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Andrew Hodges, 17 April 1986

Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern 
by Douglas Hofstadter.
Viking, 852 pp., £18.95, September 1985, 0 670 80687 0
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Ada: A Life and a Legacy 
by Dorothy Stein.
MIT, 321 pp., £17.50, January 1986, 9780262192422
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... of Artificial Intelligence, in which Hofstadter takes a line which tackles both the objections of John Searle to the very proposition of machine-based intelligence and the claims of Herbert Simon that such an intelligence is already emerging. But there are many other topics, which take him well beyond the terrain of the earlier books. Some of these seem ...

Mitteleuropa am Aldwych

Ian Hacking: The Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence, 20 January 2000

For and against Method: including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence 
by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, edited by Matteo Motterlini.
Chicago, 451 pp., £24, October 1999, 0 226 46774 0
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... on 10 October 1970, as things are quietening down, Feyerabend – no fan of his Berkeley colleague John Searle – describes the draft of Searle’s book on the crisis in the universities as ‘marvellous’. And that he considered saying in the preface to Against Method: ‘I am for anarchism in thinking, in one’s ...

Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 15 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... University, where the novel stages a postdated, highly fanciful version of Derrida’s clash with John Searle and pushes the boat out still further on the story’s farcical and shaggy-dog aspects. Methodological tensions play out like scuffles between the Jets and the Sharks: ‘You analytic pricks!’ ‘Take your Derrida boys and piss ...


David Hoy, 23 November 1989

Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby.
Chicago, 139 pp., £15.95, September 1989, 0 226 14317 1
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... distinction. In response to some of Derrida’s earlier writings, some critics (including John Searle) suggested that Derrida did not keep the boundary between use and mention clear. Derrida’s response has been, repeatedly, to show that he is aware of the distinction, and indeed, that he likes to play with it deliberately. This response would ...

Blunder around for a while

Richard Rorty, 21 November 1991

Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... truths. As regular readers of these pages know, philosophers like Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel and John Searle have no use for Dennett. All of them would agree that he has failed to respect ‘the brute facts of immediate conscious experience’. All of them would sympathise with Roger Penrose’s conviction, as put forward in The Emperor’s New ...

What Gladstone did

G.R. Searle, 24 February 1994

The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain 
by Jonathan Parry.
Yale, 383 pp., £30, January 1994, 0 300 05779 2
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... gave ‘Reform’ MPs a defining political cause and a leader under whom they could rally: Lord John Russell, dubbed by Parry ‘the greatest Liberal statesman of his age’. Over the next forty years, the Whig-Liberal Party developed a distinct set of policies and, more importantly, an idiosyncratic approach to public life. As might have been expected from ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bad Manners, 6 July 2000

... fine by me, just so long as you don’t talk like that. The anthology, illustrated by Ronald Searle, has a charming dedication ‘to the Unknown Man whose photograph was found hidden in a copy of the Bazar Book of Decorum (1870)’.I don’t know if there’s a book of etiquette that deals with metropolitan literary life, but there ought at least to be ...

Unquiet Bodies

Thomas Laqueur: Burying the 20th Century, 6 April 2006

Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism 
by István Rév.
Stanford, 340 pp., £19.95, January 2005, 0 8047 3644 8
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... the architectural history of various subway systems and the theory of names as it developed from John Stuart Mill to Saul Kripke, with, by way of comparison, a solid account of necronym taboos among various tribes. Films, photographs and museum exhibits are everywhere used in evidence, as is an enormous range of recondite archival material. As the founder ...

Some Versions of Narrative

Christopher Norris, 2 August 1984

Hermeneutics: Questions and Prospects 
edited by Gary Shapiro and Alan Sica.
Massachusetts, 310 pp., February 1984, 0 87023 416 1
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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge 
by Jean-Francois Lyotard, translated by Geoff Bennington, Brian Massumi and Fredric Jameson.
Manchester, 110 pp., £23, August 1984, 0 7190 1450 6
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Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction 
by William Ray.
Blackwell, 228 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 631 13457 3
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The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Marxism and the Dialectics of Form 
by J.M. Bernstein.
Harvester, 296 pp., £25, February 1984, 0 7108 0011 8
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Criticism and Objectivity 
by Raman Selden.
Allen and Unwin, 170 pp., £12.50, April 1984, 9780048000231
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... than with the interests of reason and truth. Territorial imperatives were clearly at stake when John Searle (in a recent number of the New York Review of Books) gave a simplified account of Jonathan Culler’s On Deconstruction, and used it to launch an attack on this whole new breed of overweening literary theorists. From this point of ...


Julian Barnes: Burning Letters, 7 July 1988

... is he/she overrated? – they would quickly decline into paranoia. When Robert Frost died, John Berryman’s first response was It’s scary. Who’s Number One? Who’s Number One? Cal’s Number One, isn’t he? – which at least has the virtue of transparency. But as we modestly (and necessarily) insist that we’re just writers at work on our ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham, 1 September 2005

Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... he would have been disappointed. There was some half-hearted praise from Movement types, but when John Carey, for example, needed an honourable popular writer to batter the highbrows with in The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992), he turned to Arnold Bennett. Morgan’s biography had a memorable centrepiece: a description of the senile Maugham crapping on ...

Knobs, Dots and Grooves

Peter Campbell: Henry Moore, 8 August 2002

Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations 
edited by Alan Wilkinson.
Lund Humphries, 320 pp., £35, February 2002, 0 85331 847 6
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The Penguin Modern Painters: A History 
by Carol Peaker.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 124 pp., £15, August 2001, 0 9527401 4 1
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... wasn’t in any case very enthusiastic about Nicholson’s work at that stage). But John Piper, who had tried his hand at pure abstraction, had by now turned to topography and was therefore recruited; and when Clark was shown Moore’s first shelter drawings, he was able to say that there was no reason now for Moore to fight shy of being a war ...

Get knitting

Ian Hacking: Birth and Death of the Brain, 18 August 2005

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Cape, 344 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 224 06254 9
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... No one is conscious of all past moments in their history. The idea is weirdly reminiscent of John Locke. In itself, that is fitting, for it was he who put the word ‘consciousness’ into serious circulation, partly as an alternative to Descartes’s ‘thinking’ (of the cogito). Locke wanted a definition of personal identity, and he found it in ...

True Bromance

Philip Clark: Ravi Shankar’s Ragas, 15 July 2021

Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar 
by Oliver Craske.
Faber, 672 pp., £12.99, June, 978 0 571 35086 5
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... of popular music, spinning the Beatles in a new direction. Meeting Shankar changed things for John Coltrane, too, helping him shake his dependence on drugs, while opening his ears to Eastern scales. Before Philip Glass worked with Shankar on a film score in 1965, he had been churning out unremarkable pastiches of French neoclassicism fused with folksy ...

The Lives of Ronald Pinn

Andrew O’Hagan, 8 January 2015

... I noted down the names of Paul Ives, Graham Paine (‘who lost his life by drowning’), Clifford John Dunn, Ronald Alexander Pinn and John Hill, all of whom were born in the 1960s, as I was, and died early.The practice of using dead children’s identities began in the Metropolitan Police Force in the 1960s. Until very ...

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