COLLECTED PAPERS

A nearly complete collection of Rawls’s short essays from 1951 through 1998. What is arguably the most widely discussed political theory of the second half of the 20th-century emerged from an evolutionary process. By making available in one volume the papers through which Harvard philosopher Rawls initially tried out his ideas, Freeman provides easy access to the steps taken along the way. This book will be primarily useful as a reference work; few if any intrepid souls will attempt to read it cover-to-cover. Doing so, however, exposes the true nature of Rawls’s achievement. As others have observed regarding A Theory of Justice, Rawls begins with an original, brilliant idea encapsulated in the principles of “justice as fairness,” then builds complexity around it by adding arguments that respond to objections, both anticipated and actually raised by critics. Unlike most scholars who focus on one topic throughout their careers, however, Rawls is not just repackaging the same material. He takes objections seriously and struggles to overcome them, pushing forward his thinking by developing new arguments that add depth to his original ideas rather than simply moving on to new subjects. The result has been the most sustained effort in all of Western philosophy to construct a complete theory of justice. Along the way his originality has been manifested in creations that have become part of the standard lexicon of political philosophy, including the “difference principle,” the “maximin criterion,” and most notably the “veil of ignorance.” What the reader will find in this volume are the starts and stops, the grappling with issues of moral philosophy, and especially later in his career, the confrontation with concerns such as religious belief that threaten the assumptions of rationality and the positive value of reasonableness upon which his vision of justice depends. A convenient and welcome compilation.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-674-13739-6

Page Count: 627

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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