Geoffrey Hawthorn

Geoffrey Hawthorn is the author of Thucydides on Politics, among other books.

He​ ‘understands what you’re going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy –...

Plan it mañana: Albert O. Hirschman

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 11 September 2014

In June 1940​ a French lieutenant issued false passes. ‘Sauve qui peut,’ he said. ‘Il faut se débrouiller.’ Get out of this as best you can. Albert Hirschman would say that he’d been a débrouillard all his life. He’d left Berlin in 1933, sought an education in Paris and London, fought in Spain, worked in Trieste, fled back to France, enlisted,...

This is a book review: John Searle

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 20 January 2011

It’s striking nowadays to hear a philosopher say that ‘we want a unified account of our knowledge’; even more striking to hear him say ‘I think we can get it’; very striking indeed to hear this from a philosopher of language. That wouldn’t always have been so. A hundred years or so ago, there was great enthusiasm for looking closely at the structure of...

Anti-Magician: Max Weber

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 27 August 2009

More than most, Max Weber’s reputation reflects the aspirations of others. His wife, Marianne, did much to establish it in Germany, rapidly turning his articles and drafts into books and writing a biography. Liberal émigrés were what one of his American editors, Günther Roth, describes as its shock troops in the English-speaking world. Marianne’s biography...

Things Keep Happening: Histories of Histories

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 20 November 2008

A story, as John Burrow says of his own History of Histories, is selective. It looks forward ‘to its later episodes or its eventual outcome for its criteria of relevance’. Hence a difficulty:

The impulse to write history has nourished much effective narrative, and narrative – above all in Homer – was one of the sources of history as a genre. It would be a strange...

Be Spartans! Thucydides

James Romm, 21 January 2016

Thucydides​ may well have been the first Western author to address himself to posterity. His forerunners – Homer and Herodotus, principally – show no awareness of a readership...

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Bernard Williams had a very large mind. To read these three posthumously published collections of essays (there will be a fourth, on opera) is an overwhelming reminder of his incandescent and...

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Certainly not the saddest for historians, according to Geoffrey Hawthorn’s wonderfully playful and intelligent book: rather, the most instructive. Hawthorn is intrigued by the philosophical...

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What’s wrong with poverty

John Broome, 19 May 1988

Welfare economics is concerned with what economic arrangements we should have, and what governments should do in economic matters. It is about right and good in economics. So it is a branch of...

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