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Dream on

Alexander Nehamas, 17 July 1997

Dinner with Persephone 
by Patricia Storace.
Granta, 398 pp., £17.99, February 1997, 1 86207 033 4
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... relevant as any table of economic indicators. Again according to myth, the Gorgona, the sister of Alexander the Great, was transformed into a mermaid. Even today, she stops ships sailing in Greek waters and helps those sailors who assure her that her brother is still alive to arrive at their destination, while destroying those who tell her the sad truth. A ...

Swallowing goldfish

Alexander Nehamas, 10 December 1987

The Closing of the American Mind: How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students 
by Allan Bloom.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 671 47990 3
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... The state of elementary, intermediate and higher education in America has been a serious cause for concern in recent years. Diverse groups and individuals have issued scathing reports on the low quality of current educational schemes, dire warnings about their potential consequences, and mostly vague recommendations regarding their reform. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, described on the New York Times best-seller list as ‘a critique of liberal arts education during the past twenty-five years’, has been widely considered as a distinguished part of this broad critical movement ...

Never further than Dinner or Tea

Alexander Nehamas: Iris Murdoch, 4 March 1999

Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch 
by John Bayley.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £16.95, September 1998, 0 7156 2848 8
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... The first thing Alzheimer’s disease took away from Iris Murdoch was her luminous powers. At a conference in Israel in 1994, she was unable to answer her audience’s questions. In 1995, she completed, with great difficulty, her 27th novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, in which readers found several errors and inconsistencies; it was to be her last ...

The Sponge of Apelles

Alexander Nehamas, 3 October 1985

TheSkeptical Tradition 
by Myles Burnyeat.
California, 434 pp., £36.75, June 1984, 0 520 03747 2
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The Modes of Scepticism: Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations 
by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes.
Cambridge, 204 pp., £20, May 1985, 0 521 25682 8
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Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties 
by P.F. Strawson.
Methuen, 98 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 416 39070 6
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Hume’s Skepticism in the ‘Treatise of Human Nature’ 
by Robert Fogelin.
Routledge, 195 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 7102 0368 3
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The Refutation of Scepticism 
by A.C. Grayling.
Duckworth, 150 pp., £18, May 1985, 0 7156 1922 5
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The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism 
by Barry Stroud.
Oxford, 277 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 19 824730 3
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... Thales of Miletus, with whom histories of Western philosophy conventionally begin, was said to have been so concerned with the heavens that he fell into a well while he was gazing at the stars. Ever since then (ever since they have existed, that is) philosophers have been objects of amusement and subjects of satire. For one thing, philosophical views often seem intolerably abstruse ...

Untheory

Alexander Nehamas, 22 May 1986

Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory after Deconstruction 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 247 pp., £16, November 1985, 0 416 39939 8
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Philosophical Profiles 
by Richard Bernstein.
Polity, 313 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7456 0226 6
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Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism 
edited by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 146 pp., £12.75, November 1985, 0 226 53226 7
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... The ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry which Plato described, and in which he took part, is still being fought. Poetry today has become, more generally, ‘rhetoric’, ‘fiction’, ‘literature’, ‘literariness’, ‘narrative’ or ‘writing’. It has even found an ally within the enemy’s ranks – the recent anti-philosophical philosophy sometimes known as the New Pragmatism ...

Not Rocket Science

Alexander Nehamas, 22 June 2000

On Beauty and Being Just 
by Elaine Scarry.
Princeton, 134 pp., $15.95, September 1999, 0 691 04875 4
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Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy 
by Dave Hickey.
Art Issues, 216 pp., £15.95, September 1998, 0 9637264 5 5
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... Our century has been distrustful of beauty. Our philosophy follows Kant, who found beauty only in a contemplation of nature and art which yields an ‘entirely disinterested satisfaction’, pleasure bereft of desire. In literature and the arts, Modernism prized what is difficult, discomforting and edifying. As the gap between high and low culture became ever wider, the beauty which mattered to intellectuals, when it mattered to them at all, came to seem different in kind from the beauty which mattered to the world at large, and, for that reason, irrelevant and empty: the higher the pleasure it provoked, the less like pleasure it seemed ...

Different Stories

David Hoy, 8 January 1987

Nietzsche: Life as Literature 
by Alexander Nehamas.
Harvard, 261 pp., £14.95, January 1986, 0 674 62435 1
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... elements of his early view about the relation of art and life, he continues to think, according to Alexander Nehamas, that life can be fashioned into literature. The historical author is less important than the literary artwork, and the world is itself like a literary text. Texts demand interpretation, and we find out about anything, including ourselves ...

Art’s Infancy

Arthur C. Danto, 22 April 1993

The Mind and its Depths 
by Richard Wollheim.
Harvard, 214 pp., £19.95, March 1993, 9780674576117
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Psychoanalysis, Mind and Art: Perspectives on Richard Wollheim 
edited by Jim Hopkins and Anthony Savile.
Blackwell, 383 pp., £40, October 1992, 0 631 17571 7
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... is that his topics are systematically interconnected. ‘His views are exhilarating,’ writes Alexander Nehamas, ‘because they are systematic, and the discovery that a philosopher is systematic, like the discovery that an artist has a style, is a cause for rejoicing: it does credit both to the subject studied and to its student.’ The ‘subject ...

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