Abstract for “A Life that Could be Somebody’s: Bernard Williams’s Epigraphs to Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy” – Nakul Krishna

In this paper, I offer an account of Bernard Williams’s Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy in terms of its overarching themes as they are illuminated by its two epigraphs from Wallace Stevens and Albert Camus. The quotation from Stevens’s poem ‘Esthétique du Mal’, I claim, places the book in the lineage of Nietzsche, as an attempt to respond to the implications that the ‘death of God’ might have for western civilization. The quotation from Camus’s The Fall places the book in a tradition of reflection on Nazism and its intellectual antecedents in the history of modern German philosophy from Kant onward. In doing this, I offer an account of Williams’s significance in the intellectual history of the twentieth century in ways that ramify beyond analytic philosophy.