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Grounds for Despair

John Dunn, 17 September 1981

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Duckworth, 252 pp., £24, July 1981, 0 7156 0933 5
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... thinking of philosophers like David Wiggins and Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit, Thomas Nagel and Charles Taylor. (It might also be even harder.) As it is, there seem to be no grounds for optimism at all. For more than a quarter of a century I have found Alasdair MacIntyre the most stirring and the most imaginatively challenging writer on moral and ...

Someone else’s shoes

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 23 November 1989

A Treatise on Social Justice. Vol. I: Theories of Justice 
by Brian Barry.
Harvester, 428 pp., £30, May 1989, 0 7450 0641 8
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Innocence and Experience 
by Stuart Hampshire.
Allen Lane, 195 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 7139 9027 9
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... who have more recently thought about the matter (and who do not believe, as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor now do, that in losing an encompassing faith we have lost all capacity to talk about the public good at all) agree that our own present sense of what, exactly, these two more lively kinds of argument for justice now are, and of how we might ...

Let every faction bloom

John Patrick Diggins, 6 March 1997

For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism 
edited by Joshua Cohen.
Beacon, 154 pp., $15, August 1996, 0 8070 4313 3
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For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Oxford, 214 pp., £22.50, September 1995, 0 19 827952 3
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Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism 
edited by John Bodnar.
Princeton, 352 pp., £45, September 1996, 0 691 04397 3
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Buring the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy 
by Robert Justin Goldstein.
Kent State, 453 pp., $39, July 1996, 0 87338 526 8
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... religion, heritage, history, culture, tradition, community – and nationality’. Similarly, Charles Taylor reminds Nussbaum that democracy requires a strong national identity on the part of its citizens, and Michael Walzer insists that his circle of allegiances (‘spheres of affection’) starts, not with the outermost periphery, but at the ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 April 1983

A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. I: The Methodology of Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24906 6
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... bright little rooms produces some sort of stain on the moral fabric. But the fact remains, as Charles Taylor once put it, that there is a ‘value-slope’ in our accounts which, if left to itself, without countervailing argument, does tend to commend or condemn. Second, and much more interestingly, Runciman also supposes that ...

Does a donkey have to bray?

Terry Eagleton: The Reality Effect, 25 September 2008

Accident: A Philosophical and Literary History 
by Ross Hamilton.
Chicago, 342 pp., £18, February 2008, 978 0 226 31484 6
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... the rise of middle-class society, popular democracy and the idea of everyday life. (The latter, Charles Taylor claims, was the invention of Christianity, but it took the modern French intelligentsia to establish it as a kosher intellectual concern.) Authors like Defoe and Richardson emerged from the fledgling middle class’s endless fascination with ...

Qui s’accuse, s’excuse

Terry Eagleton: In confessional mode, 1 June 2000

Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature 
by Peter Brooks.
Chicago, 207 pp., £17, May 2000, 0 226 07585 0
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... has been – how natural the narrating of the self appears to be. It is not a modern phenomenon: Charles Taylor has fingered St Augustine as the first great apologist for personal inwardness. Nor is it, as Brooks sometimes implies, just a way of fashioning a subjective space within which we can be all the more cravenly subjected to power. If inwardness ...

What’s going on?

Peter Jenkins, 21 November 1985

How Britain votes 
by Anthony Heath, Roger Jowell and John Curtice.
Pergamon, 251 pp., £15.50, September 1985, 0 08 031859 2
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Partnership of Principle 
by Roy Jenkins.
Secker in association with the Radical Centre, 169 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 436 22100 4
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The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Britain 
by Ian Bradley.
Chatto, 259 pp., £11.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2670 1
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Report from the Select Committee on Overseas Trade, House of Lords 
HMSO, 96 pp., £6.30, October 1985, 0 10 496285 2Show More
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... a seasonal yield of misty perceptions which are all we know of political reality. The philosopher Charles Taylor has remarked that politics is ‘what’s going on’, or something to that effect. But how the hell are we to know what’s going on, I thought while on my way to the Trades Union Congress? What is going on is in some part what we say is ...

