ThinkerAnthony Quinton

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A historian of philosophy, Quinton is known for writing perhaps the most concise definition of philosophy: “Philosophy is thinking about thinking. That brings out the generally second-order character of the subject, as reflective thought about particular kinds of thinking — formation of beliefs, claims to knowledge — about the world or large parts of it.” OK, he’s better known for his radio program, “Round Britain Quiz”, where he was known to be “to the point, amusing and free of jargon,” and one of the few professors “who would be considered for a directorship of an industrial company in the event of dismissals from universities.” But I’d like to remember him as someone who “thought about thinking.” Example: Quinton was made Chairman of the Board of the British Library in 1985 to oversee the construction of the library’s new building. Upon completion, Prince Charles said it looked “nothing like a library.” Quinton dismissed the royal observation as “unreflective” as “no building looks like a library from the outside.” Baron Quinton died June 19. He was 85.

From This is True for 20 June 2010