One result of this sidestepping was that old schools of ethics were dusted off.
By 1976, the resurgence is palpable: “The harsh theoretical disjunction between fact and value has been modified; the reluctance of philosophers to come out with normative statements is much less apparent.” Williams had the foresight to document the best of this movement as it unfolded. Williams recognized how influential John Rawls’s 1971 , Alasdair Mac Intyre proposes a return to Aristotle’s virtue ethics as the only way to set things aright: “It is itself one of Mac Intyre’s most illuminating exaggerations to claim that this is the only choice that we have.” In between and after these, a host of other revivers of moral and political philosophy swarms by—among them, Robert Nozick, Iris Murdoch, and Martha Nussbaum.
And even some figures who are not directly reviewed are effectively canvassed as well; the person of Bertrand Russell, for one, receives a lot of attention.
The few essays which accompany the reviews are interesting but somewhat slight.
He treats works of philosophy not just as analyses of ideas, but as books—to be read, understood, and by human beings.
He accuses Basil Willey of injecting his own staleness into a summary of Locke, who “is a confused thinker, indeed, but not boringly so, because his confusions are those of a highly intelligent and honest man trying to stand upright on intellectual ground that is shifting under his feet.” And he writes of a somewhat scattered assemblage of lectures by Charles Taylor that “the air of informality and disorder has some rewards—even its own authority.Williams takes the capsule format of the Sunday-morning periodical as a challenge, and the result is a distinctly human approach to the books that were assigned him.Williams’s sensitivity as a reader is one of the greatest assets of these reviews.For readers without a philosophical training some of the essays will be uphill work.But they are never more difficult than the subject requires, and are written with a lightness of touch and a lack of solemnity that are a joy in themselves."This chronologically arranged collection of Bernard Williams' reviews and occasional essays could easily serve as a sort of in media res history of philosophy for the better part of the 20th century — as presented from a particular perspective, of course, though one that is unusually insightful and fair-minded.Take logical positivism, for example, a school of strict empiricism that threatened once and for all to put an end to circuitous, pedantic ethical debates.The positivists, most famously Alfred Ayer, insisted that since normative words like “good” or “just” are not verifiable by observation, they must be simply meaningless. By the forties this scientific approach had become the fashion.But many of these essays extend beyond philosophy, providing an intellectual tour through the past half century, from C. Roger Scruton's review ::"Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959-2002"This rigorous collection of essays and reviews reveals the brilliant and critical mind of Bernard Williams these essays was a wonderful journey back across the years of my own intellectual formation, revisiting the philosophical monuments of our time in the company of their acutest critic.Many of the significant post-war figures are called into the witness box: J L Austin, A Roger Scruton's review ::"Bernard Williams: Essays and Reviews 1959-2002"This rigorous collection of essays and reviews reveals the brilliant and critical mind of Bernard Williams these essays was a wonderful journey back across the years of my own intellectual formation, revisiting the philosophical monuments of our time in the company of their acutest critic.But an excellent new collection of his book reviews and short essays () ought to usher in a different perspective of Williams.The volume’s seventy-one pieces are bite-sized—most are three or four pages in length—and were written for public consumption.