see her for the last time. She had joined a religious community, which was not quite Trappist, but committed to speaking only when necessary. Both Adam and I had to suppress a giggle that someone who must once have been surrounded by words should go to such lengths to turn her back on them.

Many readers will only know him for his public performances, which were often witty, but also usually pugnacious and sometimes ill-tempered. Even I, who knew him not well, but well enough, and was on the receiving end of a great deal of kindness and support from him, found the following story, which I can’t attribute for an obvious reason, surprising. At a post-lecture party, a female graduate student (from whom I heard this) found herself in a corner with a male professor who started making very unwelcome advances that were not obvious from a distance. Brian, from across a crowded room, noticed, and quietly made his way to them, and subtly engaged said professor in conversation. He never spoke to her about the incident, which she interpreted not as him feeling uncomfortable, but as his being sensitive to the fact that she didn’t want to discuss it.

Brian told me once that he planned to stop writing at 70, and I think he more or less kept to that. So it is although a sad loss for philosophy, we probably haven’t lost writings we’d otherwise have seen. But it is a terribly sad loss for Anni, and for his many friends all over the world. And for that matter, for the world that moved right while he moved left. (Text edited in response to kidbitzer’s comment).

(UPDATES — at djw’s request, here’s the link to our post on WSJM, by Tom, not me! See also djw’s posting of a delicious, and unfortunately but typically prescient, passage from Brian’s review of Anarchy, State and Utopia). Further Update: please keep commenting. In a few days I’ll post again with links to the current thread, and to as many of the nice memories gradually emerging on the web as I can manage, and will tell Anni to have a look, because I know that she will be very pleased to see what so many people are saying. In the meantime here are Stuart White’s comments at Next Left).



Henry 03.11.09 at 3:57 am

I’m really sorry to hear this. I was just talking yesterday with a colleague about whether there were political scientists or political theorists who could actually write clear, lovely prose – Barry was one of the very few names that we could come up with. If he didn’t mince his words, he surely knew how to use them.


djw 03.11.09 at 5:28 am

You should link back to your post about Why Social Justice Matters; it was great and worthy of revisiting (as, of course, is the book).


John Quiggin 03.11.09 at 5:29 am

I’ve always been very impressed by everything of Barry’s I’ve read in my occasional forays into political theory. I can imagine him being as you’ve described.


djw 03.11.09 at 5:56 am

OK, I’m not finding in in trying to search the site, but didn’t Harry (or maybe Henry?) have an extensive post about WSJM?


Chris Bertram 03.11.09 at 8:12 am

A very sad day. I think Brian was best experience either on the page or either one-to-one or in very small groups (where he was kind and interesting) – in extended social situations (like conferences!) he could be a total disaster. Some time in the early 1990s I invited him to sit as a respondent on a panel at workshop I’d organized on basic income. I think that Brian was on third. Brian dropped off to sleep during the main paper and then snored loudly, but when his time came he snapped into alertness and gave some very cogent responses to remarks that he couldn’t possibly have heard.


Jon Pike 03.11.09 at 10:46 am

This is sad news. Brian Barry recorded an interview with me a couple of years ago drawing on material in Culture and Equality – he was paired with Bikhu Parekh. The interview is part of the course material for the Open University’s introductory course in the humanities, and, coincidentally, students got to the material on cultural exemptions this week. Consequently, thousands – it’s our biggest course – of OU students will be listening to Barry’s discussion with Parekh as part of their study this week, on ipods, on their way into work, doing the ironing, in the car.


Sam C 03.11.09 at 10:49 am

I’m also saddened to hear this. I have a slightly shamefaced taste for academic viciousness, and Barry was the master of that (I think of his brilliantly nasty review of Anarchy, State, and Utopia); but the one time I met him, he was gentle, courteous, and more interested than he had any need to be in what I had to say.


