Williams, Bernard (Arthur Owen) 1929-2003

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WILLIAMS, Bernard (Arthur Owen) 1929-2003

PERSONAL:

Born September 21, 1929, in Westcliffon-Sea, Essex, England; died of cancer, June 10, 2003, in Rome, Italy; son of Owen Pasley Denny and Hilda Amy (Day) Williams; married Shirley Vivienne Teresa Brittain Catlin, 1955 (divorced, 1974); married Patricia Law Skinner Dwyer, 1974; children: (first marriage) Rebecca; (second marriage) Jacob, Jonathan. Education: Balliol College, Oxford, B.A., 1951, M.A., 1954.

CAREER:

Oxford University, Oxford, England, fellow of All Souls College, 1951-54, fellow of New College, 1954-59; University of London, London, England, lecturer at University College, 1959-64, professor of philosophy at Bedford College, 1964-67; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, 1967-79, provost of King's College, 1979-87, fellow of King's College, 1967-79 and 1988-2003. University College of Ghana (now University of Ghana), visiting lecturer, 1958-59; Princeton University, visiting professor, 1963, senior visiting fellow, 1978, 1991, member of Gauss Seminar in Criticism, 1992; Australian National University, visiting fellow at Institute of Advanced Studies, 1969; Harvard University, visiting professor 1973; University of California—Berkeley, visiting professor, 1986, Monroe Deutsch Professor of Philosophy, beginning 1987, Sather Classical Lecturer, 1989; Oxford University, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1990-96, fellow of Corpus Christi College, 1990-96, fellow of All Souls College, beginning 1997; broadcaster. Public Schools Commission, member, 1965-70; Sadler's Wells Opera (now English National Opera), member of board of directors, 1968-86; Royal Commission on Gambling, member of board of directors, 1976-78; Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, chair, 1977-79; Fitzwilliam Music Syndicate, chair, 1984-87; Labour Party, member of Commission on Social Justice, 1992-94; Committee of Enquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act, member, 1997-2000. Military service: Royal Air Force, pilot, 1951-53.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Litt.D., University of Dublin, 1981; honorary fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, 1984, and Bedford College, University of London, 1985; D.Litt., University of Aberdeen, 1985, University of Keele, 1995, University of Chicago, 1999, and Yale University, 2001; Dr. Margrit Egnér-Stiftung Prize, 1997; knighted, 1999; LL.D., Harvard University, 2002.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Alan Montefiore) British Analytical Philosophy, Humanities (New York, NY), 1966.

Imagination and the Self, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1966.

Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, Harper (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers, 1956-1972, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1973.

(With J. J. C. Smart) Utilitarianism: For and Against, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1973.

Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry, Humanities (New York, NY), 1978.

Report of the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship: Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department by Command of Her Majesty, November, 1979, Her Majesty's Stationery Office (London, England), 1979, revised edition published as Obscenity and Film Censorship: An Abridgement of the Williams Report, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973-1980, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

(Editor, with Amartya K. Sen) Utilitarianism and Beyond, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

(With others) Politics, Ethics, and Public Service, Royal Institute of Public Administration, 1985.

Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1985.

(With Alasdair MacIntyre and Anthony Quinton) Education and Values: The Richard Peters Lectures, Delivered at the Institute of Education, University of London, Spring Term, 1985, edited with introduction by Graham Haydon, Institute of Education, University of London (London, England), 1987.

(And presenter) What Is Truth? (television series), Channel 4 (England), 1988.

The Rhyming Gospels: A Poetic Paraphrase, Hannibal Books (Hannibal, MO), 1990.

(Editor and author of introduction) Plato, Theaetetus, translated by M. J. Levett, revised by Myles Byrnyeat, Hackett Publishing (Indianapolis, IN), 1992.

Shame and Necessity, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1993.

Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Plato: The Invention of Philosophy, Phoenix (London, England), 1997, published as Plato, Routledge (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor and author of introduction) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, translated by Josefine Hauckhoff and Adrian Del Caro, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.

