Cyril Joad

Richard Symonds (with whom I’ve corresponded over the years) has been leading the “campaign” to keep Joad’s name alive (I first mentioned Joad about three years ago here). I paste in Geoff Thomas’ comment:

Richard Symonds is keeping alive the name of a very significant figure in British culture and the popular understanding of philosophy. On the ‘Brains Trust’ Joad educated a vast popular audience in the unpicking of ideas necessary before questions about democracy, freedom, censorship and the rest can usefully be answered. His catchphrase, ‘It depends what you mean by …’, brought home to people (literally ‘home’, on the radio) that terms have to be clarified before there’s any point in a discussion. The current babble about ‘human rights’ could do with the Joad treatment. Joad’s contribution to clarification has been warmly acknowledged by another great populariser of philosophy, Bryan Magee in ‘Confessions of a Philosopher’, 1997, 314 (n).That aside, Joad had another notable achievement. He had a great gift of lucid exposition. A text such as his ‘Guide to Philosophy’ covers a wide range of topics with beautiful clarity. We neglect Joad at our own cost.

I don’t know if the following exchange is apocryphal but it was a train journey that marked the beginning of Joad’s downfall.

When an express train to London made an unscheduled stop at Reading station, Cyril Joad – having missed his own train – hopped aboard. “I’m afraid you’ll have to get off, sir,” the porter shouted. “this train doesn’t stop here.”

“In that case, don’t worry,” Joad replied, taking a seat “I’m not on it!”