Tag Archives: Joad

A prophecy of War in Europe: Cyril Joad on writing, speaking and the fatal perils of muddled thinking

Jot 101 Joad thinking and writing cover 001Found in the Jot 101 archive, is a pocket-sized book of 320 closely printed pages, bound in Rexene with a dust jacket and published by Odhams, which is entitled How to Write, Think and Speak Correctly. Undated, it appears to date from the late nineteen thirties, possibly 1939, and is edited by C. E. M. Joad, otherwise known as Cyril Joad.


Joad, who was professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College at the time, was arguably at the height of his fame, though he had yet to become that ‘ controversial ‘ member of the BBC ‘Brains Trust’ programme whose most famous riposte to any philosophical point was ‘ It depends what you mean by…’ Joad’s first book appeared in 1907, but by 1939 he was averaging two books a year on subjects ranging from ethics, rationalism, socialism, pacifism and psychology, with departures into more exotic areas such as ESP and the Paranormal.


Joad was what we today might call a ‘popular ‘philosopher—a category into which we could place such writers of our own time as A. C. Grayling and Alain de Botton. If pushed he would have described himself as a Rationalist, but his range of interests would seem to suggest that he saw himself as a bit of a political and philosophical maverick. His Wikipedia entry is so crammed with detail regarding his various volte-faces and intellectual re-inventions of himself that it is hard sometimes to pin him down. Here was a Rationalist who wrote on the Paranormal, a one-time pacifist who supported the war effort against Hitler, an agnostic who eventually embraced Christianity, a one-time Socialist and admirer of G. Bernard  Shaw who supported Mosley’s New Party for a short while, a writer on ethics who blithely admitted a desire to defraud the railway companies. Eventually, as we all know, he came a cropper by being discovered holding a third class ticket in a first class carriage. This come-uppance, which was reported gleefully in all the papers, resulted in his expulsion from the BBC and Birkbeck. And though publishers continued to publish Joad’s  books until his death five years later, his public career was effectively over. Continue reading