Sissela Bok

Sissela Bok teaches at Harvard. Her most recent book, Secrets, will be reviewed here by Bernard Williams.

What else can I do?

Sissela Bok, 1 September 1988

‘What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope?’ Immanuel Kant’s three questions, set forth in his Critique of Pure Reason as encompassing all the interests of his reason, were also those which Jean-Paul Sartre pursued throughout his life, however different he intended his answers to be from those of Kant. Few thinkers in our time have pressed these questions with Sartre’s perseverence and imagination: but his subtle exploration of the first question contrasts with the shallowness of his various answers to the second, and with his growing disposition to posit improbable political utopias in response to the third. By the time he published his last, unfinished work on philosophy, the Critique of Dialectical Reason, he knew that the all-encompassing synthesis for which he had laboured was out of his reach.

His Father’s Children

Sissela Bok, 5 April 1984

‘I was born in London on the 20th of May, 1806, and was the eldest son of James Mill, the author of The History of British India.’ The father-author thus announced at the beginning of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography dominated his life from early childhood on. Did he in any sense author his son’s life as he authored his books? John Stuart Mill wrote his own Life in large part to work out an answer to that question.

Letting it get out

Bernard Williams, 18 October 1984

It is often said that the British are obsessively interested in secrecy. It is less often said how deep and peculiar this obsession is, and how much more there is to it than the well-known fact...

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