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Nussbaum reviews Williams

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Martha Nussbaum reviews a collection of Bernard Williams’ essays, published posthumously. I have not read a lot of Williams; this review tells me I’m missing something!

Above all, philosophy offers reflective analysis of our concepts, and, through these and a study of their history, insight into who “we” are.  If philosophy is to contribute anything distinctive, however, all this must be carried out with clarity and rigor, and the aim of “getting it right” must “be in place.”  (Here he offers a devastating critique of Richard Rorty’s model of philosophy as a “conversation.”)  But he then cautions that there is more than one way of embodying clarity and precision: philosophy must not be fooled into supposing that the only form in which these virtues can be delivered is that of natural science.   In natural science, it may well be that style is merely decorative. (He tells here of a pseudo-scientific analytic philosopher who said to his co-author, “’Let’s get it right first and you can put the style in afterwards.’”)


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