Philosophy

September 18, 2008

MADE WITH WORDS: HOBBES ON LANGUAGE, MIND, AND POLITICS

Author: Philip Pettit

Edition: First

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Pages: 192

Price: £17.95

ISBN 9780691129297

Philip Pettit is pre-eminent among political philosophers for integrating the study of politics with the study of language, of human nature and of such things as the nature of rules and meaning. He has found a kindred spirit in Thomas Hobbes and has written an enjoyable and generous account of Hobbes' remarkably prescient explorations of similar themes. Hobbes anticipated by a century and a half the Romantics such as Shelley in holding that language literally creates our ability to think. Unfortunately this thereby creates an expanded budget of desires, and thence the famous entrenched conflict of the war of all against all. Pettit presents Hobbes lucidly and imaginatively. He is even surprisingly sympathetic to Hobbes' solution of the contract to give a sovereign the monopoly of power, tiptoeing silently past John Locke's classic rejoinder that this is akin to men seeking refuge from the predations of foxes and polecats by putting themselves in the jaws of lions.

Who is it for? Any middle- to high-level student touching on Hobbes' system, or the problems of co-operation in political thought.

Presentation: Beautifully clear, consistently interesting.

Would you recommend it? Absolutely.

ETHICS AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Author: Gordon Graham

Edition: Second

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Pages: 240

Price: £45.00 and £16.99

ISBN 9781405159371 and 9388

This edition updates the original of 1997 on the way politics has been updated, with issues such as terrorism and global warming gradually occupying the centre stage. The book is not an anthology, but Gordon Graham's own steer through the issues. It is highly accessible but does not duck the hard and often intractable questions of violence, poverty, injustice and trade. The three voices of Realism (in the sense of realpolitik), Moralism and Legalism form a useful organisational counterpoint.

Who is it for? Any student of law, international relations or ethics.

Presentation: This is serious reading.

Would you recommend it? Certainly.

CONSCIOUSNESS AND MENTAL LIFE

Author: Daniel N. Robinson

Edition: First

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Pages: 264

Price: £17.50

ISBN 9780231141000

Several years of feverish attention to consciousness, fortified by all the new toys of neuroscience and cognitive science and a plethora of new tools in the philosophy of mind, have produced something of a stalemate. Daniel Robinson queries whether the work has been misdirected, in essence, by following a Cartesian rather than a Wittgensteinian paradigm of what consciousness might be. Curiously, he regards himself as doctrinally close to David Chalmers, usually thought to be a modernised Cartesian.

Who is it for? Second-year or higher students.

Presentation: Clear, conversational.

Would you recommend it? Yes, as part of a mixture.

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY: AN ANTHOLOGY

Editor: John Cottingham

Edition: Second

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Pages: 888

Price: £65.00 and £22.99

ISBN 9781405124775 and 4782

One knows why publishers like these tombstones of books: expensive, easily updated to kill the second-hand market and popular with lazy teachers. It is unusual to find a scholar of John Cottingham's stature content to edit one. Since I wrote my own little book Think as a corrective to these things, perhaps I am not unbiased. That said, Cottingham does a good job of selecting the stranded and bleeding chunks of classics. There is little introductory or connective tissue, but instead there are specimen test questions to help those same teachers.

Who is it for? Teachers.

Presentation: Weighty.

Would you recommend it? If you like this sort of thing and own a forklift truck.

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