In the Beginning was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Argument

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, 2005 - Philosophy - 174 pages

Bernard Williams is remembered as one of the most brilliant and original philosophers of the past fifty years. Widely respected as a moral philosopher, Williams began to write about politics in a sustained way in the early 1980s. There followed a stream of articles, lectures, and other major contributions to issues of public concern--all complemented by his many works on ethics, which have important implications for political theory.

This new collection of essays, most of them previously unpublished, addresses many of the core subjects of political philosophy: justice, liberty, and equality; the nature and meaning of liberalism; toleration; power and the fear of power; democracy; and the nature of political philosophy itself. A central theme throughout is that political philosophers need to engage more directly with the realities of political life, not simply with the theories of other philosophers. Williams makes this argument in part through a searching examination of where political thinking should originate, to whom it might be addressed, and what it should deliver.

Williams had intended to weave these essays into a connected narrative on political philosophy with reflections on his own experience of postwar politics. Sadly he did not live to complete it, but this book brings together many of its components. Geoffrey Hawthorn has arranged the material to resemble as closely as possible Williams's original design and vision. He has provided both an introduction to Williams's political philosophy and a bibliography of his formal and informal writings on politics.

Those who know the work of Bernard Williams will find here the familiar hallmarks of his writing--originality, clarity, erudition, and wit. Those who are unfamiliar with, or unconvinced by, a philosophical approach to politics, will find this an engaging introduction. Both will encounter a thoroughly original voice in modern political theory and a searching approach to the shape and direction of liberal political thought in the past thirty-five years.

 

Contents

Realism and Moralism in Political Theory
1
In the Beginning Was the Deed
18
Pluralism Community and Left Wittgensteinianism
29
Modernity and the Substance of Ethical Life
40
The Liberalism of Fear
52
Human Rights and Relativism
62
From Freedom to Liberty The Construction of a Political Value
75
The Idea of Equality
97
Conflicts of Liberty and Equality
115
Toleration a Political or Moral Question?
128
Censorship
139
Humanitarianism and the Right to Intervene
145
Truth Politics and SelfDeception
154
Writings of Political Interest
165
Index
171
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

Bibliographic information