Moral (and Musical) Hazard

Martha C. Nussbaum reviews ON OPERA and ESSAYS AND REVIEWS 1959-2002, by Bernard Williams, in The New Rambler:

ScreenHunter_1081 Mar. 15 18.23Bernard Williams died in June, 2003, at the age of only 73, after a long and sometimes painful struggle with multiple myeloma.[1] I still dream that he is alive – not least while working on this review. He had a quality of vivid aliveness that makes it next to impossible to concede that he is not here any longer. So I shall not concede, but shall continue to use the present tense. Being in Williams’s presence is at times painful because of that intensity of aliveness, which challenges the friend to something or other, and yet it was, and is, not terribly clear to what. To authenticity, I now think: to being and expressing oneself more courageously and clearly than one had done heretofore. Given the tendency of his brilliance to expand, filling the whole space around him, individuality was, nonetheless, and is, one of the most difficult things one could possibly attempt in his presence, and the attempt was, and is, never without struggle.

Williams’s last consecutive book, Truth and Truthfulness, appeared in 2002, before his death. Three posthumous collections of essays have preceded these two books, gathering his major articles on moral philosophy, political philosophy, and the history of philosophy. (Williams was a serious scholar of both ancient Greek literature and philosophy and Descartes’ rationalism.) These two collections, separated from one another by more than a decade, represent the last publications we may expect to see from him, so they seem unusually precious. Both exemplify to an unusually high degree a quality of willingness to put one’s whole intellectual and emotional character on the line that always characterized his way of doing philosophy.

More here.