I am not an underpaid academic, and yet on top of my regular income, I receive a lot of psychic income - the kinds of perks that cannot be valued in market terms. So, for example, the most enjoyable part of my school week is usually the 90 minutes I spend with two super-smart colleagues from Political Science discussing books we are reading together on political theory. Right now, we're reading Hume's Essays.
But this week has brought an unusual perk that makes even my reading group pale in comparison. The great political and property theorist (and intellectual historian of political theory) Alan Ryan is in Bloomington to give a talk in the Political Science Department. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a small group having dinner with him this evening, and it was a rare treat.
Ryan's 1986 book Property and Political Theory is a foundation stone for the seminar I teach (whenever I get the chance) in Property Theory. Unfortunately, that book is out of print, so I cannot have my students actually read the book, but it has influenced the structure and content of my course. And this past summer, unbeknownst to Ryan himself, I spent a great deal of high-quality time in his company, reading his two new books, On Politics and The Making of Modern Liberalism.
I'm greatly looking forward to his presentation tomorrow about the work of John Stuart Mill, revisiting some of his earliest works on the great English liberal.