[hist-analytic] Descriptive Metaphysics and Analyticity

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Fri Jan 28 11:44:37 EST 2011

He wrote so much, Sir Peter, that I wouldn't know! He did author a book on  
"Analysis", as I recall (*) So I would bet he would think they were, those  
truths, analytic.
On the other hand, he was perhaps a Kantian (or  neo-Kantian), so perhaps 
he found that those truths were prerequisites for  something being an 
analytic or a synthetic truth. More like a 'transcendental'  thing.
Of course, you know who (Herbert P. G., the philosopher who taught Sir  
Peter and collaborated with him) held similar views.
The distinction,  'revisionary' vs. 'descriptive' is a good one, 
incidentally. Of course Herbert  P. G. made much of the fact that we do not know what 
we _are_ describing  ("ontological categories", "grammatical categories", 
and so on).  Speranza


(*) I append below the amazon.com books reviews for  Strawson's "Metapysics 
and analysis"
"One of the clearest and most accessible  discussions of the main tenets of 
'analytic' philosophy."--Chris Slupik,  University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh 
"Excellent introduction to contemporary  Anglo-American 
philosophy."--Manuel Davenport, Texas A & M 
"Thorough,  concise, easy to read. An excellent thought-provoking primer 
for an advanced  undergraduate course on current problems in 
metaphysics."--S.N. Fratantaro,  Providence College 
"I used this book because I wanted students to have  something solid and 
meaty to work on in the way of philosophical argumentation.  After they had 
mastered the nuts and bolts of reasoning, I found the encounter  with a mature 
thinker very satisfying."--Mary M. Mulhern, Drexel University  
"The book provides a valuable account of contemporary analytic philosophy  
and consequently would be useful to upper-division undergraduates, graduate  
students, and faculty members who are unfamiliar with the analytic 
tradition in  philosophy."--Choice 

All developed human beings possess a practical  mastery of a vast range of 
concepts, including such basic structural notions as  those of identity, 
truth, existence, material objects, mental states, space, and  time; but a 
practical mastery does not entail theoretical understanding. It is  that 
understanding which philosophy seeks to achieve. In this book, one of the  most 
distinguished of living philosophers, assuming no previous knowledge of the  
subject on the part of the reader, sets out to explain and illustrate a 
certain  conception of the nature of analytical philosophy. Strawson draws on his 
many  years of teaching at Oxford University, during which he refined and 
developed  what he regards as the most productive route to understanding the 
fundamental  structure of human thinking. Among the distinctive features of 
his exposition  are the displacement of an older, reductive conception of 
philosophical method  (the ideal of "analyzing" complex ideas into simpler 
elements) in favor of  elucidating the interconnections between the complex but 
irreducible notions  which form the basic structure of our thinking; and the 
demonstration that the  three traditionally distinguished departments of 
metaphysics (ontology),  epistemology, and logic are but three aspects of one 
unified enquiry. Strawson  has produced an elegant work that will be 
invaluable to students and stimulating  for professional philosophers and general 
readers alike. 

Paperback: 160  pages Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 4, 
1992) Language:  English ISBN-10: 0198751184 ISBN-13: 978-0198751182 

One online review: "Insightful, but Not Introductory, July 14, 2006 
By  TiZ - "Sir Peter Strawson was one of the finest analytic philosophers 
of the  twentieth century, and his "Analysis and Metaphyics: An Intoduction 
to  Philosophy" is something of a summation of his extraordinary contribution 
during  his illustrious career. 
In his preface, Strawson states that this book is a  general overview of 
philosophy as he understands it. He covers metaphysics,  epistemology and 
philosophy of language, and draws insightful connections  between these 
While he admits that this book is not elementary, he  also insists that it 
does not presuppose any previous acquaintance with  philosophy. However, I 
think that only the smartest upper-level undergraduates  in philosophy will 
begin to understand it. 
In my opinion, this book is too  idiosyncratic and too difficult as an 
introduction to philosophy. The price  (over $43, at the time of writing this 
review) is also very high for such a slim  book. 
Therefore, I do not recommend this book as an introduction to  philosophy 
for those who have had no exposure to the subject. However, I think  that 
some students who are interested in an overview of philosophy from an  
important perspective will gain very much from it."

In a message dated 1/28/2011 1:28:53 P.M., rbj at rbjones.com  writes:
I am interested to know whether Strawson ever expressed a  
definite view concerning whether the truths belonging to 
descriptive  metaphysics are or are not analytic?

Can anyone help on this?

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