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Bernard Williams quotes (showing 1-8 of 8)

“Talent is a flame. Genius is a fire.”
Bernard Williams
“Utilitarians are often immensely conscientious people, who work for humanity and give up meat for the sake of the animals. They think this is what they morally ought to do and feel guilty if they do not live up to their own standard. They do not, and perhaps could not, ask: How useful is it that I think and feel like this?”
Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
“People who say, 'Let the chips fall where they may,' usually figure they will not be hit by a chip.”
Bernard Williams
“So far I have not said much about objectivity, though earlier chapters have had a good deal to do with it. If an Archimedean point could be found and practical reason, or human interests, could be shown to involve a determinate ethical outlook, then ethical thought would be objective, in the sense that it would have been given an objective foundation. Those are possibilities—or they might have turned out to be possibilities—within the perspective of practical reason. Very often, however, discussions of objectivity come into moral philosophy from a different starting point, from an interest in comparing ethical beliefs with knowledge and claims to truth of other kinds, for instance with scientific beliefs. Here a rather different conception of objectivity is involved. It is naturally associated with such questions as what can make ethical beliefs true, and whether there is any ethical knowledge. It is in this field of comparisons that various distinctions between fact and value are located.”
Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
“It may be that considerations of justice are a central element of ethical thought that transcends the relativism of distance. Perhaps this, too, comes from a feature of the modern world. We have various conceptions of social justice, with different political consequences; each has comprehensible roots in the past and in our sentiments. Since we know that we do not accept their past legitimations, but otherwise are not sure how to read them, we are disposed to see past conceptions of justice as embodiments of ideas that still have a claim on modern people. To this extent, we see them as in real confrontation with each other and with modern ideas.”
Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
“That an action would be cowardly is not often found by an agent to be a consideration in its favor, but it could be, and in a counterethical way, ministering to a masochism of shame.”
Bernard Williams
“What will the professor’s justification do, when they break down the door, smash his spectacles, take him away?”
Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
“The trouble with religious morality comes not from morality's being inescapably pure, but from religion's being incurably unintelligible.”
Bernard Williams, Morality: An Introduction to Ethics

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