About this topic
Summary Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (1929–2003) was an English philosopher, born in Essex, who studied Classics at Oxford and went on to hold academic posts in Oxford, London, Cambridge, Berkeley, and Oxford again. His work covers an unusually wide range. He was known as a sharp critic of the drive towards theory in moral philosophy, and in particular of what he called ‘the morality system’ as exemplified by Kantianism and utilitarianism. Many of his contributions set the agenda for subsequent debates, including his views on personal identity, the truth-directedness of beliefs, ethical consistency, internalism about reasons, the importance of the emotions to morality, thick concepts, how reflection can destroy knowledge, the possibility of an absolute conception of reality, the relativism of distance, toleration, integrity, moral luck, practical necessity, the importance of shame, the tedium of immortality, the idea of equality, political realism, and the liberalism of fear. Williams advocated a conception of philosophy as a humanistic discipline, arguing that philosophy needed to draw on other human sciences in order to achieve what it set out to achieve, which was to make sense of humanity. His own work includes a study of ethical ideas in Homeric Greece and a genealogy of truthfulness. He also wrote about how philosophy could profit from engagement with its own history, and himself offered readings of the Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Sidgwick, Collingwood, and Wittgenstein.
Key works

Williams’ most important books are: Morality (1972), a concise introduction to moral philosophy which doubles as an introduction to Williams’ distinctive take on it, and to which he added a preface in 1993Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (1978), an influential study of Descartes that also includes some of Williams’ most important epistemological writings; Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985), the locus classicus of Williams’ ideas in ethics; Shame and Necessity (1993), a book based on the 1989 Sather Lectures that showcases Williams’ abilities as a Classical scholar and examines what we can learn from comparing our modern ethical ideas with those of the ancient Greek world; and Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (2002), a vindicatory genealogy of truthfulness – and in particular of the twin virtues of truth which Williams labels Accuracy and Sincerity – that also reflects on the genealogical method itself and on the connection of truthfulness to trust, historiography, authenticity, liberal politics, and sense-making. His contribution to Utilitarianism: For and Against (1973) is also among his most influential publications. Many of Williams’ key ideas are only to be found in his articles, however. Three anthologies – Problems of the Self (1973), Moral Luck (1981), and Making Sense of Humanity (1995) – were published during his lifetime. Three more – In the Beginning was the Deed: Realism and Morality in Political Argument (2005), The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy (2006), and Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline (2006) – followed posthumously. The collections On Opera (2006) and Essays and Reviews: 1959–2002 (2014) contain many more occasional pieces that nevertheless also shed light on Williams’ views on such topics as pessimism and why philosophy needs history.

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  1. Bernard Williams and Practical Necessity.Matthew Prentice - unknown - Proceedings of the Heraclitean Society 19.
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  2. Towards a "What-If" Class.John Fantuzzo - Spring 2015 - Teaching Ethics 15 (1):83-96.
    This paper contends that the primary aim of teaching ethics to court-involved youth should be the realization of respect. I make this argument by defining what is meant by a practice of respect using Bernard Williams’s "The Idea of Equality." I then couch this understanding in my recent experience leading a moral/political philosophy workshop with court-involved youth in Harlem, New York. Raising the objection that educational opportunity, not the practice of respect, should be the primary aim of teaching court-involved youth, (...)
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  3. How One Becomes What One Is: The Case for a Nietzschean Conception of Character Development.Mark Alfano - forthcoming - In Iskra Fileva (ed.), Perspectives on Character. Oxford University Press.
    Gone are the heady days when Bernard Williams (1993) could get away with saying that “Nietzsche is not a source of philosophical theories” (p. 4). The last two decades have witnessed a flowering of research that aims to interpret, elucidate, and defend Nietzsche’s theories about science, the mind, and morality. This paper is one more blossom in that efflorescence. What I want to argue is that Nietzsche theorized three important and surprising moral psychological insights that have been born out by (...)
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  4. The EU's Democratic Deficit in a Realist Key: Multilateral Governance, Popular Sovereignty, and Critical Responsiveness.Jan Pieter Beetz & Enzo Rossi - forthcoming - Transnational Legal Theory.
