Professor Richard Sorabji, who is one of the two Indian-origin professors to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth, is a widely recognised philosophy scholar of Aristotle and Gandhi, and says he is proud of his family's Indian roots in Mumbai and Allahabad.
Sorabji figured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2014 announced last week alongwith physics professor Tejinder Singh Virdee, 61, in the list of knighthoods.
Sorabji, 79, who holds professorial positions at Oxford and King’s College, London, has been knighted for ‘services to Philosophical Scholarship’. He is widely recognised for his work on Aristotle and Gandhi.
Sorabji, who is the nephew of the iconic Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman graduate of Bombay University and the first woman to take a Law degree at Oxford in 1892, told HT: “I have always been proud that my father's family was Indian”.
Sorabji, whose father practised law in Allahabad as a younger colleague of Motilal Nehru, recalled Cornelia Sorabji’s hostile interview of Gandhi in London in 1931.
“It was partly to make amends for her hostile interview with Gandhi, that I studied him. Not Gandhi, but his followers, stopped my aunt's experiment of turning purdahnashins into nurses and social workers by demanding their money for Gandhi's cause. But I came to admire Gandhi enormously partly for a reason he would not recognise, that he was so brilliant and subtle a philosopher, a model to us in that role," Sorabji said.
The author or editor of over 100 volumes on the history of philosophy, one of his recent books was published in India, 'Opening Doors: The Untold Story of Cornelia Sorabji'.
He said he visited India every year for lectures, and recalled his lecture tour of 1989 for the Indian Council for Philosophical Reserarch, which “changed my view of what English universities should be doing”.
Sorabji added: “Ananta Murthi, as vice-chancellor of Kottayam University, got me to run with him through the streets to inaugurate his programme to make the city 100% literate in 100 days, I returned to England and set up a scheme in which philosophers visiting us to give a lecture in London would also give one for the general public."
Sorabji’s knighthood citation said: “He founded and directs one of the most ambitious international research projects in the humanities, the translation and editing of the ancient commentators on Aristotle, which recently celebrated its 100th volume. More recently, he has contributed cross-cultural reflections, including a hard-hitting collection on The Ethics of War”.