"These essays make a splendid book. Ignatieff's lectures are engaging and vigorous; they also combine some rather striking ideas with savvy perceptions about actual domestic and international politics.
McCumber does not sustain with evidence his claims about the role of McCarthyism in the triumph of analytical philosophy. A balanced history would attend to other considerations potentially relevant to that triumph, including the connection between Anglo-Protestant cultural hegemony in the United States and the styles of philosophy — especially metaphysics and normative ethics — repudiated by the analytical philosophers. The crucial transition in the professional culture of philosophy in the United States is not that from pragmatism to logical empiricism (...) and ordinary language philosophy, but from philosophy that was engaged with Christianity to philosophy that was not. (shrink)
Miller's formulation of problems was controlled by tensions between conscious" and "mechanical" and between "understanding" and "mystery." The mechanical world, devoid of morality and purpose, was incompatible with conscious beauty and ethics; within the "conscious" the optimistic drive for knowledge about an intelligible universe conflicted with belief in an unknowable, awful universe. Miller's history was also informed by his sense of development: history proceeds in a continuing series of interactions between inherited cultural forms, and immediate environmental circumstances. Culture is never (...) merely the "product" of environment, but an active agent in the interaction. The search for "historical knowledge" itself proceeds on the terms of this interaction. Here Miller rejected both positivism and the capricious relativism of Becker for the harder relativism subsequently articulated by Kuhn and Toulmin: "forms" are neither wholly arbitrary nor entirely discovered in "the facts," but are instead the inheritance and creation of the historian, altered and confirmed by his experience. (shrink)
Wall is convincing on the Fuller court, but less so on Holmes, who may have understood Spencer's Social statics as a laissez faire rather than as a Darwinist document. Sharlin helps us to follow Spencer's attempt to universalize the concept of energy, even if Sharlin's explanation for Spencer's failure reduces to an application of the classical insight that physical phenomena are more predictable than social phenomena. Sharlin's conception of ‘scientism’ is helpful in some contexts, but less so in others; we (...) need to remind ourselves that the role of values in scientism is active as well as passive. (shrink)