Professor Jacob Levy makes this comment on my recent analysis of the Republican Presidential nominating race: "To me the utterly fascinating part about this is that Ernest Gellner and your sister dated. Is it my imagination, or was academia a much, much smaller world a few decades ago?" Let me reply.
First of all, we are talking six decades ago, not "a few!" How time flies. And yes, the academic world was much, much smaller then -- at least the Philosophy corner of it was. The Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association, always held between my birthday and New Year's Day, were chatty, friendly affairs, totally dominated by the Old Boy Network. I can recall having coffee with Jack Rawls and Sylvain Bromberger while they swapped war stories [Jack served in the South Pacific, Sylvain in the Battle of the Bulge.] There were relatively few Philosophy Departments offering the doctorate, and the circle of elite schools who hired one another's graduates was very small indeed. Indeed, some, like Harvard and Michigan or Chicago and Columbia, seemed to be duopolies.
In a relatively few years as a student and Instructor at Harvard, I met [and in some cases befriended] Ernest Gellner, Noam Chomsky, Willard Van Orman Quine, Nelson Goodman, Jack Rawls, Tom Nagel [my student, at least for one course], Stanley Cavell, Henry Kissinger [not a friend!], McGeorge Bundy, Herbert Marcuse, Barrington Moore, Jr., Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert [a classmate], Zbigniew Brzezinski, Hanna Grey, and many, many others. You will note the paucity of women and absence of people of color. Not an accident.
I will not say it was a better world, but it was certainly a different world.