From Library Journal
This book is about ancient Greek ethical ideas, primarily of Homer and the tragedians. Denying that modern ethical understanding is merely a progressive version of Greek thought, Williams contends that the ancients' ideas can illuminate our own. His question is how to respond to a view grounded in supernatural conceptions we have long since discarded. He examines Greek ideas of agency, intention, practical deliberation, akrasia ("weakness of will"), necessity, and so forth, analyzing which motivations the Greeks found admirable and, especially, how shame, guilt, regret, and forgiveness interrelate. Significant contrasts concern whether the moral self is characterless, what warrants self-respect, and how to regard unintentionally caused suffering. Clearly written, well argued, and carefully documented, the book should interest classicists and philosophers alike.- Robert Hoffman, York Coll.,
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A dazzlingly clever and agile assault. . . . Williams's treatment of shame is brilliant. . . . Mr Williams's mind is subtle, his reasoning complex. In places this is a difficult book, but always because the argument requires it; essentially, it is a model of philosophical lucidity. And though it is deeply serious, we can often catch an ironic inflection in the author's voice." -- Richard Jenkyns, New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant, demanding, disturbing." -- Bernard Knox, The New York Review of Books
"Clearly written, well argued, and carefully documented." -- Library Journal
"Poets often prove to be much better observers of human thought, character and action than philosophers, historians or psychologists, who are apt to launch into theory and generalisation before they have a good description of what they are setting out to explain. This is what Williams's discussions of the ancient texts bring out in every instance, and what makes his book worth reading, not just for those who are interested in the question whether we have made any real moral progress, but also for those who are interested in the Greeks, or in the varieties of ethical experience." -- Gisela Striker, London Review of Books