    This paper provides a realist analysis of the EU's legitimacy. We propose a modification of Bernard Williams' theory of legitimacy, which we term critical responsiveness. For Williams, 'Basic Legitimation Demand + Modernity = Liberalism'. Drawing on that model, we make three claims. (i) The right side of the equation is insufficiently sensitive to popular sovereignty; (ii) The left side of the equation is best thought of as a 'legitimation story': a non-moralised normative account of how to shore up belief in (...)
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  5. The Indeterminacy of Desire and Practical Reason.Patrick Fleming - forthcoming - In David K. Chan (ed.), Moral Psychology Today: Essays on Values, Rational Choice, and the Will. Springer: Philosophical Studies Series.
    Bernard Williams has famously argued that all reasons for action are internal reasons.1 The internalist requirement on reasons is that all reasons must be linked to the agent’s subjective motivational state by a sound deliberative route. This argument has been the subject of a great deal of debate. In this paper I wish to draw attention to a much less discussed aspect of Williams’ papers on internalism. Williams believes that there is an essential indeterminacy regarding what an agent has a (...)
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  6. Playing Kant at the Court of King Arthur.Robert Jubb - forthcoming - Political Studies.
    This article contrasts the sense in which those whom Bernard Williams called ‘political realists’ and John Rawls are committed to the idea that political philosophy has to be distinctively political. Distinguishing the realist critique of political moralism from debates over ideal and non-ideal theory, it is argued that Rawls is more realist than many realists realise, and that realists can learn more about how to make a distinctively political vision of how our life together should be organised from his theorising, (...)
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  7. The Real Value of Equality.Robert Jubb - forthcoming - Journal of Politics.
    This paper investigates how political theorists and philosophers should understand egalitarian political demands in light of the increasingly important realist critique of much of contemporary political theory and philosophy. It suggests, first, that what Martin O'Neill has called non-intrinsic egalitarianism is, in one form at least, a potentially realistic egalitarian political project and second, that realists may be compelled to impose an egalitarian threshold on state claims to legitimacy under certain circumstances. Non-intrinsic egalitarianism can meet realism’s methodological requirements because it (...)
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  8. Genealogy, Evaluation, and Engineering.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - The Monist.
    Against those who identify genealogy with reductive genealogical debunking or deny it any evaluative and action-guiding significance, I argue for the following three claims: that although genealogies, true to their Enlightenment origins, tend to trace the higher to the lower, they need not reduce the higher to the lower, but can elucidate the relation between them and put us in a position to think more realistically about both relata; that if we think of genealogy’s normative significance in terms of a (...)
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  9. A Shelter From Luck: The Morality System Reconstructed.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - In András Szigeti & Matthew Talbert (eds.), Morality and Agency: Themes from Bernard Williams. Oxford University Press.
    Far from being indiscriminately critical of the ideas he associated with the morality system, Bernard Williams offered vindicatory explanations of its crucial building blocks, such as the moral/non-moral distinction, the idea of obligation, the voluntary/involuntary distinction, and the practice of blame. The rationale for these concessive moves, I argue, is that understanding what these ideas do for us when they are not in the service of the system is just as important to leading us out of the system as the (...)
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  10. Ethics Beyond the Limits: New Essays on Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. [REVIEW]Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - Mind:fzaa077.
    Bernard Williams’ books demand an unusual amount of work from readers. This is particularly true of his 1985 magnum opus, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy—a work so charged with ideas that there seems to be nothing more to say, and yet at the same time so pared-down and tersely argued that there seems to be nothing left to take away. Reflecting on the book five years after its publication, Williams writes that it is centrally concerned with a Nietzschean question: (...)
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  11. Left Wittgensteinianism.Matthieu Queloz & Damian Cueni - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    Social and political concepts are indispensable yet historically and culturally variable in a way that poses a challenge: how can we reconcile confident commitment to them with awareness of their contingency? In this article, we argue that available responses to this problem—Foundationalism, Ironism, and Right Wittgensteinianism—are unsatisfactory. Instead, we draw on the work of Bernard Williams to tease out and develop a Left Wittgensteinian response. In present-day pluralistic and historically self-conscious societies, mere confidence in our concepts is not enough. For (...)
