Coffee in Zürich

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 3, 2021

In 2007, I attended a workshop at which, during coffee after registration, I introduced myself to another scholar, who responded that he knew me. I couldn’t recall meeting him before, so when that showed on my facial expression, he added – “Well, I know your Crooked Timber persona”. That was a new expression for me! In my memory, Miriam was also there. A conversation ensued about Crooked Timber, and someone asked how the group of bloggers was put together and whether we all knew each other. I recall that those I was talking to were surprised to hear that, at that time (which for me was one year after I joined the blog), I only had met two Timberites – Harry and Chris. Harry I first met when I was a PhD-student at Cambridge and he was a keynote speaker at a political theory graduate conference, and Chris during a conference a few years later. But I had not met any of the other Timberites, and it would actually take quite a while before that would change.

I did at some point have a chance to meet Henry and Robin for coffee at a meeting of the American Political Science Association; and some of the Timberites that joined in later years are people I’ve met before they joined – Miriam from scholarly conferences and an informal network we are both part of that (in non-pandemic times) meets once a year; Gina from a visit I made to the University of Wisconsin when she was a PhD-student there, and subsequently at a workshop; and Serene from conferences organized by the Human Development and Capability Association, for which we also worked together when she served as vice-president while I served as president. I also once met up with Maria when I visited London and we had tea in the London Review Bookshop.

So when I went to Zürich to give a talk earlier this week, I recalled at the very last minute that this is the place where Eszter lives and teaches, and this trip might be my chance to also have coffee with Eszter. I fear I picked a really buzzy week for Eszter, but by starting the day earlier, we were able to meet up before I was heading back to the Netherlands by train. We had a delightful chat – thanks Eszter!

I believe I messed up what might have been my only chance to meet John Q., when at some point a few years ago he was in Rotterdam to give a talk (and/or collaborate with his co-author) – I doubt I’ll ever make it to Australia, but who knows.

I count that there are 20 Timberites; so that means that I’ve now met 9 of the 19 others. Still not halfway, but I’m hoping that at some point in time, I will have met every member of the crew.



anon 11.03.21 at 5:19 pm

Perhaps the most significant thing that has happened to me during the pandemic is that it has reawakened my love of coffee. As a retiree I can spend half-an-hour, or more, each morning pulling espresso shots or making lattes.

Coffee ☕️ is very good.

I hope the coffee you get in Zurich is great!


Ingrid Robeyns 11.03.21 at 7:26 pm

anon – I have as long as I remembered loved coffee and spent time to make really good coffee (and I’m very fortunate that my husband has the same high standards about coffee…). So that didn’t change during the pandemic, though I’m glad you have the time and discovered the pleasures of making a really nice coffee in the morning – or whenever else you feel like it.

I am not sure what has affected me most in the pandemic, since the pandemic co-occurred with another major disruption to my life (so one can never be sure about what the cause is) – but I’ve started to think differently about time(-use), and how we waste it on so many unimportant thing (mainly things that our employers, or institutions in which we function, demand or request from us) – and hence to put more centrally the question: what to do with the time that one is given here on Earth? (that is, before we die)? Given that the Earth is on fire (sometimes literally) doesn’t help to understand why we pay so much importance to so many totally trivial, stupid, and wasteful time-consuming activities. But, given that I’m 49, there might of course be an entirely non-pandemic/disruption/climate-crisis related explanation for why I am asking those questions now, rather than 10 years ago… :)


Eszter 11.03.21 at 8:01 pm

It was such a nice surprise to get to meet! I tend to prioritize meeting up with people sometimes to my sanity’s detriment when there is too much to do and I still meet up with people, but I agree with you that those things matter more than so many others. (That said, I am more selective now than I used to be about whom I keep in touch with. It’s another time prioritization issue. :)

So let’s see whom I’ve met. Kieran and I went to grad school together and at one point even shared an office. Henry and I have met at conferences at minimum. Maria and I have met up a few times, including coffee at a book shop cafe in London not too many years ago so I see a trend there. Chris and I met when he was in the Chicago area and we explored some of the north shore together. I made sure to connect with John Q when I gave a talk in Brisbane. Gina and I participated in a conference together in Israel and shared some fun meals. I visited with Michael when I gave a talk at Penn State once. I somehow feel like I’ve met Harry before, but I don’t think that’s actually happened yet. Same goes for Brian. And now Ingrid, of course. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


Matt 11.03.21 at 9:07 pm

he added – “Well, I know your Crooked Timber persona”. That was a new expression for me!