Matt 03.11.09 at 11:30 am

Sad news. I can say that I know this with authority but it’s my impression (from a few different sources) that Barry is significantly, perhaps largely, responsible for making _Ethics_ into the flagship journal for moral and political philosophy that it is today- that when he was editor several years ago he worked consciensiously to improve reviewing, to reduce its acceptance rate, and to make it the best journal for such work. (I believe, but am less sure, that he also was important in making it an important place for book reviews.) To the extent this is so, it was an important institutional contribution to moral and political philosophy.


kid bitzer 03.11.09 at 11:36 am

someone can contribute to philosophy other than by writing, no?

if it’s like other disciplines, one can contribute a lot by mentoring, teaching, encouraging, listening, critiquing, etc.

so someone’s death can be a loss to a discipline, even if that death did not deprive it of further writings?

i’ve never heard of this guy, but it sounds to me like his death is a sad loss for philosophy.


Ethics girl 03.11.09 at 12:59 pm

I’m very sad to hear this.

Despite never having met Brian Barry, I have found his work very helpful and inspiring. Almost every time I took an interest in a new topic within ethics or political philosophy, it seemed that Brian Barry had written a cogent, intelligent, clear piece of work on it. There seems to be a great deal of good humour behind a lot of his writing, which also seems relentlessly sensible and down to earth.

I am sad never to have had the chance to meet him.


Dave Maier 03.11.09 at 4:22 pm

I’m not a political philosopher, so I didn’t know Prof. Barry, but I do have a story to tell. Once I was at a colloquium at which, halfway through the speaker’s droning narration of his paper, someone – and I was told later that it was Barry, but again I don’t know for sure – interrupted, saying (approximately) “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we need to hear any more. This is just rubbish! It clearly can’t work at all. What’s the point in continuing?” The speaker didn’t bat an eye (although some others of us did wake up at that point), and there was a brief back-and-forth before the narration continued. I can’t speak to the substance, but I can say that that was the worst delivery of any paper I’d ever suffered through.


Harry 03.11.09 at 4:29 pm

That sounds like Brian.


Chris Bertram 03.11.09 at 4:44 pm

See “Chris Brooke”: for discussion of some of Barry’s prefaces and acknowledgements.

I’m reminded, by the way, that both Ingrid and I were present at a conference in Brussels (Feb 2003 at a guess) in celebration of an award to Philippe Van Parijs. Contributions from the floor were conducted by passing a microphone around, but once Brian got hold of it, it proved impossible to prise from his grasp as he started on several long perorations that lasted longer than the papers from the rostrum (certainly singly, and possible added together).


Craig Duncan 03.11.09 at 4:52 pm

I’m sad to hear this. I learned a tremendous deal from Barry’s writings. His writings are at once philosophically sophisticated, amazingly clear, empirically tremendously well-informed, and a pleasure to read (this last item being true of only a handful of philosophers, alas). The only negative thing I can say about Barry is that I blame him for my own failure to publish as much as I should; using his prose as model to which I compare my own, nothing I write seems very good.


Jeff 03.11.09 at 4:55 pm

Sometimes it just has to be said, no? — when the intersection of incompetent presentation (like robotic reading), preposterous analysis, and absurd conclusion makes a talk unbearable. “This is just rubbish! It clearly can’t work at all. What’s the point in continuing?” Amen!


Joshua Broady Preiss 03.11.09 at 5:05 pm

Barry is easily one of my favorite philosophers to read, in spite of or perhaps because of his verbosity. His work has greatly influenced me as a young philosopher, even as I am critical of it at times. I am saddened by his death and to have never had the opportunity to meet him.


Ingrid Robeyns 03.11.09 at 7:15 pm

Last week the Flemish philosopher Patricia de Martelaere died at the age of 51 (whom none of you will know, except if you’re Dutchspeaking, since she only wrote in Dutch). That was very sad news. And now again sad news on Barry’s death. I should confess that I had mixed views on his work – I find some of it brilliant and some of it perhaps a little too polemical and sweeping, but there can not be a doubt that it is a great loss to our profession, and of course a tragic loss to the people closely related to him.


pt 03.12.09 at 12:29 am

I’m terribly sorry to hear this. He was one of my heroes, one of the best, if not the best, incisive, witty, biting critic of other political philosophers.