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  12. Philosophy as Synchronic History.Daniel Stoljar - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-18.
    Abstract: Bernard Williams argues that philosophy is in some deep way akin to history. This paper is a novel exploration and defence of the Williams thesis (as I call it)—though in a way anathema to Williams himself. The key idea is to apply a central moral from what is sometimes called ‘the analytic philosophy of history’ of the 1960s to the philosophy of philosophy of today, namely, the separation of explanation and laws. I suggest that an account of causal explanation (...)
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  13. Enquiry and the Value of Knowledge.Barnaby Walker - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    In this paper I challenge the orthodox view of the significance of Platonic value problems. According to this view, such problems are among the central questions of epistemology, and answering them is essential for justifying the status of epistemology as a major branch of philosophical enquiry. I challenge this view by identifying an assumption on which Platonic value problems are based – the value assumption – and considering how this assumption might be resisted. After articulating a line of thought that (...)
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  14. The Purity of Agent-Regret.Jake Wojtowicz - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    I argue for a novel understanding of the nature of agent-regret. On the standard picture, agent-regret involves regretting the result of one’s action and thus regretting one’s action. I argue that the standard picture is a flawed analysis of agent-regret. I offer several cases of agent-regret where the agent feels agent-regret but does not regret the result itself. I appeal to other cases where an agent’s attitude towards something depends upon whether or not they are involved in that thing. I (...)
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  15. Whence the Demand for Ethical Theory?Damian Cueni & Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2):135–46.
    Where does the impetus towards ethical theory come from? What drives humans to make values explicit, consistent, and discursively justifiable? This paper situates the demand for ethical theory in human life by identifying the practical needs that give rise to it. Such a practical derivation puts the demand in its place: while finding a home for it in the public decision-making of modern societies, it also imposes limitations on the demand by presenting it as scalable and context-sensitive. This differentiates strong (...)
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  16. The Passive Body and States of Nature: An Examination of the Methodological Role State of Nature Theory Plays in Williams and Nietzsche.Brian Lightbody - 2021 - Genealogy 5 (8):1-15.
    : In his work Truth and Truthfulness, Bernard Williams offers a very different interpretation of philosophical genealogy than that expounded in the secondary literature. The “Received View” of genealogy holds that it is “documentary grey”: it attempts to provide historically well-supported, coherent, but defeasible explanations for the actual transformation of practices, values, and emotions in history. However, paradoxically, the standard interpretation also holds another principle. Genealogies are nevertheless polemical because they admit that any evidence that would serve to justify a (...)
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  17. Nietzsche’s English Genealogy of Truthfulness.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (2):341-363.
    This paper aims to increase our understanding of the genealogical method by taking a developmental approach to Nietzsche’s genealogical methodology and reconstructing an early instance of it: Nietzsche’s genealogy of truthfulness in On Truth and Lie. Placing this essay against complementary remarks from his notebooks, I show that Nietzsche’s early use of the genealogical method concerns imagined situations before documented history, aims to reveal practical necessity before contingency, and focuses on vindication before it turns to subversion or problematization. I argue (...)
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  18. Tracing Concepts to Needs.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - The Philosopher 109 (3):34–39.
    Why is the concept of truth so important to us? After all, it is not at all obvious why human intelligence would have evolved to do anything other than to dissimulate, deceive, cheat, and trick. Pragmatic genealogies like the genealogies of the value of truth told by Nietzsche and Williams can help us grasp why we think as we do. But instead of explaining concepts by tracing them to antecedent objects in reality, they trace them to practical needs and reverse-engineer (...)
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  19. Choosing Values? Williams Contra Nietzsche.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (2):286-307.
    Amplifying Bernard Williams’ critique of the Nietzschean project of a revaluation of values, this paper mounts a critique of the idea that whether values will help us to live can serve as a criterion for choosing which values to live by. I explore why it might not serve as a criterion and highlight a number of further difficulties faced by the Nietzschean project. I then come to Nietzsche's defence, arguing that if we distinguish valuations from values, there is at least (...)
