No doubt about it, these ""encounters with English intellectuals"" which Ved ehta originally wrote for The New Yorker are a delightful journey through the ydra-headed world of Oxbridge philosophers and historians. The author, acting as ort of modern day Boswell with more than one Johnson to pump, goes from study to study, asking the trapped savants the why and wherefore of what they're about. The answers, most of the time, are something. Two controversies set the fireworks off. First, the refusal of Mind, the bible of the logical linguistics boys, to review a book apparently attacking them (Lord Russell, of course, being the first to foam at the mouth, decrying the threat to freedom of the press, etc.). Secondly, Trevor-oper's grand guignol assault in Encounter of Toynbee's millennium complex. (Toynbee, said the scalp-hunter, was a moony-eyed prophet envisioning a tutti-frutti religious confection uniting East and West). Well, with that as a starter, the peppery pedants pass in review: there's Ayer speaking of his colleagues as dry or wet, Hampshire remembering Wittgenstein, Strawson scaling down Kant, Iris Murdoch looking like Joan of Arc, the tart C. V. Wedgwood eating egg-and-lemon soup and chattering over the How of history; Toynbee, Trevor-Roper and Carr discussing conflictingly about each other; A. J. P. Taylor speaking of the origins of WWII, not so much whitewashing itler as tar-and-feathering the Allied brethren; and the Dutchman Geyl, Tawney, socialism's Grand Old Man, and the widow of the late great Sir Lewis Namier, all bringing up the rear in a causerie without end. Never solemn, always subtle, sometimes playful, (especially the philosophers), like giggling about God, they bounce back and forth the mind-body problem, determinism and free will (Toynbee paradoxically believes in both), ad-hominem arguments, and the future of the future- or was it the past? For the cognoscenti, wise and witty.