Keith Dowding 03.12.09 at 5:46 am

At the ECPR Workshops in Paris Albert Weale was commentator on some kind of Nozickian paper and noted that the author seemed to only want to give the rights that might be applicable to Robison Crusoe alone on his island – ‘More like the rights you’d give to Robinson Crusoe’s dog’ growled Brian from the back.

Anni told me later that Brian really liked me on first meeting because after the seminar I asked him if he wanted to go for a drink. Friendship cemented.

We argued of course, but the one time I swore at him was going over Striding Edge in the Lake District; it had got much rougher since he’d last done it and was now quite a scramble. I’d taken the rucksacks over, and come back to help Anne my wife, who was too short to make some of the footholds and then went back to see if Brian needed any help. I saw Brian resolutely climbing towards a sheer edge away from the scramble down the correct side. ‘This way Brian, go left, go left, go f*ing left you f*ing idiot listen to me’. He did, he usually listened, eventually, even if he did not always agree, but this time the advice seemed sage to him, ‘go left, go f*ing left.’

I learned from Brian that is easier to write more than less. You can always edit down, and if four out of every five lines is going to be cut, then you don’t have to worry first draft if they each make sense. It is only the final version that has to make sense. And his always did. Many people have made the point that he wrote beautifully, that was not mere style, but redrafting ten or twenty times on occasion. The real mark of how good his writing really is comes when you try to critique it. There are some writers that seem really profound on first reading, largely because you don’t understand half of what they are saying. Second and third read proves that is because what they are saying doesn’t make sense. It is always clear what Brian is arguing, but is only on second and third read, when you’re checking him against the criticisms you are trying to make, that you realize that it is actually important to his point that he has used a semi-colon and not a comma; whilst the subordinate clause is not just an opportunity to make a joke but a serious response to the point you were intending to make.

I think it is only those who read Brian’s work as carefully as he wrote it, that truly appreciate just how good he was.


Wyn Grant 03.12.09 at 6:06 am

One of the aspects of his career that is probably less known is that he was one of the main movers in a much needed revitalisation of the Political Studies Association of the UK in 1975. I also remember attending a workshop with him over a few days on the shores of a lake in Brelin when it was still a divided city (in fact I think I have a photo of him at that event somewhere). He could certainly be pugancious and unwilling to suffer fools gladly, but he was very supportive to younger scholars.


Jo Wolff 03.12.09 at 8:23 am

Brian’s character and contribution has been described so well by others that I don’t feel I have anything to add. But on reading through the comments I remembered that I reviewed his two volumes of essays in 1992 – before I had met him – and wondered what I had said about them. Here is one paragraph: “Although a number of themes recur throughout the volumes, no single argument or thesis particularly stands out as central or unifying. Many of the pieces are largely or partly critical studies of the work of others, and Barry clearly takes a lot of pleasure in setting things straight, deflating egos, and putting people right. Charles Fried’s Right and Wrong, we are told, is a “rather crass book” (2.40n), and the same adjective is applied to Ronald Dworkin’s suggestion that moral beliefs can be treated as “external preferences” (2.33). John Rawls is, at one point, astonishingly described as “cavalier” (2.69), Steven Lukes is “obscurantist” (1.304), while Sen’s “Paradox of the Paretian Liberal” is no paradox at all (2.78-109). In Barry’s world-view (to paraphrase Ronnie Scott) everyone has feet of clay and some have heads of clay too. One unspoken message of the collection seems to be that political theory can be much easier than most people make it, provided that one keeps things clear, puts down one’s ideological axe, and resists the temptation to seek novelty or paradox for its own sake.”