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  20. The Practical Origins of Ideas: Genealogy as Conceptual Reverse-Engineering (Open Access).Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Why did such highly abstract ideas as truth, knowledge, or justice become so important to us? What was the point of coming to think in these terms? This book presents a philosophical method designed to answer such questions: the method of pragmatic genealogy. Pragmatic genealogies are partly fictional, partly historical narratives exploring what might have driven us to develop certain ideas in order to discover what these do for us. The book uncovers an under-appreciated tradition of pragmatic genealogy which cuts (...)
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  21. Ideas That Work.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Aeon:1–8.
    Truth, knowledge, justice – to understand how our loftiest abstractions earn their keep, trace them to their practical origins.
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  22. The Self-Effacing Functionality of Blame.Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (4):1361-1379.
    This paper puts forward an account of blame combining two ideas that are usually set up against each other: that blame performs an important function, and that blame is justified by the moral reasons making people blameworthy rather than by its functionality. The paper argues that blame could not have developed in a purely instrumental form, and that its functionality itself demands that its functionality be effaced in favour of non-instrumental reasons for blame—its functionality is self-effacing. This notion is sharpened (...)
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  23. Wittgenstein, Guilt And Western Buddhism.Robert Vinten - 2021 - Contemporary Buddhism 21 (2).
    Whereas Christians often give guilt a prominent role, Buddhists are encouraged not to dwell on feelings of guilt. Leading members of the Triratna organisation – Sangharakshita, Subhuti and Subhadramati – characterise guilt as a negative emotion that hinders spiritual growth. However, if we carefully examine the concept of guilt in the manner of Wittgenstein we find that the accounts of guilt given by leading members of Triratna mischaracterise it and so ignore its positive aspects. They should acknowledge the valuable role (...)
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  24. Truthfulness Without Truth.Allan Hazlett - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Research 45:115-131.
    It is natural to think that the badness of false belief explains the badness of lying. In this paper, I argue against this: I argue that the badness of false belief does not explain the badness of lying and that, given a popular account of the badness of lying, the badness of false belief is orthogonal to the badness of lying.
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  25. The (Un)Desirability of Immortality.Felipe Pereira & Travis Timmerman - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (2).
    While most people believe the best possible life they could lead would be an immortal one, so‐called “immortality curmudgeons” disagree. Following Bernard Williams, they argue that, at best, we have no prudential reason to live an immortal life, and at worst, an immortal life would necessarily be bad for creatures like us. In this article, we examine Bernard Williams' seminal argument against the desirability of immortality and the subsequent literature it spawned. We first reconstruct and motivate Williams' somewhat cryptic argument (...)
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  26. Revealing Social Functions Through Pragmatic Genealogies.Matthieu Queloz - 2020 - In Rebekka Hufendiek, Daniel James & Raphael Van Riel (eds.), Social Functions in Philosophy: Metaphysical, Normative, and Methodological Perspectives. London: Routledge. pp. 200-218.
    There is an under-appreciated tradition of genealogical explanation that is centrally concerned with social functions. I shall refer to it as the tradition of pragmatic genealogy. It runs from David Hume (T, 3.2.2) and the early Friedrich Nietzsche (TL) through E. J. Craig (1990, 1993) to Bernard Williams (2002) and Miranda Fricker (2007). These pragmatic genealogists start out with a description of an avowedly fictional “state of nature” and end up ascribing social functions to particular building blocks of our practices (...)
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  27. How Genealogies Can Affect the Space of Reasons.Matthieu Queloz - 2020 - Synthese 197 (5):2005-2027.
    Can genealogical explanations affect the space of reasons? Those who think so commonly face two objections. The first objection maintains that attempts to derive reasons from claims about the genesis of something commit the genetic fallacy—they conflate genesis and justification. One way for genealogies to side-step this objection is to focus on the functional origins of practices—to show that, given certain facts about us and our environment, certain conceptual practices are rational because apt responses. But this invites a second objection, (...)
