Saturday, July 06, 2013

Kenneth Minogue, 1930-2013

Kenneth Minogue died on June 28.  He died from a heart attack that he suffered on a plane while flying out of the Galapagos Islands to Guayaquil, after he had participated in a conference of the Mont Pelerin Society on "Evolution, the Human Sciences, and Liberty."  Father Robert Sirico, who had lectured at the conference, was permitted by the police to enter the plane at Guayaquil to administer the last rites.

The MPS conference was organized around a series of lectures in which each lecturer was paired with another lecturer taking an opposing point of view.  My lecture was on "The Evolution of Darwinian Liberalism," and Ken's lecture was to offer an alternative to mine.  Indeed, he expressed his skepticism about my argument for Darwinian science as supporting classical liberalism.  I will be writing a series of posts on the MPS conference in the Galapagos, which will include an account of my discussions with Ken.  I am deeply saddened that he is not alive to respond to my comments.

Previously, I had known Ken only by reputation, and I was pleased to meet him for the first time and talk with him at the conference, including a conversation over breakfast only a few hours before his death.

Ken was a professor emeritus of political science at the London School of Economics, where he had been a professor since 1959.  He was a prominent scholar of the history of political philosophy.  At LSE, he was one of a small group of academics (including Michael Oakeshott) defending conservatism and classical liberalism.  He was on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher in the mid 1970s, and thus he was one of those who participated in the resurgence of classical liberalism associated with Thatcher's leadership.

Although Ken was not persuaded by my argument, it is significant that classical liberals like Ken and others at the MPS/Galapagos conference were willing to devote an entire week in the Galapagos pondering the possible implications of evolutionary science for the moral and political thought of liberalism.

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