One of the reasons I decided to live in France was attending a lecture by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who has just died at the age of 92. It was a rainy Monday evening five years ago, in February, in Montpellier – and yet more than 600 people crammed into the lecture hall to hear Ricoeur debate “moral man and neuronal man” with a science writer, Jean-Pierre Changeux. The crowd was remarkably mixed; every age and background seemed to be present. Ricoeur was the foremost living phenomenologist – an approach to philosophy that studies how a person’s reality is shaped by their perception of events in the world. It’s a field of study highly relevant to the ways designers shape our interactions with technology. I can’t pretend to have understood all of that evening’s three hour discussion – it was about the ethical implications of neuroscience – but it was the spirit of the evening that impressed me hugely at the time. Ricoeur was widely regarded as a giant of philosophy – but rather than try to show off, or score academic points, as would be normal in most academic contexts I have encountered, Ricoeur’s questioners were respectful but not smarmy, well-informed but not opinionated, lively but thoughtful. The event exemplified the dialogue and respect for others for which that Ricoeur argued all his life – and practised until its end.