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Many griefs and terrors rise before us in Romulus, My father. Remarkably they do not qualify the book’s spirit of celebration but deepen it. Only of the work of a very fine thinker and writer can display this almost-paradox. In that book Gaita says, of those whose sufferings he portrays, that their lives were broken but never diminished. It is an extraordinary thing to say and more extraordinary still that the book shows us its truths, by letting those thus broken become present to us as a ‘undiminished’. This imaginative fully realised truth in Romulus dovetails with us full humanity – sometimes Gaita calls it the ‘inalienable preciousness – of human beings on which his philosophical work often reflects.

In this and other way Gaita’s philosophy is porous to the spirit infusing Romulus. His books Good and Evil, A Common Humanity and The Philosopher’s Dog – the heart of his philosophical work – all manifest it. For this reason, his writings in moral philosophy give us not just different arguments for various views, but also something much rarer: a different philosophical voice, philosophy and a different register. (Christopher Cordner)

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Raimond Gaita

Contributors
Stephen Mulhall (Oxford), Avishai Margalit (Princeton), Mary Margaret McCabe, (King’s College London) Marina Barabas (Academy of Sciences, Prague), Jonathan Glover (King’s College, London), Jim Hopkins (King’s College, London) Antony Duff (Stirling, Scotland), Peter Coghaln (ACU), Martin Krygier (UNSW), Genevieve Llyod (UNSW) Robert Manne (Latrobe), Lars Herzberg (Abo Academy, Finland)

Those who are already familiar with Raimond Gaita’s work will not easily forget the seriousness with which he confronts his readers with stark examples of evil, and then with luminous examples of love and goodness – a confrontation that both elicits and challenges the real responses that give expression to our moral thinking, and a seriousness that exposes the shallowness of much moral theory and its remoteness from lived experience.

This fine collection of essays – tokens of philosophical friendship and of collegiality – celebrates the range, the depth and the passion of Gaita’s thinking, and offers a vigorous critical engagement that reflects the strength of the evolving and healthily contested philosophical tradition to which Gaita has been so singularly, creatively, responsive, a humane and exacting tradition of difficult moral reflection whose lineage may be traced, through his own teacher, Roy Holland, to Rush Rhees and Wittgenstein and back, through Simone Weil and Kierkegaard, to the moral psychologies of Spinoza and Plato. It is impossible to convey a sense of the richness, subtlety and intelligence of tone and voice these essays exemplify, although the titles give an impression of the centre of gravity of the collection, and one can give a brief indication of some small part of the matter.

Michael McGhee, Philosophical Investigations

According to Christopher Cordner “Raimond Gaita’s writings celebrate life” (p. 1). In this fine collection of essays this celebration is highlighted and critically examined from different perspectives. Some of the essays help to better understand the role Gaita sees for a narrative, imaginative style of doing moral philosophy. Others stress some specific difficulties Gaita encounters with his qualified Platonic conception of the Good. A last group of essays focus on the intrinsic relation between literature and philosophy that comes forward in Gaita’s writings, especially his Romulus, my father, the much acclaimed autobiographical memoir of which a masterly film adaptation was made in 2007.

Like Socrates, Gaita thinks philosophy should address first and foremost the only question that really matters for humans: how should one live? Gaita points out that the answer to this question lies not in philosophy as such, but in the manner life is taken up or, more precisely, in the way of life that exemplifies the unconditional seriousness of this question. Ethical reflection, in short, can foster and sustain moral life, but always emerges out of practice and experience, and not vice versa. Moreover, it is through the never-ending interpretation of the human ‘quest for the good’ and the way this quest is given shape in narratives and moral traditions that we learn to grasp the pitch of the ethical. As Gaita’s

philosophy exemplifies, this narrative interpretation flourishes through the creation of new and ‘subtler languages’ (Charles Taylor) or the assimilation of older ones, such as the Platonic, in a new idiom. The success or failure of this hermeneutical or edifying style of moral philosophy depends on whether it enlivens the contemporary moral imagination and helps to shape ‘our’ moral culture and practice.

Willem Lemmens, Journal of Moral Philosophy

Raimond Gaita holds a unique position in contemporary English-speaking, certainly Australian, philosophy. He has been a passionate and effective advocate for philosophical positions that current academic fashion deems refuted or obscurantist or hopelessly tainted by religion. The papers in this excellent festschrift, collected and edited by Christopher Cordner, can be roughly divided into three categories, those concerning Gaita as philosopher, as public intellectual, and as writer. The last of these groupings includes two fine essays—by philosophers Genevieve Lloyd and Peter Coghlan respectively—about Gaita’s award-winning memoir Romulus, My Father, an engagingly personal account of its film adaptation by the screenwriter and poet Nick Drake, and a richly idiosyncratic versifying tribute to Gaita by the poet- priest Peter Steele. . . . .

An appraisal of the shortcomings in Gaita’s thought is not appropriate here. Suffice to say of him what he has written of Elizabeth Anscombe, that his faults are his own, not those of the zeitgeist—and to realize how high this praise is. As a public figure, Gaita’s life has not been that of the quiet and cloistered academic. There have been bruises, but it is a life in which he can take not only pride in the number of his enemies, but joy both in the number of his friends and in the affection and gratitude expressed by those collected in this book. It is a fine tribute, which we should be grateful to Christopher Cordner for editing, and even more to Rai Gaita for occasioning.

Andrew Gleeson, Australasian Journal of Philosophy