Paul Kelly 03.12.09 at 11:39 am

Brian was a fine philosopher when he wished to be but for him that was never enough. His long term reputation will be that of a political theorist, and much of his work and career was concerned with carving out that peculiar vocation and activity. The activity of the political theorist, in Brian’s work, is philosophically informed but located firmly within the social sciences. What often seemed like impatience with philosophical questions, was more often an impatience with philosophers who made no effort to inform their work with the best lessons of the social sciences. Brian was particularly interested in social policy throughout his career and retained that to the very end of his life when his interest in some debates in political philosophy was certainly waning. This understanding of political theory is already present in this earliest and perhaps still his greatest work Political Argument, but it informed all that followed. It also made him attractive and intersting company to a very broad range of people across the different fields of political science and philosophy – and helped him to find a home in political science departments with a deep tradtion in political philosophy. His contribution to the development of political science in Britian and the US was not merely through his powerful writings or his teaching but his work in building departments, reforming journals, work on editorial boards, university governance and professional associations. He did not always enjoy this work, but he did it seriously and with a vision of how a philosophically informed social science could make important differences to society, politics and the academy. Although a scourge of utilitarianism he is very much in a tradition of philosophical radicalism that comes down from the nineteenth century utilitiarians Bentham and Mill, through the likes of Sidgwick and Hart and through their predecessors and his intellectual heroes Hobbes and Hume. As an aside for those who think he represented a tradition that thinks political philosophy began in 1971 – Brian had a deep familarity with the canon of political philosophy and could quote chapter and verse of Hume and Hobbes in a way that would match the best Cambridge historian of political thought. He also knew intimately the work of many of the earlier twentieth century ‘gurus’ of political thought that he often disparaged in print. In the end, Brian’s vocation as a political theorist is that of, what Karl Popper called, a critical rationalist. Brian knew Popper’s work as well and there are many significant echoes of it in Justice as Impartiality (1995). The critical rationalist is not a system builder but someone who takes small and manageable problems and solves them by careful thought and experiment. Political thought, on such a conception, might have fewer of the dizzy excitments of system building, but it can produce results and can make a significant contribution when allied with political science. His last major work Why Social Justice Matters, seemed to many to abandon political philosophy, but I always saw it as an attempt to show what political theory had already achieved could be applied to social problems. Such and approach was not to abandon philosophy but to put it to work alongside social and political science. This complex and subtle synthesis was, I believe his life’s vocation. He was not a mere positivist and saw social science without normative theory and purpose as an equally stagnant dead end. His predecessor at LSE, Michael Oakeshott, famously criticised the figure of the rationalist in politics. To me, Brian set about defending that figure. I can see the arguments on both sides, but in the end I find Brian’s conception of the craft of the political theorist more congenial.


Andrew Dobson 03.12.09 at 12:47 pm

This is dreadfully sad news. Around 10 years ago now Brian had a bad car accident and was laid up for some time. This turned out to be as lucky for me as it was awful for him, since I was organising a series of workshops on Justice and the Environment, and I very much wanted Brian to come to all three of them. No hope, I thought. But he graciously rang back to say that he was just emerging from his enforced idleness and ‘would love’ to come to the seminars. The result was a rare treat for all those who were able to benefit from his presence. The paper he wrote for us on that occasion is still one of the very best reflections on the relationship between justice and sustainability.


Daniel Weinstock 03.12.09 at 12:51 pm

Brian was among other things one of the funniest political philosophers we had, though those who were on the receiving end of his often barbed wit may not have seen it that way. We Canadians often came in for more than our fair share of criticism, Brian having charged us with having invented multiculturalism. But upon sober reflection, many of his criticisms have lingered and continue to urge themselves upon our attention, no matter how acid the prose in which they were couched. RIP.


