The British Personalist Forum

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1. Aims

The British Personalist Forum’s aims are expressed in its name:  

  1. It is a British group aiming to promote personalist thinking especially in Britain (but  continues to welcome overseas members);
  2. It is especially interested in British personalists, notably Michael Polanyi, John Macmurrary and Austin Farrer;
  3. As a ‘Forum’ rather than a ‘Society’ or ‘Association’, it would like members to take an active part in its work, even though many live outside Britain. Hence the website accompanying the change of name includes a Members’ Forum to encourage and facilitate their participation.

2. History

The British Personalist Forum has its origins in the first Michael Polanyi conference in Britain held in November 1974 at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, where a group, later called ‘Convivium’, was formed to promote interest in Polanyi’s work. It published a newsletter, later a small journal, also called Convivium, and held several conferences on the relevance of Polanyi’s philosophy to education, social sciences, art and literature, and phenomenology.

For various reasons the Committee dissolved itself in 1979 but the late Joan Crewdson, one of the original committee members of Convivium, took over the editing and publishing of the journal. She managed it mostly by herself, until 1988 when the Committee was reformed with some of the previous members and some new ones. Instead of continuing to publish Convivium, the Committee distributed Tradition and Discovery, the journal of the (American) Polanyi Society.

Further conferences were held: a Polanyi Memorial Conference in 1991, another on philosophy of science, and one on literature and music. But in 1994, with one dissenting vote, the Committee decided to cease all activity and disband. But it agreed to provide assistance to Richard Allen, a member of the Convivium Committee from the beginning, to launch a new and Polanyi-orientated journal, Appraisal.

Joan Crewdson also gave him the small collection of books and mementos which she had received from Magda Polanyi, and they, with a complete set of Convivium are now in the Forum’s Library.

In 1996 Appraisal appeared as both a Polanyian and generally personalist journal, and organised annual conferences in association with it. Eight or so years later, changes in the law regarding bank accounts, required a society to be formed, called ‘The Society for Post-Critical and Personalist Studies’. But it was more a formality than a reality until a fully functioning Committee was formed in 2009.

In 2013 the Committee decided to change the name to ‘The British Personalist Forum’ in order more succinctly to encapsulate its aims.

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