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Ideas of Bernard Williams, by Text

[British, 1929 - 2003, Professor at Oxford, London, Cambridge, and in America]

1956 Personal Identity and Individuation
p.144 The memory criterion has a problem when one thing branches into two things
1962 The Idea of Equality
2 p.234 Equality implies that people are alike in potential as well as in needs
2 p.236 Equality seems to require that each person be acknowledged as having a significant point of view
2 p.237 It is a mark of extreme exploitation that the sufferers do not realise their plight
3 p.248 Equality of opportunity without equality of respect would create a very inhuman society
1970 Are Persons Bodies?
p.74 p.74 'Dead person' isn't a contradiction, so 'person' is somewhat vague
p.81 p.81 You can only really love a person as a token, not as a type
1971 works
p.256 We can't accept Aristotle's naturalism about persons, because it is normative and unscientific
1980 Internal and External Reasons
p.101 p.101 Reasons are 'internal' if they give a person a motive to act, but 'external' otherwise
1985 Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
Ch. 1 p.8 Obligation and duty look backwards (because of a promise or job), although the acts are in the future
Ch. 1 p.11 A crucial feature of moral thought is second-order desire - the desire to have certain desires
Ch. 1 p.16 'Deon' in Greek means what one must do; there was no word meaning 'duty'
Ch. 1 p.17 Philosophers try to produce ethical theories because they falsely assume that ethics can be simple
Ch. 2 p.27 Plato found that he could only enforce rational moral justification by creating an authoritarian society
Ch. 3 p.31 A weakness of contractual theories is the position of a person of superior ability and power
Ch. 4 p.56 It is an error of consequentialism to think we just aim at certain states of affairs; we also want to act
Ch. 4 p.63 Why should I think of myself as both the legislator and the citizen who follows the laws?
Ch. 4 p.69 If the self becomes completely impartial, it no longer has enough identity to worry about its interests
Ch. 5 p.81 Utilitarian benevolence involves no particular attachments, and is immune to the inverse square law
Ch. 6 p.94 Intuitionism has been demolished by critics, and no longer looks interesting
Ch. 6 p.112 Most women see an early miscarriage and a late stillbirth as being very different in character
Ch. 6 p.114 The category of person is a weak basis for ethics, because it is not fixed but comes in degrees
Ch. 6 p.118 Speciesism isn't like racism, because the former implies a viewpoint which belongs to no one
Ch. 7 p.125 The weakness of prescriptivism is shown by "I simply don't like staying at good hotels"
Ch. 8 p.129 Some ethical ideas, such as 'treachery' and 'promise', seem to express a union of facts and values
Ch. 9 p.159 Our ability to react to an alien culture shows that ethical thought extends beyond cultural boundaries
Ch. 9 p.159 It is very confused to deduce a nonrelativist morality of universal toleration from relativism
Ch. 9 p.169 Ethical conviction must be to some extent passive, and can't just depend on the will and decisions
Ch. 9 p.170 Taking responsibility won't cure ethical uncertainty by; we are uncertain what to decide
Ch. 9 p.173 It is a mark of our having ethical values that we aim to reproduce them in our children
Ch.10 p.175 Not all moral deliberations lead to obligations; some merely reveal what 'may' be done
Ch.10 p.175 "Ought implies can" is a famous formula in connection with moral obligation
Ch.10 p.182 The concept of a 'duty to myself' is fraudulent
Ch.10 p.186 Promise keeping increases reliability, by making deliberation focus on something which would be overlooked
1985 How free does the will need to be?
5 p.15 Blame usually has no effect if the recipient thinks it unjustified
5 p.16 Blame partly rests on the fiction that blamed agents always know their obligations
1993 Shame and Necessity
p.1 We judge weakness of will by an assessment after the event is concluded
I - p.7 p.7 Greek moral progress came when 'virtue' was freed from social status
II - p.23 p.23 Homer does not distinguish between soul and body
II - p.37 p.37 The 'will' doesn't exist; there is just conclusion, then action
II - p.41 p.41 The modern idea of duty is unknown in archaic Greece
III - p.53 p.53 Responsibility involves cause, intention, state of mind, and response after the event
III - p.68 p.68 There is only a problem of free will if you think the notion of 'voluntary' can be metaphysically deepened
III - p.68 p.68 There is a problem of evil only if you expect the world to be good
IV - p.100 p.100 If reason cannot lead people to good, we must hope they have an internal voice
IV - p.92 p.92 In bad actions, guilt points towards victims, and shame to the agent
IV - p.95 p.95 If the moral self is seen as characterless, then other people have a very limited role in our moral lives
VI - p.158 p.158 It is an absurd Kantian idea that at the limit rationality and freedom coincide