Bernard Williams

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6665

In our increasingly fragmented philosophical world, Bernard Williams stands as a model of what it is like to overcome the artificial divides that all-too-often make it seem as if ethics is independent from metaphysics, doing history of philosophy is distinct from doing philosophy, and working within the analytic tradition requires a  rejection of the Continental tradition.  In this seminar, we will seehow Williams overcomes these artificial divides by doing a close reading of his oeuvre, from Moral Luck to Shame and Necessity.  Our  goals will be several: chief among them, an account of the systematic links between apparently distinct parts of his work (such as the connections between his views on metaphysics in Descartes: The Project of Pure Inquiry and his views on ethics in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy), an understanding of his criticisms of prominent views in contemporary ethics (e.g., Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Neo-Aristotelianism), and an appreciation of why he thought figures such as Sophocles and Nietzsche have so much to say to philosophy today.

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