Bernard Williams Essays And Reviews

Bernard Williams Essays And Reviews-45
But an excellent new collection of his book reviews and short essays () ought to usher in a different perspective of Williams.

But an excellent new collection of his book reviews and short essays () ought to usher in a different perspective of Williams.The volume’s seventy-one pieces are bite-sized—most are three or four pages in length—and were written for public consumption.The confidence of Williams’s grasp on hairy distinctions, with their “barbarous,” jargony names; the vividness of his thought experiments; the broadness of his view, which lifted such minute study to a real sense of purpose: “No one can hold,” he begins, “that everything, of whatever category that has value, has it in virtue of its consequences.” Here was a real writer.

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One result of this sidestepping was that old schools of ethics were dusted off.

By 1976, the resurgence is palpable: “The harsh theoretical disjunction between fact and value has been modified; the reluctance of philosophers to come out with normative statements is much less apparent.” Williams had the foresight to document the best of this movement as it unfolded. Williams recognized how influential John Rawls’s 1971 , Alasdair Mac Intyre proposes a return to Aristotle’s virtue ethics as the only way to set things aright: “It is itself one of Mac Intyre’s most illuminating exaggerations to claim that this is the only choice that we have.” In between and after these, a host of other revivers of moral and political philosophy swarms by—among them, Robert Nozick, Iris Murdoch, and Martha Nussbaum.

As a stiffly presented treatise, the book would have had not merely less appeal, but less force.” Williams is at his wittiest here, too.

He uses his first sentence on Kenneth Gergen’s , to him a particularly muddled piece of postmodern confusion, as a warning: “This is not a book about alcoholism.”The essays can be savored piecemeal but are more powerful in number.

He treats works of philosophy not just as analyses of ideas, but as books—to be read, understood, and by human beings.

He accuses Basil Willey of injecting his own staleness into a summary of Locke, who “is a confused thinker, indeed, but not boringly so, because his confusions are those of a highly intelligent and honest man trying to stand upright on intellectual ground that is shifting under his feet.” And he writes of a somewhat scattered assemblage of lectures by Charles Taylor that “the air of informality and disorder has some rewards—even its own authority.

Some of the most noteworthy figures reviewed include Rawls, Rorty, Chomsky, Austin, Mc Intyre, Nozick, Ayer, Murdoch, Sartre, Putnam, Nagel, Ryle, and Parfit.

And even some figures who are This chronologically arranged collection of Bernard Williams' reviews and occasional essays could easily serve as a sort of in media res history of philosophy for the better part of the 20th century — as presented from a particular perspective, of course, though one that is unusually insightful and fair-minded.

The historical journeys afforded by this new collection are themselves an answer to this.

Like Locke, we are always standing on shifting intellectual ground.


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