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The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy [Kindle Edition]

Bernard Williams , Myles Burnyeat
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Before his death in 2003, Bernard Williams planned to publish a collection of historical essays, focusing primarily on the ancient world. This posthumous volume brings together a much wider selection, written over some forty years. His legacy lives on in this masterful work, the first collection ever published of Williams's essays on the history of philosophy. The subjects range from the sixth century B.C. to the twentieth A.D., from Homer to Wittgenstein by way of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Sidgwick, Collingwood, and Nietzsche. Often one would be hard put to say which part is history, which philosophy. Both are involved throughout, because this is the history of philosophy written philosophically. Historical exposition goes hand in hand with philosophical scrutiny. Insights into the past counteract blind acceptance of present assumptions.

In his touching and illuminating introduction, Myles Burnyeat writes of these essays: "They show a depth of commitment to the history of philosophy seldom to be found nowadays in a thinker so prominent on the contemporary philosophical scene."

The result celebrates the interest and importance to philosophy today of its near and distant past.

The Sense of the Past is one of three collections of essays by Bernard Williams published by Princeton University Press since his death. In the Beginning Was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Argument, selected, edited, and with an introduction by Geoffrey Hawthorn, and Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline, selected, edited, and with an introduction by A. W. Moore, make up the trio.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Bernard Williams' contribution to philosophy is timeless. He has a voice that is both distinctively of our time and a reminder that the past can still be brought alive philosophically. Williams' belief in the importance of history to philosophy is readily apparent in this collection. If for no other reason, readers of philosophy should value this book highly.

Review

These discussions combine incisive authority and even a touch of technicality with Bernard Williams's characteristically urbane wit. A great intellectual wealth in which philosophy is made to show us how it thinks about philosophy. (George Steiner Times Literary Supplement )

Bernard Williams' contribution to philosophy is timeless. He has a voice that is both distinctively of our time and a reminder that the past can still be brought alive philosophically. Williams' belief in the importance of history to philosophy is readily apparent in this collection. If for no other reason, readers of philosophy should value this book highly. (Peter Johnson European Legacy )

Williams attempts to make strange what is familiar in our assumptions, and he admirably succeeds in this task. . . . The Sense the of the Past is an excellent contribution to the field, and deserves a wide audience. (Basil Smith Review of Metaphysics )

The sheer variety of Williams's historical interests and the spontaneity with which he displays them give this collection a sense of vigor and dialectical fun that are characteristic of its author. (Nicholas White Ethics )

It is pleasing to have many of Williams' previously published meditations on Plato's thought--including those dealing with Plato's construction of intrinsic goodness, the analogy of city and soul in the Republic, and an introduction to the Theaetetus dialogue--gathered together in one place. . . . [T]his book represents an appropriate tribute to a philosopher of rare talents. (Jonathan Wright Heythrop Journal )

Product Details

  • File Size: 1348 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 9, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM5X2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,483 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 25, 2014
By Barnaby
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very thoughtful sober and perfectly reasoned
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3 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars probing an area with potential relapses May 16, 2011
Format:Paperback
Talking is the art of telling people what they want to know.

People who become concerned about ethics are heading for trouble if they are part of a society which functions as a flash bang gravy train pulling a monetary net. The global financial system has a tremendous amount of hyperbolic cyberpower to draw on, but it functions mainly as a gambling addiction which considers a growth in numbers a sure sign of prosperity.

Social systems produce critics who were born with a brain: instead of sharing the typical thoughts of people with high expectations, critics are likely to become solitary cranks. People like Bernard Williams and Myles Burnyeat, who are able to talk about virtue as it was discussed in an ancient setting in which power was not stable and personal relations were frequently like those that cause current social situations to implode, with an understanding of ancient philosophers and the modern irony adopted in shocking situations like Hume commenting on Rousseau as "little better than a Christian" (p. 269) and the English "relapsing fast into the deepest stupidity, Christianity and ignorance" (Ibid.), provide a foundation for students who wish to obtain a superior attitude for themselves and an anthropology which assumes America is conquering the world.

It takes crackpot geniuses to keep the political factions which cause society to implode when enough people want everything to be all different because the spin has stretched the dissociations so far that nothing that has ever gone wrong can be stopped. Hume wrote The Natural History of Religion. Monotheism was criticized for condemning other gods.
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