Avner de Shalit 03.12.09 at 1:35 pm

Very sad news. I first met Brian when I was working on my dissertation. He came to lecture in Oxford and I told him I was working on justice between generations. “Ah” he replied with a huge smile, “you know it’s MY baby”. This sentence and smile were the essence of Brian: warmth, humour, and being ready to defend one’s positions. Since then we met many times, and he came to Jerusalem for two great weeks as a guest of the Hebrew University. I feel fortunate to have known him, a good hearted and warm person, so clever and sharp, and yet modest. He had a sharp tongue and he did not walk on tiptoes when he was criticising a paper etc., but he was very honest; I remember I was in a workshop and after hearing a student’s paper Brian said it was one of the best papers he had heard that year. I told the student: With Brian you know he did not just say this; he meant it.


Stuart White 03.12.09 at 2:05 pm

I’ve posted some thoughts on Brian over at Next Left, writing for a largely non-academic but left audience:


Matt 03.12.09 at 2:56 pm

I had no occasion to have any personal interaction with Barry but, thinking it over, I do want to draw attention to an essay of his that I think is unfortunately neglected, “The Quest for Consistency: A Sceptical View”, in the volume _Free Movement_ that the co-edited in the early 90’s with Robert Goodin. It’s a short and wonderful smashing of some of the more simple-minded (but fairly popular) arguments for open borders. I’m not sure every bit of it is right, and I don’t know what Barry’s considered positive view on the matter is. But, it’s quite devastating to several popular arguments for open borders and deserves to be read and cited more than it is.


Hillel Steiner 03.12.09 at 3:01 pm

I’ve little to add to what’s already been said here, beyond the recollection of a conversation with Brian, sometime in the early 1970s, when he confidently declared that, just as mathematicians cease to be creative sometime around their mid-twenties, political philosophers suffer a similar fate around their mid-thirties. No one’s career, it seems to me, better falsifies that claim than Brian’s itself.


Chris Brown 03.12.09 at 3:24 pm

Brian hated the term the ‘Enlightenment Project’, but he was as much an eighteenth century rationalist as he was a nineteenth century radical. He had a great belief in our capacity to solve problems by putting our minds to them – and I think this did sometimes lead to the irascibility which several writers have noted. Once he felt that he had worked things through, and had patiently explained his reasoning to you with all the clarity that his writing and conversation always displayed, if you still didn’t agree with him he could become rather testy. Basically, there must be something wrong with you, either you are not smart enough to see the point, or, if that is implausible, then perhaps you have gone over to the dark side! Of course there were some issues where reasonable disagreement was possible, but Brian always made sure he got to say what ‘reasonable’ meant in this context. This led to some fierce polemics, but he was also capable of friendship with people whose views he regarded as incorrigibly wrong-headed – I can testify to this from first hand experience, as someone who he regarded as a PoMo fellow-traveller, a follower of Michael Walzer and, even worse, an occasional Blairite. Over a bottle of wine and a good meal in his kitchen – cooked by Brian and Anni of course – none of that mattered, at least not very much….


Jacob T. Levy 03.12.09 at 4:19 pm

I’ve posted my remembrance here.


Paul 03.12.09 at 4:53 pm

I don’t have any direct evidence at hand, but I’ve said for a while now that the work of Barry’s that I’ve read reads a lot like a very well-informed academic blog–not unlike an exceptionally polished CT.


Axel Gosseries 03.12.09 at 9:31 pm

The last memory I have of Brian Barry is at Marc Fleurbaey’s book presentation at the LSE a few months ago. I didn’t recognize him straight. And for some reason, even after having noticed him, I remained intimidated and didn’t dare going to shake hands, despite having met him before. Since then, I have had to go through all his writings on intergenerational justice for the sake of introducing a paper on the matter. I have read some of these pieces again and again over the years. And yet, I was struck to re-discover how original he was on the matter.


