Men of Ideas

Men of Ideas : Some Creators of Contemporary Philosophy

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Fifteen dialogues drawn from the highly acclaimed BBC series review the tenets and theories of moral philosophy, political philosophy, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of scienceshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 282 pages
  • 127 x 195.58 x 27.94mm | 226.8g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • portraits
  • 0192830341
  • 9780192830340

Review Text

Another sign of philosophy's re-emergence from the sanctuary of scholarly journals and ivied halls is this collection of interviews originally conducted for the BBC by a former philosophy professor (Oxford and Yale) and present MP. Of the "dialogues," the most successful are those that cover ground most congenial to Magee; namely, those that deal with Anglo-American philosophy. The lay public may not be the only ones confused by the differences between the sects involved, and Magee's interviews with Anthony Quinton (Oxford) on Wittgenstein, A. I. Ayer (Oxford) on logical positivism, and Bernard Williams (Cambridge) on linguistic philosophy help to sort them out. While a separate interview with W. O. Quine (Harvard) on his own contribution to logic provides a refinement of the logical positivist position, the pieces with R. M. Hare (Oxford) on moral philosophy and Ronald Dworkin (Cambridge) on political philosophy overlap excessively and merely restate analytic techniques discussed elsewhere. The selection of Dworkin, a legal philosopher, to discuss political philosophy is one of Magee's more curious choices, as is that of Charles Taylor (Oxford), a Hegel scholar, to discuss Marxism. The Taylor "dialogue" is a disaster, with Magee adopting a thoroughly antagonistic stance that prevents anything interesting from being said. But the least defensible interview by far is that with Herbert Marcuse, ostensibly to discuss the Frankfurt School; Magee's hostility takes over, however, and he fails even to raise the question of Marcuse's obvious relation to Heidegger - a failure made manifest by the very next interview, which happens to be on Heidegger, and in which William Barrett (NYU) gives a pop-existentialist version of the German philosopher to Magee's admiring approval (Barrett: "Sartre doesn't have much of a feeling for being. Whatever one may object to in Heidegger, one has to acknowledge that the man is really saturated with a sense of being"). Among other interviews are those with Isaiah Berlin on philosophy tout court, Noam Chomsky on himself, and, in violation of the title, with Iris Murdoch on philosophy and literature, in which she proclaims that, "for better and worse, art goes deeper than philosophy." Ludicrously uneven. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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138 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 38% (53)
4 34% (47)
3 23% (32)
2 4% (5)
1 1% (1)
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