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Raimond Gaita

For a man many would regard as the very epitome of the type, Raimond Gaita seems rather hostile to the concept of the intellectual. It is ‘irredeemably mediocre’, he explains, inferior to the kinds of moral and political responsibility that attach to teacher or politician. Intellectuals are active in the public domain, grappling with ideas, culture, and politics, but they have often lacked independence of mind, he says, ‘because they never had it or because they sacrificed it to the cause’.

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Raimond GaitaRaimond Gaita

Raimond Gaita was born in Germany in 1946. He is Emeritus Professor of moral philosop ...

In a critical moment of reflection and pause, Romulus, My Father offers the reader a key to its interpretation. The author – philosopher Raimond Gaita – tells us that ‘Plato said that those who love and seek wisdom are clinging in recollection to things they once saw’. This reference to the Greek philosopher’s work < ...

Raimond Gaita is unusual among moral philosophers in having presented the world of his childhood as food for thought. Most notably, he has given us his Romanian father, Romulus – ‘Johnny the Balt’ to his Australian neighbours – whose understanding of life’s moral necessities is articulated by Gaita as the core of his ethical thought. It is hard to think of an instance in the history of Western philosophy, other than the Socrates of Plato’s Apology, where an individual’s life story is as intrinsic to the views expounded as the life of Romulus Gaita is to those of his son.

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With the likes of Helen Garner, Arnold Zable, and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, the contents page of this essay collection reads like a who’s who of Australian literature. The editor–contributors are the poet Alex Skovron, philosopher Raimond Gaita, and novelist Alex Miller. The publisher is Picador. The man honoured in these essays is Jacob Rosenberg.

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The business of growing up starts with distancing ourselves from our parents. It ends (as far as it ever ends) with drawing them close again. Rather than disappointing giants, we recognise them at last as fallible, unique human beings. We recognise them in ourselves, and so they become real to us.

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Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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When Raimond Gaita’s memoir Romulus, My Father was published in 1998, the acclaim with which it was greeted was ubiquitous. The book was significant not simply because it was a strikingly revealing personal narrative written by a renowned philosopher, but because it managed to present a story that contained large doses of personal tragedy without rendering the experience of reading it either falsely uplifting or overwhelmingly depressing. While offering vivid portraits of an inconstant, depressive wife and mother, and a self-possessed husband and father struggling with his own sense of self-worth, Romulus, My Father celebrated the power of love and friendship in the most subtle, telling and deeply humane ways.

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On 15 February 2005 the Labor Opposition launched a ‘matter of public importance’ (MPI) debate on ‘truth in government’ in the House of Representatives. An MPI debate is really only an invitation to comment on a ‘matter for discussion’, with no vote taken, as would be the case in a censure motion. The parliamentary discussion is simply timed out. But it is a useful opposition tactic for getting arguments and evidence on the public record.

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On the face of it, this book represents a strange project: to elaborate for the reader’s consideration the moral beliefs of a man whom the author judges (and judged in advance, one suspects) to be shallow, inconsistent, lacking moral and intellectual sobriety, and to have failed so often to act on the moral principles he repeatedly professes that he can fairly be accused of hypocrisy ... 

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