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  28. From Paradigm-Based Explanation to Pragmatic Genealogy.Matthieu Queloz - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):683-714.
    Why would philosophers interested in the points or functions of our conceptual practices bother with genealogical explanations if they can focus directly on paradigmatic examples of the practices we now have?? To answer this question, I compare the method of pragmatic genealogy advocated by Edward Craig, Bernard Williams, and Miranda Fricker—a method whose singular combination of fictionalising and historicising has met with suspicion—with the simpler method of paradigm-based explanation. Fricker herself has recently moved towards paradigm-based explanation, arguing that it is (...)
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  29. Political Obligations in Illiberal Regimes.Zoltán Gábor Szűcs - 2020 - Res Publica 26 (4):541-558.
    The paper is organized around two major, but closely interconnected goals. First, the paper’s principal aim is to offer a normative theory of political obligations that is based on certain insights of philosophical anarchism, theories of associative obligations and political realism. Second, the paper aims to offer a normative theoretical framework to examine political obligations in contemporary non-democratic contexts that does not vindicate non-democratic regimes and that does not exclude political obligations from the terrain of moral normativity. The theory of (...)
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  30. Guilt Without Perceived Wrongdoing.Michael Zhao - 2020 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 48 (3):285-314.
    According to the received account of guilt in the philosophical literature, one cannot feel guilt unless one takes oneself to have done something morally wrong. But ordinary people feel guilt in many cases in which they do not take themselves to have done anything morally wrong. In this paper, I focus on one kind of guilt without perceived wrongdoing, guilt about being merely causally responsible for a bad state-of-affairs. I go on to present a novel account of guilt that explains (...)
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  31. Internal Reasons and the Boy Who Cried Wolf.Samuel Asarnow - 2019 - Ethics 130 (1):32-58.
    Reasons internalists claim that facts about normative reasons for action are facts about which actions would promote an agent’s goals and values. Reasons internalism is popular, even though paradigmatic versions have moral consequences many find unwelcome. This article reconstructs an influential but understudied argument for reasons internalism, the “if I were you” argument, which is due to Bernard Williams and Kate Manne. I raise an objection to the argument and argue that replying to it requires reasons internalists to accept controversial (...)
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  32. Tim Henning, From a Rational Point of View: How We Represent Subjective Perspectives in Practical Discourse. [REVIEW]Samuel Asarnow - 2019 - Ethics 130 (1):113-118.
    Reasons internalists claim that facts about normative reasons for action are facts about which actions would promote an agent’s goals and values. Reasons internalism is popular, even though paradigmatic versions have moral consequences many find unwelcome. This article reconstructs an influential but understudied argument for reasons internalism, the “if I were you” argument, which is due to Bernard Williams and Kate Manne. I raise an objection to the argument and argue that replying to it requires reasons internalists to accept controversial (...)
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  33. Taking Politics Seriously - but Not Too Seriously.Charles Blattberg - 2019 - Philosophy 94 (2):271-94.
    John Rawls’ gamification of justice leads him – along with many other monist political philosophers, not least Ronald Dworkin – to fail to take politics seriously enough. I begin with why we consider games frivolous and then show how Rawls’ theory of justice is not merely analogous to a game, as he himself seems to claim, but is in fact a kind of game. As such, it is harmful to political practice in two ways: one as regards the citizens who (...)
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  34. Matilal's Metaethics.Nicolas Bommarito & Alex King - 2019 - In Colin Marshall (ed.), Comparative Metaethics: Neglected Perspectives on the Foundations of Morality. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 139-156.
    Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935-1991) was a Harvard-educated Indian philosopher best known for his contributions to logic, but who also wrote on wide variety of topics, including metaethics. Unfortunately, the latter contributions have been overlooked. Engaging with Anglo-American figures such as Gilbert Harman and Bernard Williams, Matilal defends a view he dubs ‘pluralism.’ In defending this view he draws on a wide range of classical Indian sources: the Bhagavad-Gītā, Buddhist thinkers like Nāgārjuna, and classical Jaina concepts. This pluralist position is somewhere (...)
