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In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... sense, John Gray tells us that ‘a liberal political philosophy is an impossibility,’ and Ted Honderich announces that Conservatism is a nullity. If both of them are right and can be taken at face value, there does not seem to be much left. Dr Gray’s original intention was to define liberalism and give it a foundation, but that ...

Psychoneural Pairs

A.J. Ayer, 19 May 1988

A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience and Life-Hopes 
by Ted Honderich.
Oxford, 656 pp., £55, May 1988, 9780198244691
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... of philosophy. I doubt if any of them has been the product of such intense research as Professor Honderich has devoted to the construction, the defence and the evaluation of his theory of determinism. Agreement among philosophers, especially on fundamental questions, is difficult to reach, and I shall be arguing against ...

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Frank Kermode: A.J. Ayer’s Winning Ways, 15 July 1999

A.J. Ayer: A Life 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 402 pp., £20, June 1999, 9780701163167
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... headline of Roger Scruton’s obituary in the Sunday Telegraph). But Ayer’s friend and pupil Ted Honderich, now himself the professor at University College, was more charitable and also nearer the mark when he spoke of Ayer as a philosopher ‘whose audacity was being true to ...
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature 
by Richard Rorty.
Blackwell, 401 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 631 12961 8
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The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality and Tragedy 
by Stanley Cavell.
Oxford, 511 pp., £12.50, February 1980, 0 19 502571 7
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Philosophy As It Is 
edited by Ted Honderich and Myles Burnyeat.
Pelican, 540 pp., £2.95, November 1979, 0 14 022136 0
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... The concerns of academic philosophy are to some degree the concerns of everybody. At the same time, they often appear to plain pre-philosophical men and women – including those perhaps not so plain persons who are professors of English or History or Physics – as vaguely ludicrous. On the one hand, academic philosophy is centrally concerned with such all-pervasive concepts as those of truth, rationality and goodness: and who, whether in other academic disciplines or in the transactions of everyday life, can disown an implicit commitment, at the very least, to some view of what rational justification consists in, and of what constitutes sound evidence for a belief, and who, consequently, can avoid admitting to a certain vulnerability to the conclusions of professional philosophers on these matters? Yet, on the other hand, the level at which academic philosophers treat these questions often appears to outsiders – including some philosophers themselves in their off-duty moments – as disturbingly abstract and unrealistic ...

Old Scores

Colin McGinn, 30 August 1990

The Meaning of Life, and Other Essays 
by A.J. Ayer.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £17, June 1990, 0 297 82041 9
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... a game indicates. The trouble is: it is not a sport. The Meaning of Life has an introduction by Ted Honderich that is ill-written, plodding, and faintly nauseating in places. It adds nothing to the essays that follow; and the book itself is poorly ...

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