Charles Jones 03.13.09 at 2:46 am

I knew Brian the scholar, the teacher, and the man. It is a sad time. I echo the sentiments of those who mentioned his kindness and generosity.
No political philosopher can match Brian Barry for the sheer entertainment value of just about anything he wrote. Brian’s writing reveals both his love of language and the clarity of his thinking. The argument is always logically organized and plain to see. And he made insightful contributions to so many areas of political theory – from social justice to democracy, from liberalism to environmental justice, from power to socialism, from rational choice to equality — always with state-of-the-art knowledge of a range of related fields and, of course, his own simple good sense.
The books are valuable literally from start to finish. He writes justly famous prefaces. (As is evident from the preface to Why Social Justice Matters, he was well aware of his reputation on this front.) Upon taking a new book of Brian’s in hand, one inevitably checks the back of the book, specifically the names in the index, to discover the identities of his latest victims.
I was lucky to have experienced the criticism of ‘encouraging and generous Brian’ rather than ‘Brian the uncompromising and dismissive critic’. Before I knew the full extent of Brian’s reputation as a devastating reviewer, I gave a paper on a PSA conference panel for which Brian was the respondent. I was too young and naïve to be frightened; luckily (for me), Brian said he thought I’d got it more or less right … and then he went on to tear to pieces the arguments of another, less fortunate, panel member.
My doctoral thesis was supervised by two of the finest political philosophers, Brian Barry and John Charvet. Upon receiving a chapter draft from me, they would choose different arguments to praise and criticize. I learned a lot during those years. One lesson, I think, was to have the courage to listen carefully to objections but not to be intimidated by criticism.
I consider myself privileged to have known Brian Barry. I agree with Stuart White that Brian’s work is timely at this particular historical moment. I would add that it deserves to become increasingly important in the coming years.
Cheers, Brian. I will miss you.


Jules Coleman 03.13.09 at 3:55 pm

The comments reflect well who Brian was — sympathetic and critical, charming and biting – all at once, and all the time. He had a good feel for the human condition and displayed easily his own humanness — faults and all. We had a good relationship, close at times — mostly during the 80’s, when Brian took over Ethics and with the aid of others, especially Russell Hardin, transformed the journal. It had been a disaster and an embarrassment under its previous Editor with whom I had several unpleasant interactions. Brian left Chicago for Cal Tech and in effect created the philosophy program that survives (I believe) to this day. He has left a substantial mark on the field, in his work — the best of which to my mind is critical but substantively and illuminatingly so — his revival of Ethics, his creating the Cal Tech philosophy program, and in the many interactions, personally and professional, with philosophers and philosophically minded persons, the world round. A complex man, and a life well lived.


Jules Coleman 03.13.09 at 3:57 pm

PS. I did not mean to imply that Brian took over Ethics in the 80s. He had taken it over in the 70s I believe, but our relationship — first through the Journal then more generally — flourished through the 80s.


Pete Morriss 03.13.09 at 4:15 pm

I’d like to add my expressions of sadness, and also add to the personal memories. None of the messages here so far have been contributed by an undergraduate student of Brian. I was a student at Essex when he arrived in 1969. His reputation preceded him: of someone who was ruthless in argument and did not suffer fools gladly. Needless to say, we were terrified. However, Brian turned out to be unfailingly kind and helpful, even to weaker students. I remember him expressing sadness, rather than annoyance, at a student whose exciting extra-curricular activities left him no time for academic work, with predictable results. Brian went out of his way to make time for all of us, and to encourage those whom he possibly could. He rescheduled a small-group course which I took with him to the evening, so that he could hold it in the less formal atmosphere of his house, to which he was happy to invite us. (In this he followed the lead of some of the more radical and student-centred staff at the time.) He also provided (perhaps unwisely) copious amounts of beer for us. I gathered later that his relations with some of the more senior members of the Department and University were sometimes acrimonious; but with students he was most generous with his time and did everything he possibly could to encourage our intellectual development. He was surprisingly reticent in expressing his own opinions, but excellent at instilling a sense of the excitement of intellectual work. He will be much missed as a colleague and writer; but also few of us have been able to live up to the example he set as a teacher.


