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What else can I do?

Sissela Bok, 1 September 1988

Sartre: A Life 
by Annie Cohen-Solal, translated by Anna Cancogni.
Heinemann, 591 pp., £17.95, October 1987, 0 434 14020 1
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Writing against: A Biography of Sartre 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 487 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 297 79002 1
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Sartre: Romantic Rationalist 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 158 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 7011 3095 4
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... 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 ...

His Father’s Children

Sissela Bok, 5 April 1984

Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Vol. I: Autobiography and Literary Essays 
edited by John Robson and Jack Stillinger.
Toronto, 766 pp., £35, March 1982, 0 7100 0718 3
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... 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

Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation 
by Sissela Bok.
Oxford, 332 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 19 217733 8
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TheSecrets File: The Case for Freedom of Information in Britain Today 
edited by Des Wilson, foreword by David Steel.
Heinemann, 166 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 9780435839390
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... if one’s spies were also other people’s spies – but in all areas of government. As Sissela Bok’s book illustrates, it is a deep and nearly universal desire of those in power; Des Wilson’s collection of articles powerfully documents and eloquently attacks its special intensity in this country, the most officially secretive among ...

Phattbookia Stupenda

Nicholas Spice, 18 April 1985

Illywhacker 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 600 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 571 13207 3
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... become a Venus fly-trap for the buzzing PhDs. They will write of it as moral philosophy (invoking Sissela Bok), as a discourse upon Book Ten of the Republic, as a commentary on Le Neveu de Rameau and the Paradoxe sur le Comédien, as a brilliant experiment in textuality, as an instantly self-deconstructing text. ‘Am I a prisoner in the midst of a sign ...

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