The Sense of the Past: Collected Papers in the History of Philosophy, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), in press.

Contributor to books, including The Practice of Value, edited by R. Jay Wallace, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003. Contributor of articles to professional journals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Bernard Williams was a British philosopher and educator. As a provost at King's College of Cambridge University and a professor at the University of California, Williams distinguished himself through numerous articles and books on such philosophical topics as epistemology, personal identity, and ethics. Williams's collection Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers, 1956-1972, critiques traditional theories on what constitutes individual identity and examines whether or not personal identity is possible since all human attributes are subject to change. In a later collection, Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973-1980, Williams argued that because individuals have varying passions, motivations, and attachments, there can be no universal moral principles that are equally valid for all humans. Betty Abel, writing for Contemporary Review, praised Moral Luck: "Bernard Williams, whilst setting his arguments in the context of the dilemmas that actually face us, provides no comforting solutions. It requires the strongest nerves to confront the issues as he sets them out. There can be no higher accolade offered to the author than this."

Williams again presented his disbelief in a universal moral code in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, a treatise that examined the extent to which philosophers have successfully answered the Socratic question of how one ought to live. Specifically, he criticized Aristotle's view that ethical behavior is prompted by a rational wish to lead a good, noble life, and he rejected Immanuel Kant's notion that ethical actions can be as objectively evaluated as scientific facts. Following the ideas laid out in Moral Luck, Williams's conception of morality was that ethical judgments are relative to the individuals making them; such judgments are not assisted by philosophical systems but are instead controlled by the individual's tastes and desires. Critics praised Williams for his philosophical acumen, fresh insight, and firm understanding of past and present moral philosophies. Some reviewers, however, faulted Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy for being accessible only to schooled philosophers. Arthur C. Danto noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that the work requires close reading, but he also observed that "the book is at no point obscure, and those who work it through will be rewarded not only by the overall clarity it induces, but by the wit and sharpness of its aphorisms and the steady human sympathy of its outlook."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Altham, J. E. J., and Ross Harrison, editors, World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

PERIODICALS

American Journal of Philology, spring, 1995, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 137.

Canadian Philosophical Review, August, 1996, review of Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, p. 231.

Choice, May, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 1481.

Classical Journal, April, 1995, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 451.

Classical Review, January, 1995, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 71.

Classical World, July, 1996, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 493.

Clio: Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History, fall, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 103.

Contemporary Review, September, 1982, Betty Abel, review of Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973-1980.

Ethics, October, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 178; April, 1995, review of Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, p. 683.

Guardian Weekly, October 23, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 29.

International Philosophical Quarterly, December, 1996, review of Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, p. 489.

Journal of Philosophy, November, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 619.

Library Journal, March 1, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 81; September 15, 2002, Robert Hoffman, review of Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, p. 66.

London Review of Books, August 19, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 17.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 29, 1985, Arthur C. Danto, review of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.

Modern Philology, November, 1995, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 217.

New Republic, October 24, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 40.

New York Review of Books, July 17, 1986; November 18, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 42.

New York Times Book Review, July 14, 1985; April 25, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 3.

Observer (London, England), June 11, 1978; April 25, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 62.

Perspectives on Political Science, winter, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 40.

Religious Studies Review, July, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 233.

Review of Metaphysics, March, 1996, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 685.

Spectator, August 21, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 25; November 26, 1994, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 44; September 30, 1995, review of Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, p. 45.

Times Literary Supplement, December 14, 1973; May 7, 1982; August 27, 1982; July 26, 1985; April 23, 1993, review of Shame and Necessity, p. 3; February 16, 1996, review of Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, p. 13.

OBITUARIES

PERIODICALS

Independent (London, England), June 17, 2003, p. 14.

Library Journal, November 1, 1999, Terry C. Skeats, review of Plato, p. 86.

Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2003, p. B12.

New York Times, June 14, 2003, p. A28.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, January, 2002, Christopher Janaway, review of The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs.

Philosophical Review, October, 1997, review of Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers, 1982-1993, p. 579.

Washington Post, June 18, 2003, p. B6.*

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