ABOUT FIFTY YEARS AGO, in 1961, Jean-Paul Sartre complained about the state of Europe. “Europe is springing leaks everywhere,” he wrote. He went on to remark that “it simply is that in the past we made history and now history is being made of us.” Sartre was undoubtedly too pessimistic.
David Hume was born three hundred years ago, in 1711. The world has changed radically since his time, and yet many of his ideas and admonitions remain deeply relevant, though rather neglected, in the contemporary world. These Humean insights include the central role of information and knowledge for adequate ethical scrutiny, and the importance of reasoning without disowning the pertinence of powerful sentiments.
The Essential Tagore By Rabindranath Tagore Edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty (Harvard University Press, 819 pp., $39.95) In his book Raga Mala, Ravi Shankar, the great musician, argues that had Rabindranath Tagore “been born in the West he would now be [as] revered as Shakespeare and Goethe.” This is a strong claim, and it calls attention to some greatness in this quintessentially Bengali writer—identified by a fellow Bengali—that might not be readily echoed in the wider world today, especially in the West.
I. Words have meanings, often more than one. Many words also have evocative power and communicative reach that go well beyond the restricted use of these terms with well-defined professional delineation. In 1911, when Christabel Pankhurst asserted in a speech in London that “we are here to claim our right as women, not only to be free, but to fight for freedom,” adding that this is “our right as well as our duty,” she communicated a great deal.