Antony Flew - A Brief Appreciation
Antony Flew has died at the age of 87:
I came across Antonys work in the early 1980s, when I first discovered
David Hume. I admired Antony without ever supposing Id meet him. We did
eventually meet in June 1992. I was sitting in my office in the Prime
Ministers Palace in Bratislava. The telephone rang. It was one of the
guards on the main door. He told me there was a strange old man with him
who understood a little German, but no Slovak, and who was unable to make
himself understood. I went down, and found it was the great Professor
Flew. Hed arrived at the main railway station to give some lectures for
the Jan Hus Foundation, but hadnt been met. So hed wandered the streets
of a Bratislava where almost no one in those days knew any English.
Eventually, for some reason I was never able to discover, hed been pushed
towards the Prime Ministers Palace. I took him off to his hotel and got
him booked in. Before we parted, he asked if Id like to go with him the
following morning to the site of Austerlitz (Slavkov) to inspect the
Next day, I went off with him as his interpreter, and spend the day
translating all the inscriptions there out of Czech and French and Latin.
It was a jolly outing.
Back in England, I found myself bumping into him at an increasing number
of libertarian and conservative events. Most people, I regret to say,
regarded him as something of an old bore. He liked the fact that I always
regarded him with awed admiration and enjoyed discussing his favourite
subjects empirical epistemology and so forth.
I remember walking with him to Charing Cross Railway Station in late 1997.
He surprised me then by wishing for a Christian revival to counter what he
regarded as the much more malign force of Islam. This did sort of prepare
me for his later conversion to theism though I was always surprised at
his acceptance of the argument from design in terms that our common
Master, David Hume, had already demolished. I was too polite in any of our
later conversations to press him on this. Instead, I let him talk and talk
about the quite irrelevant facts of DNA and its complexities. And, since
Im a sceptic rather than an atheist, Ive never tried to argue anyone out
of a belief in God that might well be correct, even if I dont feel
terribly drawn to it myself.
During his last few years, his mind began to fail him. I met him once
while he was wandering lost in London. He recognised me and was grateful
that I was able to get him onto the right railway train back to Reading.
But he was increasingly vague about everything except philosophical issues
on which hed spent his entire life working, and that were unlikely to
leave him even after hed most much sense of his own identity.
He lived long. He lived well. If there is a God, I dont think Hell hold
against him the little matter of sixty years of philosophical atheism. I
bid farewell to a friend and a guide:
E tenebris tantis tam clarum extollere lumen
qui primus potuisti inlustrans commoda vitae,
te sequor o Graiae gentis decus inque tuis nunc
ficta pedum pono pressis vestigia signis .
Director, The Libertarian Alliance (Carbon Positive since 1979)
sean@... Tel: 07956 472 199
Skype Username: seangabb
Wikipedia Entry: http://tinyurl.com/23jvoz
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