3 questions with Ray Monk

What kind of truth can biography uncover?

Ray Monk is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton, where he has taught since 1992. His research interests include the philosophy of mathematics, the history of analytical philosophy, and the philosophical underpinnings of writing biography. Monk is perhaps best known for his biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein, entitled Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize and the Duff Cooper Prize in 1991. Since then he has also written biographies of philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. 

Does a biographer have a right to pass moral judgment on their subject?

Well, of course, he/she has the right to do so; the question is rather whether it would be a well-advised or an ill-advised thing to do. I think excessive moralising does mar a biography. Most of the time it’s unnecessary anyway. If you describe someone behaving badly, there is simply no need to then express mora

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