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  • Cited by 3
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Queloz, Matthieu 2018. How genealogies can affect the space of reasons. Synthese,

    Kusch, Martin and McKenna, Robin 2018. The genealogical method in epistemology. Synthese,

    Queloz, Matthieu 2017. Nietzsche’s pragmatic genealogy of justice. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 25, Issue. 4, p. 727.

  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: December 2009

7 - Genealogies and the State of Nature


The opening chapters of Bernard Williams' Truth and Truthfulness are an appetizing invitation, which I here gratefully accept, to reflect on a question which in its most general form is of very wide application indeed: what kinds of light can one shed on something by recounting its history? Restricted to the philosophical tradition this becomes a question about the nature and effectiveness of what are nowadays often called “genealogies” and “state-of-nature theories,” and it is on these that Williams' attention is concentrated. The same is true of mine in this essay; but I shall not bother too much about the limits set by those terms as they are usually applied, in the belief that since this is an aspect of a broader issue a broader approach is desirable, at least so long as there is any suspicion that our present borderlines, which are certainly fuzzy, may be arbitrary, too.

Much that I shall say Williams has said already – rather more succinctly and deftly, the reader may feel – and I doubt whether anything of mine conflicts with anything of his, once a few terminological matters are sorted out. But his purpose in these chapters was to prepare the ground for a specific exercise of the state-of-nature and genealogical methods: his own application of them, which forms the rest of the book, to the twin virtues of truthfulness, sincerity, and accuracy.

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Bernard Williams
  • Online ISBN: 9780511611278
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Edward, Craig (1990). Knowledge and the State of Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Hobbes, Thomas (1651/1996). Leviathan, rev. ed., ed. Tuck, Richard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Hume, David (1757/2006). The Natural History of Religion, ed. Beauchamp, Tom (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Hume, David (1978). A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. Selby-Bigge, L. A. (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Bernard, Williams (2002). Truth and Truthfulness (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press).