John Gardner at Home

Memories from Veronique Munoz-Darde

Dear Jenny,

I don’t think we have ever met. I have been meaning to write for a while. On Friday, I saw Joseph Raz; I asked whether he had had recent news, and he showed me a message and photos you’d recently sent friends of John. I am writing to you in the hope that you can convey to John how much I admire his work, and also my deep feelings of affection for him.

I first met John in 1996, when he was at King’s College London: I think the first time was in the room of Jo Wolff at UCL, for a meeting of the group of London moral and political philosophers. We all were in awe of John’s eloquence, his analytical acuteness, his wit, and his irreverent sense of humour. In conversation, I have always found him kind and warm. Not only in London, but also after he moved to Oxford, I have taken every opportunity I have had to hear John’s papers: it is invariably both illuminating and fun to hear him involved in debate. Years ago, John participated in a conference I organized in London in honour of Joseph Raz. (As it turned out, the conference had to be in Joseph’s absence. I think that John was both disappointed and somewhat relieved at Joseph not being there to hear his paper.) I also saw a sterner side of him, and how impatient he is with shoddy arguments, when we both sat on the committee to appoint [a named Chair]: in the end, none of the applicants met our standards, and the Chair is still vacant.

However, most of my engagement with John is with his written work. I won’t list the very many papers of his I have read and profited from. I am currently reading his wonderful From Personal Life to Private Law. But most of all recently, given my current concerns with the regulation of intimacy, I have found real guidance and inspiration in a set of essays John wrote, two of them with Stephen Shute, on ‘the wrongness of rape’, ‘reasonable reactions to the wrongness of rape’, and on ‘the opposite of rape’. The combination of lightness in prose style and precision in thoughts is philosophy at its most engaging.

I didn’t know how to begin this message, and I don’t know how to end, other than by repeating my profound fondness and admiration for John. My heart goes out to him, to the kids, and to you.

Best wishes,