Informal reading group dedicated to reading works outside, or at an angle to, the analytic mainstream.

Lent Term 2018: Reflections on History

Dates: Saturdays of term
Times: 1130 – 1230 (coffee and biscuits from 1100)
Venue: Robinson College (see below for precise locations)

Week 1 (Saturday, 20th Jan; Garden Room)

Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), 253–64. [PDF]

Additional reading: Susan Sontag, “Under the Sign of Saturn”, in Under the Sign of Saturn (New York: Vintage Books, 1981 [1980]), 109–136. [PDF]

Additional listening: “Walter Benjamin, Thinking Allowed – BBC Radio 4,” BBC. [URL]

Week 2 (Saturday, 27th Jan; Garden Room)

Hannah Arendt, “The Eggs Speak Up”, in Essays in Understanding 1930–1954, ed. Jerome Cohn (New York: Schocken Books, 2005), 270–84. [PDF]

Additional reading: Tony Judt, “At Home in This Century,” The New York Review of Books, April 6, 1995. [PDF]
Tony Judt, “The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe,” The New York Review of Books, February 14, 2008. [URL]

Week 3 (Saturday, 3rd Feb; Garden Room)

Michael Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics”, in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, New and expanded edition (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991 [1962]), 5–42. [PDF]

Additional reading: Perry Anderson, “The Intransigent Right at the End of the Century,” London Review of Books, September 24, 1992. [PDF]
Stephen Holmes, “The Permanent Structure of Anti-liberal Thought,” in Liberalism and the Moral Life, ed. Nancy L Rosenblum, , 227–53. [PDF]

Week 4 (Saturday, 10th Feb; Garden Room)

Judith Shklar, “The Liberalism of Fear,” in Liberalism and the Moral Life, ed. Nancy L Rosenblum (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), 21–38. [PDF]

Additional reading: Michael Walzer, “On Negative Politics,” in Liberalism without Illusions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 17-24. [URL]
Bernard Williams, “The Liberalism of Fear,” in In the Beginning Was the Deed, ed. Geoffrey Hawthorn (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 52–61. [PDF]

Week 5 (Saturday, 17th Feb; Garden Room)

Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), 57–88. [PDF]

Additional reading: Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), 3–57. [PDF]

Week 6 (Saturday, 24th Feb; Linnett Room)

TS Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, in The Sacred Wood, 42–53. [PDF]

Additional reading: Jorge Luis Borges, “The Argentine Writer and Tradition”, in Labyrinths. [PDF]

Week 7 (Saturday, 3rd Mar; Auditorium Lounge)

V. S. Naipaul, “Reading & Writing,” The New York Review of Books, February 18, 1999. [PDF]

Additional reading: Derek Walcott, “The Muse of History,” in What the Twilight Says: Essays (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998), 36–64. [PDF]

Week 8 (Saturday, 10th Mar; Auditorium Lounge)

David Halperin, “One Hundred Years of Homosexuality” in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and other essays on Greek Love. [PDF]


Schedules from previous terms

Michaelmas Term 2017: Analytic Philosophy and its Critics


Week 1 (Saturday, the 7th of October)

Required reading

Ernest Nagel, ‘Impressions and Appraisals of Analytic Philosophy in Europe I’, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan. 2, 1936), pp. 5-24.

Michael Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1993), Chapter I (pp. 1–3).

Recommended additional reading

Ernest Nagel, ‘Impressions and Appraisals of Analytic Philosophy in Europe II’, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 33,No. 2 (Jan. 16, 1936), pp. 29-53.

Michael Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1993), Preface, Chapter I and II (pp. viii–xi, 1–14).


Week 2 (Saturday the 14th of October)

Required reading

Jonathan Rée, ‘English Philosophy in the Fifties,’ Radical Philosophy 65 (1993): 3–21.

Recommended additional reading

Ved Mehta, Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with Contemporary British Intellectuals (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963), pp. 1–45.

Iris Murdoch, ‘Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch’, Encounter, January 1961, pp. 16–20.

Bernard Williams, ‘Review of GJ Warnock, English Philosophy since 1900′Philosophy 34, no. 129 (April 1959): 168–70.


Week 3 (Saturday the 21st of October)

Required reading

RG Collingwood, An Autobiography, Chs. III–VI.

Recommended additional reading

Simon Blackburn, ‘Being and Time’ [URL]

Bernard Williams, ‘An Essay on Collingwood’


Week 4 (Saturday the 28th of October)

Required reading [NB. All very short]

GEM [Elizabeth] Anscombe, ‘Does Oxford moral philosophy corrupt youth?’

RM Hare and PH Nowell-Smith, ‘Letters to the editor’

GEM Anscombe, ‘Reply to Hare and Nowell-Smith’

Recommended additional reading

Ved Mehta, Fly in the Fly-Bottle, pp. 46–57

Alasdair MacIntyre, ‘The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition’ from After Virtue

Cora Diamond, ‘Losing Your Concepts’


Week 5 (Saturday the 4th of November)

Required reading

Harriet McBryde Johnson, ‘Unspeakable Conversations’, The New York Times Magazine, February 16 2003. [URL]

Recommended additional reading

Eva Feder Kittay, ‘The Personal Is Philosophical Is Political: A Philosopher and Mother of a Cognitively Disabled Person Sends Notes From the Battlefield,’ Metaphilosophy 40, no. 3–4 (2009): 606–27. [JSTOR]

Stephen Mulhall, ‘Fearful Thoughts’, London Review of Books, August 22, 2002.


Week 6 (Saturday the 11th of November)

Required reading

Stanley Cavell, ‘The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy’

Recommended additional reading

Naomi Scheman, ‘Forms of Life: Mapping the Rough Ground’

Cora Diamond, ‘What if x isn’t the number of sheep? Wittgenstein and Thought-Experiments in Ethics’


Week 7 (Saturday the 18th of November)

Required reading

Herbert Marcuse, ‘The Triumph of Positive Thinking: One-dimensional philosophy’ (from One-Dimensional Man)

Recommended additional reading / viewing

Perry Anderson, ‘Components of the National Culture’, New Left Review, July-August 1968, esp. §§7–8.

Hannah Arendt, ‘Some Questions of Moral Philosophy’

Theodor Adorno, ‘The Essay as Form’

Herbert Marcuse, ‘The Frankfurt School’ (BBC interview with Bryan Magee) (YouTube)


Week 8 (Saturday the 25th of November)

Required reading

Richard Rorty, ‘Analytic Philosophy and Conversational Philosophy’

Recommended additional reading

Richard Rorty, ‘Philosophy in America Today’

Alasdair MacIntyre, ‘Philosophy and Its History’

Bernard Williams, ‘Getting it Right’

Hilary Putnam, ‘Richard Rorty on Reality and Justification’