A Terribly Serious Adventure

terribly serious

TORCH Book at Lunchtime welcomes Nikhil Krishnan, Fellow at Robinson College, Cambridge to discuss his highly regarded book "A Terribly Serious Adventure"

A lively, immersive account of the colourful and brilliant philosophers who roamed the halls of mid-twentieth-century Oxford and taught the world the importance of language

“This is Oxford philosophy in the round. The philosophical arguments, the personal lives, the colourful quotes, the elbow patches and buttered crumpets—brilliantly written.”—James Franklin, author of Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia

What are the limits of language? How can philosophy be brought closer to everyday life? What is a good human being?

These were among the questions that philosophers wrestled with in mid-twentieth-century Britain, a period shadowed by war and the rise of fascism. In response to these events, thinkers such as Philippa Foot (originator of the famous trolley problem), Isaiah Berlin, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Gilbert Ryle, and J. L. Austin aspired to a new level of watchfulness and self-awareness about language as a way of keeping philosophy true to everyday experience.

A Terribly Serious Adventure traces the friendships and the rivalries, the shared preoccupations and the passionate disagreements of some of Oxford’s most innovative thinkers. Far from being stuck in their ivory towers, the Oxford philosophers lived. They were codebreakers, diplomats, and soldiers in both World Wars, and they often drew on their real-world experience in creating their greatest works, masterpieces of British modernism original in both thought and style. 

Steeped in the dramatic history of the twentieth century, A Terribly Serious Adventure is an eye-opening look inside the rooms that changed how we think about our world. Shedding light on the lives and intellectual achievements of a large and spirited cast of characters, Cambridge academic Nikhil Krishnan shows us how much we can still learn from the Oxford philosophers. In our fractious, post-truth world, their acute sense of responsibility for their words, their passionate desire to get the little things right, stands as an inspiring example.

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