Barbara Atkinson 03.13.09 at 11:32 pm

This is nothing to do with politiccal philisophy. I knew Brian through Anni who is a friend of mine since the 1970’s. I will remember being scared on first meeting this great intellect but over the years discovered how kind and welcoming he was. I visited them three times in New York and it was a joy. I will always remember that he was somone who was a great trencherman – he loved his food and was fantastic at making roasts. Always good cheese on offer too. Last saw him at a lunch at my house in Brighton in January. I hope he enjoyed it.


Barbara Atkinson 03.13.09 at 11:42 pm

This is not a political science comment just personal. I knew Brian through Anni who has been a friend of mine since the 1970’s. I can rememeber being scared when meeting this great intellectual but I should have had nothing to fear. I found Brian kind and hospitable and the three times I visited in New York were a joy. Brian was what I would describe as a great trencherman and he cooked a mean roast. And served great cheese. The last time I saw him was at luch at my house in Brighton in January. I think he enjoyed it.


Anni Barry 03.13.09 at 11:46 pm

I can’t easily describe how much I have been moved by your recollections of Brian. The last three years have been difficult, and it’s been lovely to read your stories and to realise that the person you are remembering is the real Brian, my Brian,rather than the shadow of himself that we have been living with for the last threeyears. Brian loved his graduate students – several generations of them, who fortunately for us became our family. He was great at encouraging young people, and got a real kick out of you all
doing so well- you know who you are!

When you’re in London, come by 14 Russell Chambers

Much love


Ofer Cassif 03.14.09 at 6:04 am

I’ve just come back to Israel from a visit to Spain and read the sad news about Brian. I first met Brian in 1996, being introduced to him by Avner de Shalit. After a few frustrating months as a PhD student at the Philosophy department, it was really refreshing to meet Brian and being “welcomed aboard to the Government department”, as he himself put it. Since that day we have developed real close relations which we kept for a few good years. I was fortunate not only to write my dissertation under his supervision, being his research assistant for two years at LSE and then invited to join him at Columbia University; it was also a (perhaps the) joy to enjoy his and Anni’s companionship in yet another love we share, apart from academic stuff, that is, good food and drinks (and a good laugh, of course). Beatriz, my spouse, and I will never forget that little humble kitchen at 14 Russell Chambers, where Anni easily dished out homemade delicacies while Brian lecturing on served cheeses and opening yet another bottle. Indeed, Brian could often be harsh perhaps even unpleasant, but on the whole that could not overshadow his kindness and sensitivity. I wish to give here only one short example to this kindheartedness of his, and of Anni’s. When Beatriz went to a few months family visit in Uruguay and I couldn’t afford to join her, it didn’t take Brian and Anni much time to finance a ticket for me, insisting that no refund is expected. Beatriz and I join Anni in her grief.


Fred Rosen 03.14.09 at 7:49 pm

Although Brian and I were contemporaries and knew each other for many years, we had moved academically and philosophically in different directions. By the time he had come to LSE, I had already moved from LSE to UCL to take on the task of editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. Our paths crossed again at the memorial meeting for Herbert Hart, where we spoke at length about Hart’s involvement in the Bentham Committee and the new edition. Brian expressed an interest in assisting us, and I warmly accepted his offer. He served for many years on the Bentham Committee and played a crucial role in helping us to secure grants and raise funds to keep the edition going. I last saw him in June 2008 at the annual meeting of the Bentham Committee, where, while frail, he maintained his interest and involvement.

During this period I also came to appreciate his fine mind and his capacity for critical argument. He and Anni attended a number of conferences sponsored by the International Society for Utilitarian Studies, and he served on the editorial board of Utilitas. In the midst of all of this academic activity, I was not only aware of the breadth of his reading and his sharp, philosophical mind, but also of his warmth, kindness, and sense of humanity. I shall miss him very much.


Paul Anand 03.15.09 at 11:58 am

I shall fondly remember the LSE rational choice group meetings held in Brian’s front room – the colleagues he attracted to those events reflected his own unique combination of sharp but very human engagement with ideas in and for the world.

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