The Review of Austrian Economics, 16:1, 113–117, 2003.
2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Manufactured in The Netherlands.
Reﬂections on George Shackle: Three Excerpts
from the Shackle Collection
I am honoured to be invited to say a few words on this pleasant occasion—though it seemed
a little daunting to ﬁnd something that would be of interest both to George Shackle’s family
and local friends, and to the professional economists here.
At the invitation of Catherine Shackle and Stephen Frowen a year or two ago, my con-
tribution to Economics as an Art of Thought was to survey the papers of George Shackle
now bequeathed to the University Library at Cambridge.
Reading the invariably delightful
and perceptive letters that George wrote was a most enjoyable and informative exercise.
I propose to read from three of the items that it was not possible to incorporate in the
volume itself. These date from the years 1980 and 1981, after his meeting and marrying
Catherine in 1979, which revived his spirits after the sadness of losing his ﬁrst wife Susan in
As I prepared these remarks, I saw the The Times obituary of John Watkins, former
Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics. Shackle regarded him highly as
a philosopher and friend, and the Shackle collection contains several interchanges between
them. Two sentences in the obituary struck me particularly.
One is the comment that Watkins “became captivated by critical rationalism—the idea
that knowledge grows through a combination of bold, creative guesses, which go wildly
beyond the available evidence, and rigorous criticism.” This aptly sums up George’s own
work: throughout his life he subjected the ideas of others to rigorous but generally sym-
pathetic and always courteous scrutiny. But he, more than almost any other economist,
was characterised—and attracted—by the bold, creative guess. I want to return later to the
second extract from this obituary.
The ﬁrst excerpt from George’s papers is his response to Sir Bryan Hopkin, a long-standing
friend who was then Professor of Economics at the University of Cardiff.
ments “The term when I was coming to Cardiff every so often seems like yesterday: a
vivid unforgettable pleasure.” Sir Bryan had evidently invited him to contribute to a sym-
posium on rational expectations. This was not one of George’s favourite concepts. But
characteristically, he declines with originality and charm.
Remarks at the launching by the Aldeburgh Bookshop of Economics as an Art of Thought: Essays in Memory of
G. L. S. Shackle (Peter E. Earl and Stephen F. Frowen (Eds.), London and New York: Routledge, 2000). Launch
held at the Wentworth Hotel, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 23 February 2001, at the kind invitation of Catherine Shackle.
These remarks were ﬁnally written up on 7 February 2002.