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Truth and Truthfulness:
An Essay in Genealogy
Bernard Williams

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [HTML] or [PDF format]

ADDITIONAL REVIEWS:

"[A] brilliant and disturbing book. . . . This is a fascinating and riveting work, and it shows, in a way which no other recent work of philosophy has done, that the subject can be both important and comprehensible--and that is a very considerable achievement indeed."--Alasdair Palmer, Sunday Telegraph

"The book is never dull or nerdy. It is suffused by a sly Oxonian humor and a keen feeling for pleasures and philosophical argument. . . . Yet this playfulness does not detract from its underlying seriousness of purpose: this is a defense of the value of truth against those modern skeptics who deny its existence. . . . [I]t offers the rare pleasure of a first-rate philosophical mind at work."--Edward Skidelsky, New Statesmen

"A new book by Bernard Williams is a big event, and it is not difficult to see why. He writes on important and fundamental issues that are of interest not only to philosophers but also to anyone who wants to understand contemporary culture and society. . . . And above all, he writes with the kind of eloquence, elegance and wit that used to characterize the work of our greatest minds but that has now all but disappeared from academic life. What he writes, people want to read, and what he says, people want to hear."--Ray Monk, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Deftly, and with a certain relish, [Williams] explores the barefaced lying and the many subtler forms of deception and self-deception we practice. . . . The array of arguments he marshals to cast light on the problem leaves little doubt: If you wish to develop your talents, earn the love of another, or pursue justice, then cultivate the virtues of truth."--Peter Berkowitz, Washington Post Book World

"Truth and Truthfulness is the book which has meant the most to me this year. . . . This vigorous, crystalline book is an intellectual landmark."--Richard Sennett, Times Literary Supplement

"Truth and Truthfulness is an ambitious work, and its journeys into history give it a breadth unusual in these days of increased academic specialization. . . . William's book combines real history and fictional constructs to tell a revealing story that makes us reconsider the meaning of familiar concepts."--Julian Baggini, The Philosophers' Magazine

"Elegance and subtlety are the hallmarks of Bernard Williams's philosophical style, both in the quality of his thought and the manner of his prose. His contributions have enriched philosophical debate for decades, and as this absorbing book about the truth and the vocations of truth shows, they continue to do so. . . . Williams's careful, eloquent and searching analysis . . . makes a valuable contribution to philosophy."--A. C. Grayling, Literary Review

"Bernard Williams has been a distinctive presence on the intellectual scene for more than three decades. . . . His writings do not offer the dubious exhilaration of grand philosophical theory, in which messy reality is tamed and caged, but the thrill of seeing pretension punctured by a kind of high-voltage common sense (backed up by impressive erudition). . . . There is no one in philosophy quite like him."--Colin McGinn, New York Review of Books

"Williams observes that unsettling questions about truth have been on the table at least since Nietzsche. . . . Truth and Truthfulness addresses these questions in a clear and cogent . . . manner."--Thomas Hibbs, The Weekly Standard

"Elegance and subtlety are the hallmarks of Bernard Williams's philosophical style, both in the quality of his thought and the manner of his prose. His contributions have enriched philosophical debate for decades, and as this absorbing book about truth and the vocations of truth shows, they continue to do so. . . . [E]ven those who disagree with aspects of Williams's careful, eloquent and searching analysis will acknowledge that it makes a valuable contribution to philosophy."--Literary Review

"If philosophers ever became kings, they would all be like Mr. Williams. His books were clear, funny, dramatic and readable, like great novels. . . . His final book, Truth and Truthfulness, has come along at exactly the right moment. It both describes our current crisis of truth and offers hope for a resolution."--Doug Saunders, Toronto Globe and Mail

"Bernard Williams' last book is the most interesting set of reflections on the values of truth and truth-telling in living memory. His grasp of philosophical arguments is astonishing. . . . The book manages to be both learned and passionate without being pretentious. And of course witty; . . . Williams' analytic expertise is combined with an acute sensibility to historical facts, or claims to fact, about the history of practices of telling the truth about the past, or about oneself. He writes about what Western civilisations do and have done in trying to find out and to tell the truth. The book presents what are argued to be human universals about the values of truth, as opposed to the historical circumstances in which particular ways of finding out come into being."--Ian Hacking, Canadian Journal of Philosophy

"Bernard Williams' last book is the most interesting set of reflections on the values of truth and truth-telling in living memory. His grasp of philosophical arguments is astonishing. . . . The book manages to be both learned and passionate without being pretentious. And of course witty; . . . Williams' analytic expertise is combined with an acute sensibility to historical facts, or claims to fact, about the history of practices of telling the truth about the past, or about oneself. He writes about what Western civilisations do and have done in trying to find out and to tell the truth. The book presents what are argued to be human universals about the values of truth, as opposed to the historical circumstances in which particular ways of finding out come into being."--Ian Hacking, Canadian Journal of Philosophy

ADDITIONAL ENDORSEMENTS:

"In this exceptionally brilliant book, ranging effortlessly from Herodotus and Thucydides to Diderot and Nietzsche, Bernard Williams daringly asks--and still more daringly answers--one of the central questions of philosophy: what is the point of telling the truth? Lucid, penetrating, and profound, Williams' reflections are vitally important not for philosophers alone but for anyone interested in human thought and creativity."--Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

"This is a major, wide-ranging, and comprehensive book. A philosophical investigation that is also a literary and historical study, Truth and Truthfulness asks how and why we have come to think of accuracy, sincerity, and authenticity as virtues. Bernard Williams' account of their emergence is as detailed and imaginative as his defense of their importance is spirited and provocative. Williams asks hard questions, and gives them straightforward and controversial answers. His book does not simply describe and advocate these virtues of truthfulness; it manifests them."--Alexander Nehamas, author of Virtues of Authenticity

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File created: 8/19/2014

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