Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith


  84 We now know that his last, unfinished novel, The Pale King, attends to the specialized language of IRS tax inspectors.

  85 Hard-core Wallace nerds call themselves howling fantods.

  86 I have omitted, for the sake of brevity, six footnotes Wallace includes in this paragraph.

  87 (Though at this point, who am I kidding?)

  88 The Guggehein Fellowships are grants awarded anually to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

  89 All three having in common the idea that the business of ethics properly concerns good relations between people rather than the individual’s relation toward some ultimate goal, or end. For Kant, all people are ends in themselves; for Weil they are sacred in themselves. For Rawls they are communal individuals whose differences are to be respected and yet not counted as relevant when it comes to justice, which must concern itself with fairness. In Rawls’s view, if we were to choose the principles of a just society, we would have to be placed under a “veil of ignorance” in which we knew nothing of one another’s (or our own) personal qualities, that is, race, talents, religion, wealth, class, gender—an awesome idea that reminds me of Wallace at his most parabolic. Let’s say it’s your job to choose the “role of women” in this society, a society in which you’re going to live. But as you make the decision you don’t know if you yourself are to be a woman or not. So decide!

  90 From Weil’s essay “Human Personality.”

  91 But it won Wallace his sole literary prize: the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from The Paris Review.

 


 

  Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

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