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  35. The Justification of Freedom in John Stuart Mill. Reply to Some Criticism by Martha Nussbaum.David José Blanco Cortina - 2019 - Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy 8 (14):35-54.
    This paper aims to check some Nussbaum’s reviews, in Hiding from Humanity, about Mill’s conception of liberty. The analysis frame is given by constant tension between the utilitarian justification and the justification based on per se value of liberty. This article wants to support the following hypothesis: Millean liberty cannot be criticized for reducing its value to instrumental terms. On the contrary, in order to be loyal with Mill, liberty has a double justification: one based on its utilitarianism and another (...)
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  36. Analysing Political Deception: The Virtues of Bernard Williams' Anti‐Tyranny Argument.Ben Cross - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):324-336.
    European Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  37. Value Pluralism Vs Realism in the Political Thought of Bernard Williams.George Crowder - 2019 - Journal of Value Inquiry 53 (4):529-550.
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  38. Value Pluralism and Public Ethics.Derek Edyvane & Demetris Tillyris - 2019 - Theoria 66 (160):1-8.
    ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. -Archilochus quoted in Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox, 22The fragment from the Greek poet Archilochus, quoted in Isaiah Berlin’s essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’, serves as a metaphor for the long-standing contrast and rivalry between two radically different approaches to public ethics, each of which is couched in a radically different vision of the structure of moral value. On the one hand, the way of the hedgehog (...)
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  39. What Matters in Love: Reflections on the Relationship Between Love and Persons.Gary Foster - 2019 - Dialogue 58 (2):323-340.
    In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit takes issue with Bernard Williams’ view of the relation between love and identity. Williams thought that, in a world where there were several co-existing replicas of one’s beloved, our current conception of love would begin to crumble. Parfit agrees with Williams in the branching case of replication, but thought that, where replication takes a non-branching form, our ordinary view of love would remain intact. I believe Parfit arrives at this conclusion because he has not (...)
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  40. Internal Reasons and the Problem of Climate Change.David Hall - 2019 - Theoria 66 (160):27-52.
    Climate action is conventionally framed in terms of overcoming epistemic and practical disagreement. An alternative view is to treat people’s understandings of climate change as fundamentally pluralistic and to conceive of climate action accordingly. This paper explores this latter perspective through a framework of philosophical psychology, in particular Bernard Williams’s distinction between internal and external reasons. This illuminates why the IPCC’s framework of ‘Reasons for Concern’ has an inefficacious relationship to people’s concerns and, hence, why additional reason giving is required. (...)
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  41. Accepting Moral Luck.Robert J. Hartman - 2019 - In Ian M. Church & Robert J. Hartman (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Psychology of Luck. New York: Routledge.
    I argue that certain kinds of luck can partially determine an agent’s praiseworthiness and blameworthiness. To make this view clearer, consider some examples. Two identical agents drive recklessly around a curb, and one but not the other kills a pedestrian. Two identical corrupt judges would freely take a bribe if one were offered. Only one judge is offered a bribe, and so only one judge takes a bribe. Put in terms of these examples, I argue that the killer driver and (...)
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  42. No Luck for Moral Luck.Markus Kneer & Edouard Machery - 2019 - Cognition 182:331-348.
    Moral philosophers and psychologists often assume that people judge morally lucky and morally unlucky agents differently, an assumption that stands at the heart of the Puzzle of Moral Luck. We examine whether the asymmetry is found for reflective intuitions regarding wrongness, blame, permissibility, and punishment judg- ments, whether people’s concrete, case-based judgments align with their explicit, abstract principles regarding moral luck, and what psychological mechanisms might drive the effect. Our experiments produce three findings: First, in within-subjects experiments favorable to reflective (...)
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  43. A Truthful Way to Live? Objectivity, Ethics and Psychoanalysis.Michael Lacewing - 2019 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 85:175-193.
    Is there a best way to live? If so, is this a form of ethical life? The answer, I believe, turns on what we can say about the nature and place of the passions – emotions and desires – in our lives, including in particular, our ability to be truthful about our passions and our relations with other people. I approach the question through the work of Bernard Williams. I consider first what it might be for a way of life (...)