Killing Stones

Keith Thomas: Holy Places, 19 May 2011

The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland 
by Alexandra Walsham.
Oxford, 637 pp., £35, February 2011, 978 0 19 924355 6
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... they claim, was a newly hatched rationalism running around with the shell on its head. As Charles Taylor wrote in A Secular Age, the Reformation was ‘central to … the abolition of the enchanted cosmos and the eventual creation of a humanist alternative to faith’. This is the influential master narrative to whose attempted demolition ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment, 15 November 2007

Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... threshold of shame about bodily functions’, to trace the rise of personal autonomy. She follows Charles Taylor, in his great philosophical history Sources of the Self, to elucidate the evolving 18th-century concept of ‘sympathy’. She also devotes a fascinating chapter to changing attitudes towards torture. Here she notes that ‘an almost complete ...

Human Welfare

Paul Seabright, 18 August 1983

Utilitarianism and Beyond 
edited by Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 521 24296 7
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... to establishing what people’s desires are. Also I suspect that opponents of utilitarianism (like Charles Taylor and T.M. Scanlon in this volume) would reply that this account of utility is so elastic as to make us all utilitarians now. Few people would seriously dispute that moral goals worth pursuing must be acceptable to us at some underlying level of ...

Pork Chops and Pineapples

Terry Eagleton: The Realism of Erich Auerbach, 23 October 2003

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature 
by Erich Auerbach.
Princeton, 579 pp., £13.95, May 2003, 9780691113364
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... boundless humdrum detail, is one of the great revolutionary conceptions in human history, which Charles Taylor in Sources of the Self claims as Christian in inspiration. The modern equivalent of Moll Flanders in this respect is EastEnders. Auerbach’s Mimesis, one of the great works of literary scholarship, was written between 1942 and 1945 in ...

Limits of Civility

Glen Newey: Walls, 17 March 2011

Walled States, Waning Sovereignty 
by Wendy Brown.
Zone, 167 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 1 935408 08 6
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... from the wall and rejoice in the décloisonnement dreamt of by left-Hegelian romantics such as Charles Taylor – the Canadian liberal philosopher, not the Liberian warlord – in 1968? Walls maintain a front in the face of ‘waning sovereignty’, a child’s sand-dam thrown up vainly against the tide of history. The late modern state’s lot is to ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician, 9 January 2014

... Public opinion, which has now canonised Mandela, would be outraged were a ‘warlord’ such as Charles Taylor not brought to justice, though Taylor gave up power in 2003 when he left Monrovia for exile in Nigeria. In 2006, when the former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano negotiated with Joseph Kony for his ...


Adewale Maja-Pearce: In Monrovia, 6 February 2020

... his way to power in 1980 when he was 28. One of the cases on my file was that of the TV reporter Charles Gbenyon, who called into question the results of the 1985 elections. Doe had him arrested, stripped and taken to the Executive Mansion. His body later turned up carefully arranged on the beach, with his throat cut, head towards the sea and feet towards ...

The Moral Solipsism of Global Ethics Inc

Alex de Waal: Human rights, democracy and Amnesty International, 23 August 2001

Like Water on Stone: The Story of Amnesty International 
by Jonathan Power.
Allen Lane, 332 pp., £12.99, May 2001, 0 7139 9319 7
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Future Positive: International Co-operation in the 21st Century 
by Michael Edwards.
Earthscan, 292 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 1 85383 740 7
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East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia 
by Daniel Bell.
Princeton, 369 pp., £12.50, May 2000, 0 691 00508 7
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... that followed. Would it have been the same if it had been a serving despot such as President Charles Taylor of Liberia, whose skeletons are now bursting out of the cupboard? Many Liberians voted for Taylor because they believed that the only way to end the civil war was to choose the biggest warlord as ...

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