Stuart Hampshire (1914–2004) was an English philosopher. He taught at University College London, Princeton, Stanford and Oxford, where he was named Warden of Wadham College. His books include Thought and Action, Spinoza and Justice Is Conflict.

The Spinoza Solution

In his recently published memoir The Making of a Philosopher,[^*] Colin McGinn makes a provocative suggestion. It may be found, he writes, that human beings will never be able adequately to explain to themselves the relation of their minds to their bodies and brains; that relation may remain a philosophical …

The Pleasure of Iris Murdoch

Peter Conradi’s biography is an immensely long book, and it sometimes seems long as one reads it. The trouble is that the biographer has been almost smothered by the abundance of his sources. Iris Murdoch often thought of her own life as a kind of quest, a quest for perfection …

Living for the Future

Selected from the four volumes of Beatrice Webb’s diaries and further abridged, this book is a brilliant enterprise. No other state or society has ever been so rich, so many-layered, so abundant in its moral and religious concerns and in scientific discovery as Great Britain between 1870 and 1914. About …

He Had His Ups and Downs

Volume I of Ray Monk’s admirable biography of Bertrand Russell, subtitled “The Spirit of Solitude,” ends in 1921, precisely at the high point of Russell’s purely intellectual life. Although he published several works of academic philosophy in later years—the last of them, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948), was …

The Eye of the Beholder

Elaine Scarry is reviving, in her style of thought, a tradition that might have been thought to be dead or dying. It is the grand style of Ruskin and Pater, which became a principal inspiration for Proust in the long passages of his novel where he was trying to be …

The Reason Why Not

Moral philosophy in English-speaking countries is an inquiry now pursued principally in universities. This is accidental rather than essential; the great reforming philosophers, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, were not professors. But still the present fact determines much of the style and form of contemporary moral philosophy, and determines …

On Isaiah Berlin (1909 – 1997)

Michael Ignatieff He was born in the twilight of imperial Russia and he was buried on a grey Friday morning at the end of the century in the Jewish section of Oxford’s Wolvercote cemetery. At the age of seven, he watched the banners of the Russian Revolution waving below the …

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Bertrand Russell lived until the age of ninety-eight, and at the end of the six hundred pages of the first volume of Ray Monk’s biography he is only forty-nine. Yet Monk is a pleasantly economical writer and at no point does the story drag or seem unnecessarily drawn out. The …

A New Way of Seeing

Why has it often been thought that concentrating on abstract argument, remote from ordinary perceptions, is the highest activity of a person, the nearest to the divine? Because Aristotle and the Christian theologians have told us so, and their fiction has passed into the language we use when we distinguish …

Vico for Now

Once established, monotheism surely has a lot to answer for. Disorder and unregulated variety were no longer acceptable, either in morality or in nature. As soon as one sovereign creator was recognized, it became natural, even logical, to suppose that God’s intentions both governed the destiny of humanity and determined …

Liberalism: The New Twist

John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1970) gave a new start to political philosophy, which had been in the doldrums for many decades, having been overshadowed by developments in the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. The study of the past masters of political …

The Last Charmer

In the epilogue of his very well-written biography, under the heading “The Afterlife of Diderot,” Mr. Furbank complains about the definite article in the English phrase “The Enlightenment”: a phrase that distorts the thought of eighteenth-century philosophy and that is particularly a barrier to understanding, and celebrating, Diderot. A false …

Russell’s Paradox

The years between 1872 and 1914 are indeed “the private years” of Bertrand Russell’s long life, if they are compared with the period following 1914, the years of his militant pacifism and imprisonment for opposing World War I. But even during his lonely childhood in the splendid late Victorian house, …

The Tory Anarchist

There have been a number of personal memoirs and at least two biographies of Orwell, and both the course of his life and his peculiar and impressive personality, as seen by his friends, are fairly well known. Certainly his life makes a dramatic story: particularly his service with POUM and …

What the Jameses Knew

Of the four recent books under review two are studies of Henry James’s thought and work, two are about the James family. R.W.B. Lewis’s story of the family will certainly be read with enjoyment by the common reader; the other three books are for specialists, for the great army of …

‘A Wonderful Life’

This is a wholly admirable biography. It is not easy to combine a continuous and intelligible story of a man’s life with a succinct account of his changing philosophical doctrines. Ray Monk succeeds both with the life and with the doctrines and he is the first person to make entirely clear the substantial interaction between them.

Spinoza and the Happy Few

Spinoza and Other Heretics is a useful and important book because it points to a probable connection between some distinctive features of Spinoza’s thought and a particularly interesting episode in the history of the Jews. Marranos were former Jews living in Spain and Portugal who had been converted to Christianity, …

Love Story

J.R. Ackerley wrote two brilliant and original novels, Hindoo Holiday and We Think the World of You, and two almost equally brilliant memoirs, My Dog Tulip and My Father and Myself. His rather depressing diaries were posthumously published with the title My Sister and Myself. The self, and the mysteries …

Engaged Philosopher

International politics since about 1938 has had one feature in common with the stock market: the major events have proved to be unpredictable, or at least they have not been predicted by the experts. In guessing the future, one would have done just as well to go to a fortuneteller …

Amiable Genius

William James wrote two masterworks that have permanent places in the history of thought. They have been read and continuously studied all over the world, from their date of publication until the present day: The Principles of Psychology (1890) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). The latter is the …

Liberator, Up to a Point

G. E. Moore was a dominant figure in British philosophy from 1903 until his death at eighty-five in 1958. In 1958 many British philosophers would have named Russell, Wittgenstein, and Moore as the three great English-speaking philosophers of the twentieth century. During the last twenty-five years Moore has slowly ceased …

Breaking Away

During the last century a distinct break in European sensibility affected all the arts and led to a new post-Romantic version of the cult of originality. The artists, poets, and writers who created this new vision were called avant-garde. But where did the ideas of the avant-garde come from? Could …

On the Trail of Nature

The Book of Revelation suggested that at the Resurrection, dogs, like other unclean beings, would be excluded from the New Jerusalem; this was accepted in medieval England. Chaucer has nothing good to say about the dog and neither has Shakespeare. Yet there were dogs and dogs, as Keith Thomas notes.

In Flaubert’s Laboratory

The second volume of Mr. Steegmuller’s selection from Flaubert’s letters shows Flaubert’s thought and character in the years after Madame Bovary and up to his death. In these years Flaubert was living secluded in his mother’s house at Croisset in Normandy, making occasional visits to Paris, attending the Magny dinners, …

The Gambler’s Throw

Because Professor Mendelson is usually slow to praise and quick to criticize, this is not an altogether enjoyable book to read, although it is authoritative and it is an indispensable guide to its subject. He is not concerned with biography in the usual sense, but rather with the twists and …