Jon Elster’s Brisk Meditations

Bernard Williams

  • Logic and Society by Jon Elster
    Wiley, 244 pp, £12.65, March 1978, ISBN 0 471 99549 5
  • Ulysses and the Sirens by Jon Elster
    Cambridge/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 240 pp, £9.75, May 1979, ISBN 0 521 22388 1

There are some pieces of logical or theoretical jargon which are marks of ideological allegiance – intellectual windsocks to display which way the wind is blowing the author. While linguistic philosophers, at least of the older sort, ‘analyse’ some intellectual object, structuralists and their neighbours ‘deconstruct’ it. For Marxists, a set of interrelated problems is usually ‘problematic’; and what gives rise to their problematic, is involved in it, and needs to be overcome, is, standardly, ‘a contradiction’, where that is not something in their or someone else’s discourse, but an objective state of the world.

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