Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Bernard Williams!

"What does it mean to live well?"

Think about it... Think of what it meant, what it will mean, and in which different ways to what kind of persons.

I think it is a useful intellectual exercise, and hence, thanks to Bernard Willams.

Wiki sums up a few things I like about him in an intro paragraph,

"Williams became known internationally for his attempt to return the study of moral philosophy to its foundations: to history and culture, politics and psychology, and, in particular, to the Greeks. Described as an "analytic philosopher with the soul of a humanist," he saw himself as a synthesist, drawing together ideas from fields that seemed increasingly unable to communicate with one another. He rejected scientific and evolutionary reductionism, once calling reductionists "the ones I really do dislike" because they are morally unimaginative, he said. For Williams, complexity was beautiful, meaningful, and irreducible.

He became known as a great supporter of women in academia, seeing in women the possibility of that synthesis of reason and emotion that he felt eluded analytic philosophy. The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum said Williams was "as close to being a feminist as a powerful man of his generation could be."
In the 1970s, he chaired the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, which reported in 1979 that: "Given the amount of explicit sexual material in circulation and the allegations often made about its effects, it is striking that one can find case after case of sex crimes and murder without any hint at all that pornography was present in the background."
The Committee's report was influenced by the liberal thinking of John Stuart Mill, a philosopher greatly admired by Williams, who used Mill's principle of liberty to develop what Williams called the "harm condition," whereby "no conduct should be suppressed by law unless it can be shown to harm someone." Williams concluded that pornography could not be shown to be harmful and that "the role of pornography in influencing society is not very important ... to think anything else is to get the problem of pornography out of proportion with the many other problems that face our society today".
The committee reported that, so long as children were protected from seeing it, adults should be free to read and watch pornography as they saw fit. Margaret Thatcher's first administration put an end to the liberal agenda on sex, and nearly put an end to Williams' political career too; he was not asked to chair another public committee for almost 15 years.

ps. just noted it is also
H. G. Wells' birthday today. Happy birthday and a toast to him too...

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