When I was a grad student, I used to comment a lot more on CT. (I think engles is the only semi-regular commenter still from around that time, but maybe I’m miss-remembering.) One time a pretty well known philosopher was giving a talk at Penn, and she mentioned “knowing” me from my blog comments. That actually scared me a bit and encouraged me to comment somewhat less.

As for blog members, I’ve met in person Harry (when he came to Penn), Chris, at a conference in the US, and Brian Weatherson (who likely won’t remember exchanging a few words at an APA conference many years ago.) I also know former members Jon Mandle and Micah Schwartzman quite well. The pandemic has spoiled several possible trips to Brisbane for me (a dear friend of mine from when I was in the Peace Corps teaches the UQ now, and we’ve wanted to get together for a while, but travel restrictions have made that impossible, and the Australasian Society for Legal Philosophy was supposed to take place there in 2020, before being canceled) so chances to perhaps meet John Quiggin in person have been put on hold. I met Serene Khader’s husband when he was a post-doc at the ANU, and “see” her on facebook all the time because of that friendship, but have never met her in person.


Eszter Hargittai 11.04.21 at 12:55 pm

Hehe, yes, those in-person comments referring to online interactions can be a helpful reality check. :-)


harry b 11.04.21 at 1:27 pm

I can think of two occasions on which a junior philosopher (one a job candidate here at Madison) have greeted me delightedly with “Of course I know your work on Crooked Timber” and then seen the panic in their eyes as they add “and of course your philosophical work too” which they think they should have led with. The job candidate was not in my department, but he probably thought I had a voice (which I probably did, though I wouldn’t have exercised it). Both times I laughed and assured them that my writing on CT is much more well known and I’m fine about that. (The job candidate was hired, which I thought at the time was the right decision, and now think was even more right than it seemed then).


John Quiggin 11.05.21 at 7:39 pm

I joined as a guest blogger, and managed to turn my visit into a permanent move – I think the same was true for John H and Belle a bit later. That was around 15 years ago, and I’ve gradually caught up with some of the others, mostly in locations that still seem exotic when looked at from Brisbane: Maria in Paris and LA, Henry and Scott in DC, Kieran in Tucson and then Chapel Hill, Daniel at the Euston pub where the once-famous declaration was signed, John and Belle in Singapore. Eszter visited me in Brisbane as she mentioned, and I caught up with Brian at ANU. That’s nine.
Not doing any visiting right now, as I can’t even cross the state border without quarantining on return. But everything is opening up by the end of the year, and we have so far managed to avoid the pandemic almost completely – one death in Queensland this year, and half a dozen in 2020.


Eszter Hargittai 11.06.21 at 7:44 am

John, that’s amazing about the Queensland Covid figures. Worth the restrictions.


John Quiggin 11.07.21 at 12:30 am

Eszter, that seems to be the general view. Governments that have closed state borders have been re-elected with big majorities. But we’re closing in on 80 per cent (12+) vaccinated now, which will mean re-opening in time for Christmas. Sadly, will just miss my mother’s 90th in November. But, a lot of people are making it to their 90th here, who would not have done in many other countries.


Eszter Hargittai 11.07.21 at 9:36 am

Sorry you’ll miss your mother’s amazing birthday, but soon after you’ll get to see her hopefully.

Evanston (12+) is 83% fully vaccinated (90% one dose) so that’s encouraging. The canton of Zurich is at 67% and it’s pretty much leveled off there. :(


oldster 11.07.21 at 12:54 pm

“The canton of Zurich is at 67% and it’s pretty much leveled off there. :(”
Very odd. Thoughts about why?
Here in the States, poor levels of uptake are tightly correlated with exposure to Fox, QAnon, and Trump idolatry. Presumably none of those are active in CH? Do you have a “Querdenker” community as in Germany? (I don’t understand the roots of that movement, either: right-wing politics, but also some longstanding flirtations with “alternative” medicine?)
Strange times. I’m glad that Evanston is safe, at least until you reach the ungovernable tribal regions of Kenilworth.

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