Mary Warnock

Mary Warnock author of Imagination and Ethics since 1900, is Senior Research Fellow at St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

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Mary Warnock, 1 September 1983

The question what we are to think of the family has taken on a new urgency. We are flooded with instructions. Thatcherism is identified with a call to return to Victorian values. These consist in the teaching and learning of a moral code, respect for and obedience to a patriarchal figure, and a subordinate and primarily domestic role for women. The return is thus a return to the quintessential family. On the other hand, following the 1960s’ denunciation of the family by psychiatrists and sociologists as the seat of all conflict and derangement, we now have the radical-socialist feminists who regard the family in much the same light. Far from the family being that which is essential to the structure of society, on whose preservation we depend for the future of civilised life, they regard it as an instrument of exploitation: an institution designed for the oppression of women and children, and propped up by all the buttresses of a masculine ideology. Presented thus, the conflict of attitudes towards the family may seem a straight fight between right and left, a political battle in the narrowest sense. Or it may seem a conflict between the self-interested conservatism of men, and the imaginative radicalism of women, who, if they are feminists, tend now to present themselves as revolutionaries or nothing. Unsurprisingly, such dichotomies do not help us greatly in settling, at a practical level, whether or not the family as an institution is at all costs to be defended.


Mary Warnock, 7 February 1980

In the ordinary way, it would count as a considerable triumph to spin out the biography of a man only 30 years old, and described as a late developer, to 21 chapters, 270 pages, excluding appendices. But of course the Prince of Wales is not ordinary; and much of Mr Holden’s book is not about the Prince but about the British Monarchy, its recent history and putative future. Prince Charles is certainly at the centre of the book; but the difficulties in the way of getting to know him (or any member of the Royal Family) are clearly described. All conversations must be guarded; most will be unspontaneous. Any potential friend will be viewed with suspicion. Is he safe? Will he talk to the press? It might seem that the task of a biographer, even one who travelled about with the Prince for two years, would be hopeless. How could one ever get close enough to the subject?

Double Brains

P.W. Atkins, 19 May 1988

Anne Harrington’s masterly account of homo duplex is more than just an account of the emergence of our understanding of our own inner dissymmetry. It sets the striving towards comprehension...

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