Saturday 28 December 2013

In memoriam Peter Geach

                                                Peter Geach (1916-2013)

As so often, you lift your head up briefly from the mince pies to discover the world has moved on a little and not in a good way.

The death of Peter Geach at 97 can hardly be described as tragic, but it does mark the passing of one of the great names of British Catholic philosophy. On a personal note, borrowing a (personally inscribed) copy of Geach's ( I think) Mental Acts from another Catholic philosopher sticks in my mind as a symbolic moment in my education, first, because it was further evidence of analytic philosophy's taking Aquinas seriously, second, because it was also further evidence of the sheer smartness of Catholic intellectual life, and, finally, because I thought it demonstrated extraordinary charity on the part of the lender to risk a cherished memento in the hands of a rather unreliable undergraduate. (A trust which, on that occasion at least, I didn't betray.) There is a sort of shadow of an apostolic succession in British Catholic intellectual life and much of it can be traced back through Anscombe and Geach.

Obituaries here (The Guardian) and here (Commonweal). From The Guardian, one of the better known anecdotes (of which there are many, some possibly true):

He and Anscombe were very traditional on matters of sexual morality, and in 1968 they toasted the Humanae Vitae encyclical, which forbade Catholics' use of contraception, with champagne. They were fairly liberal with their children, however, and dismissive of cleanliness or supervision. On opening the door to a policeman and a lost child, Geach shouted into the house: "Elizabeth, is it one of ours?" It was.

Requiem aeternam dona ei , Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat ei.


  1. Dis you ever hear their description of their manner of aquiring and using the persian rug on the wall?

  2. This would be about 1963-64, but really, not so much the details it was the dismissive offhand almost flippant WAY they said of it how theyd got it nth hand or from some relation for the narrow little room at the back just ahead of the kitchen, whichever visitor it was told them it was genuinely old and valuable and they COULDN't keep using it as a rug,so ," if we can't , we can't" they stopped, put it on the wall, as was, "can't clean it ,it's been pissed on and shat on and vomited on by all the children in turn, and dogs,unquote, apparently it's got to stay that way, the fadeder the better , but we cant find a good cheap rug to replace it."
    I don't know it'd be funny without knowing them, which my Godmother rather than I was the family friend- I have wondered if it was exactly so but it'd be typical of them to just USE a thing.
    Leave on your combox or remove as you will
    God bless

  3. I don't know if you 'do' awards, but as I really appreciate what you write, I wanted to say so here with this:

    Hope you have a lovely Christmas and that 2014 will be good for you and yours. xx Jess

  4. Thank you, Jess! I take compliments wherever I can get them, but one from you who have such a positive online presence on your blog is particularly welcome!!

    My best wishes to you for the remainder of Christmas and for 2014.