James Miller

James Miller who teaches at the New School for Social Research in New York, is the author of The Passion of Michel Foucault.

Thinking without a Banister

James Miller, 19 October 1995

Twenty years after her death, and nearly half a century after The Origins of Totalitarianism established her international reputation, Hannah Arendt looms larger than ever – as a philosopher, as a political theorist, as an exemplary analyst of history. Jürgen Habermas has expressed admiration for her, as have avowed Post-Modernists, who share her declared freedom from metaphysical and moral presuppositions. Democratic intellectuals in Eastern Europe – Vaclav Havel, for one – have endorsed a distinction first stressed by Arendt, between the authoritarianism of old-fashioned dictatorships and what she described as the ‘total domination’ practised by modern-day totalitarian regimes. In addition, the anti-Communist uprisings of 1989 seemed to bear out her thesis that revolution in its essence is not social (as Marx thought) but political, and that true political power flows only from below, from a people spontaneously acting in concert.’

How philosophers live

James Miller, 8 September 1994

Despite obvious exceptions – memoirs by John Stuart Mill and R.G. Collingwood, confessions by St Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau – autobiography is not a genre that comes naturally to most philosophers. The typical modern philosopher – the Kant of the three critiques, say, or the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus – seeks perfection in the composition of systematic treatises and closely-argued works of logic, not in the harvesting of personal memories, which (if one is honest) are inherently uncertain, often contradictory, and usually tinged with emotion. As Stanley Cavell concedes at the outset of his own set of ‘autobiographical exercises’, the thinker who has chosen to examine himself risks turning ‘philosophically critical discourse into clinical discourse’.’

Unhappy Man

P.N. Furbank, 22 July 1993

Only a few months after the first, revelatory, biography of Philip Larkin there come two new lives – whether they are ‘revelatory’ will need pondering – of Michel...

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To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden, 21 February 1985

It is the fortune, or perhaps the misfortune, of the Enlightenment that its historians frequently write very long books. Franco Venturi’s Settecento Riformatore, which must surely be one of...

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