Bernard Williams was one of the most important philosophers of the last fifty years, but he was also a distinguished critic and essayist with an elegant style and a rare ability to communicate complex ideas to a wide public. This is the first collection of Williams's popular essays and reviews, many of which appeared in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. In these pieces, Williams writes about a broad range of subjects, from philosophy and political philosophy to religion, science, the humanities, economics, socialism, feminism, and pornography.
Included here are reviews of major books such as John Rawls's Theory of Justice, Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Alastair MacIntyre's After Virtue, Richard Rorty's Consequences of Pragmatism, and Martha Nussbaum's Therapy of Desire. But many of these essays extend beyond philosophy and together provide an intellectual tour through the past half century, from C. S. Lewis and Umberto Eco to Noam Chomsky. No matter the subject, Williams probes and challenges arguments, teases out their implications, and connects them to the wider intellectual scene. At the same time, readers see a first-class mind grappling with landmark books in "real time," before critical consensus had formed and ossified.
In his foreword, Michael Wood discusses Williams's style and sensibility and his concern that philosophy contribute to the larger intellectual conversation.
Bernard Williams was Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge (1967-1979) and Provost of King's College. He held the Monroe Deutsch Professorship of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley (1998-2000) and was White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford (1990-2003). He was Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford until his death in 2003.
"[A] stimulating read for anyone who cares about the condition of the world. With characteristic clarity, insight, and humor, the author tackles a wide range of topics as diverse as philosophy, religion, science, the humanities, and pornography."--Wan Lixin, Shanghai Daily
"This rigorous collection of essays and reviews reveals the brilliant and critical mind of Bernard Williams. . . . In these reviews and essays Williams achieves something that philosophy always promises but seldom delivers: a view from the perspective of reason, on a cultural landscape where reason is only one of the landmarks."--Roger Scruton, Telegraph
"Illuminating and instructive essays and reviews. This is a book which should inspire readers to go and read--or perhaps reread--Williams's other works . . ."--Alasdair Palmer, Standpoint
"The titles that Williams reviewed read from a who's who of late 20th century philosophy. His reviews of Rawls' Theory of Justice and Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia are relevant today, thirty years after they were written. . . . Reading short reviews of these classic philosophical volumes in such a clear, accessible tone is a great pleasure, and the editors of this volume should be congratulated for making them available in this format."--Robert Robinson, San Francisco Book Review
"[E]xtremely welcome collection . . . all of which show his punchy, interogative genius in full swing. . . . [B]rilliant essays . . ."--Seamus Perry, Literary Review
"This collection is the work of an exceptional thinker--an insightful philosopher who was also an acute observer of the world. Williams has a virtually unerring eye for the specious, for the concealed premise, and for overblown rhetoric, which he brings to light with a mordant wit, tinged at times with a wry sympathy for his target."--Charles Taylor, McGill University
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Bernard Williams:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Michael Wood: