Finding Oneself in the Other

Finding Oneself in the Other

G. A. Cohen
Edited by Michael Otsuka
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.cttq956b
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  • Book Info
    Finding Oneself in the Other
    Book Description:

    This is the second of three volumes of posthumously collected writings of G. A. Cohen, who was one of the leading, and most progressive, figures in contemporary political philosophy. This volume brings together some of Cohen's most personal philosophical and nonphilosophical essays, many of them previously unpublished. Rich in first-person narration, insight, and humor, these pieces vividly demonstrate why Thomas Nagel described Cohen as a "wonderful raconteur."

    The nonphilosophical highlight of the book is Cohen's remarkable account of his first trip to India, which includes unforgettable vignettes of encounters with strangers and reflections on poverty and begging. Other biographical pieces include his valedictory lecture at Oxford, in which he describes his philosophical development and offers his impressions of other philosophers, and "Isaiah's Marx, and Mine," a tribute to his mentor Isaiah Berlin. Other essays address such topics as the truth in "small-c conservatism," who can and can't condemn terrorists, and the essence of bullshit. A recurring theme is finding completion in relation to the world of other human beings. Engaging, perceptive, and empathetic, these writings reveal a more personal side of one of the most influential philosophers of our time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4532-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter One ISAIAH’S MARX, AND MINE
    (pp. 1-15)

    1. Isaiah says that nothing is historically inevitable. Maybe he is wrong to think that nothing is, but it is surely true that many things are not. If, for example, I had not happened to attend—I was not required to be there—the seminar on “Identity and Individuation” given by David Wiggins and Michael Woods New College, Oxford, on October 9, 1961, then I might never have come know Isaiah Berlin. Although he was not at the seminar himself, my presence there was the first link in a loose causal chain that led to our friendship.

    I had arrived...

  6. Chapter Two PRAGUE PREAMBLE TO “WHY NOT SOCIALISM?”
    (pp. 16-19)

    The real title of this lecture is “Why not socialism?”: that is what I have called it whenever I have not given it in Prague. But, here, in Prague, in the city of Franz Kafka, disguises are sometimes necessary, and it seemed wise not to use my real title, “Why not socialism?”, as my title, but rather the advertised one, “Are Equality and Community Possible?” As far as I’m concerned, the meanings of the two titles are pretty similar, but the difference between them might sound bigger to you than it does to me.

    I believe that most Czechs would...

  7. Chapter Three A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE
    (pp. 20-25)

    In september 1985, the Executive Committee of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) decided to bar participants from South Africa and Namibia from their gathering at Southampton in the following year. The vote was unanimous: everyone was persuaded by the pragmatic argument that the congress would otherwise be unviable, certainly as (anything approaching) aworldcongress, and possibly completely. But some committee members also thought that the ban was “morally correct.”

    Many archaeologists strongly opposed the decision to exclude South Africa. Very few of them, and this applies to the banned scholars themselves, sympathized with the apartheid regime. The principal grounds...

  8. Chapter Four TWO WEEKS IN INDIA
    (pp. 26-93)

    In the first twenty-four hours of my trip to india, I made a few notes, filling a page or two with a record of what was happening. Then I stopped doing that. It seemed artificial, to step back from the flow of experience and describe. But, now that I am once again in England, having returned five days ago, I do want to record as much as I can remember of what happened.¹

    I’ll mostly go in chronological order. Now and then, a general theme will obtrude, and I’ll break the narrative to address the general theme, and resume the...

  9. Chapter Five COMPLETE BULLSHIT
    (pp. 94-114)

    1. Harry Frankfurt’s essay “On Bullshit”¹ is a pioneering and brilliant discussion of a widespread but largely unexamined cultural phenomenon. On being honored by an invitation to contribute to the present volume, I decided to focus on Frankfurt’s work on bullshit, partly because it is so original and so interesting, and partly because bullshit, and the struggle against it, have played a large role in my own intellectual life. They have played that role because of my interest in Marxism, which caused me to read, when i was in my twenties, a great deal of the French Marxism of the...

  10. Chapter Six CASTING THE FIRST STONE: WHO CAN, AND WHO CAN’T, CONDEMN THE TERRORISTS?
    (pp. 115-133)

    In April 1997 my son Gideon was dining out with his then wife-to-be in the Blue Tops restaurant in the center of Addis Ababa. Suddenly, a hand grenade sailed into the room. The explosion killed one woman and it severely injured other people, but Gideon and Carol protected themselves by pushing their table over and crouching behind it. While Carol was physically unharmed, shrapnel hit and entered Gideon’s right temple. It was removed three and a half years later, after it had caused bad headaches. Not only the identity but even the inspiration of the Blue Tops terrorists remains, up...

  11. Chapter Seven WAYS OF SILENCING CRITICS
    (pp. 134-142)

    a.The Strong Jesus View. Tu quoquepossesses very wide scope under the doctrine that Jesus affirmed when he said: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” By our current lights, that admonition against admonishing, taken literally,¹ disables too indiscriminately. Few of us think that no one can call the kettle black who has committed sin ofanykind. Most people believe that I could say to you without strain, “I know I’m not perfect, but I wouldn’t do a thing likethat”: pace Jesus, I couldwillinglyexposemyselfto the judgment the prospect of which is...

  12. Chapter Eight RESCUING CONSERVATISM: A DEFENSE OF EXISTING VALUE
    (pp. 143-174)

    Hegel says that “Spirit” achieves freedom when the subject finds itself in its own object, so that “it is at home with itself in its own otherness as such.”¹

    This essay explores modes of finding oneself in the other. I am not here interested in the characterization of that condition as freedom, not because that is an unimportant aspect of Hegel’s claim—itis,after all, his claim—but just because I fry other fish here. The conservatism that I defend is Hegelian to this extent: in each of three cases that I shall distinguish, namely, that of accepting the...

  13. Chapter Nine VALEDICTORY LECTURE: MY PHILOSOPHICAL DEVELOPMENT (AND IMPRESSIONS OF PHILOSOPHERS WHOM I MET ALONG THE WAY)
    (pp. 175-192)

    Isaiah Berlin has made famous the statement by immanuel Kant that “out of crooked timber of humanity no straight thing is ever made.” And I believe that’s true. I can tell from my own case. So many of the things that we do and that matter so much to us we do both for good and for bad reasons. And sometimes we’re too self-critical, I think. We think that the good reasons really don’t make what we’re doing good. But they do. And we’re too self-critical of the fact that there’s this admixture of the old additive responding to bad...

  14. Chapter Ten NOTES ON REGARDING PEOPLE AS EQUALS
    (pp. 193-200)

    1. I had hoped to retire with no new writing projects on my plate. But now this big question looms, one to which I have never given the attention that a person of my views should have done. The question is: what is it to regard people as equals? What is it to conceive of them in that way?³ This question threatens my prospect of a leisurely retirement.

    What follow are preliminary reflections, many of them barely half-baked. (If you don’t think I really think they’re half-baked, do read on.)

    The question that the paper addresses is “What is it...

  15. Chapter Eleven ONE KIND OF SPIRITUALITY: COME BACK, FEUERBACH, ALL IS FORGIVEN!
    (pp. 201-208)

    1. I retired from my Oxford professorship and, therefore, from my (full) membership of All souls College at the end of September, 2008. But the real transition occurred on August 15, because it was on that day that I moved out of remarkable set of rooms at the heart of the college that I had occupied throughout the twenty-three years of my professorship. I moved into a very nice simply single room some twenty minutes’ walk from the college, in a house once occupied by Herbert and Jennifer Hart, in which the college has been willing keep me, for four...

  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 209-212)
  17. Index
    (pp. 213-219)