Mary Somerville Room
Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HD

Date & Time

2pm, Saturday
12th October 2019

Jane Heal

Jane Heal


Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel


Jane Heal & Ruth Padel were joined by an audience of 20 in Somerville College Senior Common Room, Oxford. They discussed the theme of The Self within Midgley's work.

Jane Heal reflects:

Ruth Padel read a beautiful new poem, composed in memory of Myles Burnyeat, 'Poem on the Self'.  Myles (himself a distinguished philosopher) had died only recently, after suffering for several years from dementia. But, as the poem evoked, he remained his gentle, courteous, caring self to the last.


Ruth and myself, with many voices from the audience also contributing, reflected on what this shows about what we are like. Could what is important about us possibly be that we each contain a Cartesisan Ego, ‘Descartes’ diamond’ as Mary labelled it, ‘a hard, impenetrable but very precious isolated sentient substance’?  What that conception gets right is that diamonds are of value. But (as Ruth brought out in another poem) diamonds, like other gems, admit the light and so are not really impenetrable. And we matter to each other not because we are hard and unchanging, but because we are interdependent, active, sometimes conflicted, growing.


Ruth's poem is now stowed safely in the tin. If you want to read it, you'll need to catch the tin at one of its future stops!

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The Self


Science and Poetry
Midgley, M. (2006)
London: Routledge, Chapter 7 (p.111-121)

Are You an Illusion?
Midgley, M. (2014)
Oxon: Routledge, Chapter 11 (p. 127-133)

Science and Poetry
Midgley, M. (2006)
London: Routledge, p.200-205