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  44. Gauguin's Lucky Escape: Moral Luck and the Morality System.Gerald Lang - 2019 - In Sophie Grace Chappell & Marcel van Ackaren (eds.), Ethics Beyond the Limits: New Essays on Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. London, UK: pp. 129-47.
    Williams’s attack on the ‘morality system’ in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy was preceded by his famous but misunderstood essay ‘Moral Luck’. This essay pursues two principal aims. First and foremost, I take a fresh look at Williams’s argument in ‘Moral Luck’, to assess its defensibility. Second, I investigate how Williams’s treatment of moral luck shapes and informs the wider assault on the ‘morality system’ which reached its fullest expression in the later work. We can learn something about both (...)
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  45. Alterity, Intimacy, and the Cultural Turn in Religious Ethics.Richard B. Miller - 2019 - Journal of Religious Ethics 47 (1):203-216.
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  46. Evolution and (Aristotelian) Virtue Ethics.John Mizzoni - 2019 - Human Affairs 29 (2):199-206.
    It is well known that virtue ethics has become very popular among moral theorists. Even Aristotelian virtue ethics continues to have defenders. Bernard Williams, though, has claimed that this “neo-Aristotelian enterprise” might “require us tofeign amnesia about natural selection.” This paper looks at some recent work on virtueethics as seen from an evolutionary perspective and explores whether Williams’ evolutionary challenge can be met. Against Williams’ challenge, I argue that “the first and hardest lesson of Darwinism,” as Williams calls it, has (...)
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  47. Animals Who Think and Love: Law, Identification and the Moral Psychology of Guilt.Alan Norrie - 2019 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 13 (3):515-544.
    How does the human animal who thinks and loves relate to criminal justice? This essay takes up the idea of a moral psychology of guilt promoted by Bernard Williams and Herbert Morris. Against modern liberal society’s ‘peculiar’ legal morality of voluntary responsibility, it pursues Morris’s ethical account of guilt as involving atonement and identification with others. Thinking of guilt in line with Morris, and linking it with the idea of moral psychology, takes the essay to Freud’s metapsychology in Civilization and (...)
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  48. Towards a Unified Interpretation of Bernard Williams's Philosophical Projects.Pawel Pijas - 2019 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 33 (3):43-74.
    This article proposes an interpretive key to Bernard Williams’s philosophy. It posits the idea that at its core, his philosophy consists in the following interconnected epistemological and metaphysical views: (1) scientific realism, (2) metaphysical naturalism, (3) methodological pluralism, (4) anthropological contingentism and (5) a post-analytical/humanistic understanding of philosophy. These are extracted in the first two sections. The third section provides a demonstration of how this interpretation can be applied vis-à-vis Williams’s critique of morality. The text concludes with some critical remarks (...)
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  49. Genealogy and Knowledge-First Epistemology: A Mismatch?Matthieu Queloz - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):100-120.
    This paper examines three reasons to think that Craig's genealogy of the concept of knowledge is incompatible with knowledge-first epistemology and finds that far from being incompatible with it, the genealogy lends succour to it. This reconciliation turns on two ideas. First, the genealogy is not history, but a dynamic model of needs. Secondly, by recognizing the continuity of Craig's genealogy with Williams's genealogy of truthfulness, we can see that while both genealogies start out from specific needs explaining what drives (...)
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  50. Nietzsche as a Critic of Genealogical Debunking: Making Room for Naturalism Without Subversion.Matthieu Queloz & Damian Cueni - 2019 - The Monist 102 (3):277-297.
    This paper argues that Nietzsche is a critic of just the kind of genealogical debunking he is popularly associated with. We begin by showing that interpretations of Nietzsche which see him as engaging in genealogical debunking turn him into an advocate of nihilism, for on his own premises, any truthful genealogical inquiry into our values is going to uncover what most of his contemporaries deem objectionable origins and thus license global genealogical debunking. To escape nihilism and make room for naturalism (...)
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