It is with sorrow that I learn of the death of Allen Phillips Griffith, or Griff as we all knew him as, in the department of philosophy 1979-’82, at the University of Warwick; though some LA members attended as philosophy students later than those dates. Griff was the Professor of Philosophy there from about 1965, when the University officially opened, till the early 1990s.
Griff was an admirer of Ludwig Wittgenstein, whom he thought had improved philosophy greatly, allowing many things to be said way more aptly and concisely than before this seminal philosopher had made his contributions, as well as allowing later philosophers to express many new insights.
Griff used to deliver an annual lecture in the spring of every year to the students homosexual society to share a bit of Wittgensteinian wisdom with them viz. that they never could quite fall in love, as there was no option of marriage, a societal institution that, alone, allowed romantic love to have a full meaning. I did recently wonder whether this lecture might have been, finally, rendered defunct by the resent legislation, but I never did ask Griff if he thought that was now the case.
After his, to me at least, surprise conversion to Roman Catholicism in the mid-‘80s, he exclaimed, echoing a celebrated question of Wittgenstein, when I went to see him to ask why he had converted from atheism, that it was no different metaphysically. I always thought, and I still tend to do so, that the world would look very different if it did happen to have a caring creator. It would then not look as it does now.
Griff was not very much impressed by recent Continental Philosophy and the day after hearing Jacques Derrida give an evening talk in London, in the early 1980s, he expressed his disapproval to an early morning philosophy class that he took back at the University of Warwick the next day.
Griff attended a few of the student’s University of Warwick Debating Society’s lunchtime and also the evening debates, and also he gave a talk at one LA meeting in London in the late 1980s at the LSE, before he retired. However, he felt that it was too far to travel from Nottingham, where he moved to on retiring from the University in the early 1990s, to once again address the LA in London.
Griff found a home in the Tory, or the UK Conservative, Party early on, but he often said that he was a Tory anarchist, maybe being influenced by some of Edmund Burke’s early writings in imitation of Robert Harley.
For a long time, Griff championed the writings of Joseph Butler in ethics.
It is sad to think that Griff is no longer with us.