G. E. M. Anscombe
Anscombe as a young woman
Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe
18 March 1919
|Died||5 January 2001 81) (aged|
|Other names||Elizabeth Anscombe|
Peter Geach (m. 1941)
|Part of a series on|
Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe FBA ( // ; 18 March 1919 – 5 January 2001), usually cited as G. E. M. Anscombe or Elizabeth Anscombe, was a British analytic philosopher. She wrote on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and ethics. She was a prominent figure of analytical Thomism.
Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship
Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states. Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind, the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.
Anscombe was a student of Ludwig Wittgenstein and became an authority on his work and edited and translated many books drawn from his writings, above all his Philosophical Investigations . Anscombe's 1958 article "Modern Moral Philosophy" introduced the term consequentialism into the language of analytic philosophy, and had a seminal influence on contemporary virtue ethics. Her monograph Intention is generally recognised as her greatest and most influential work, and the continuing philosophical interest in the concepts of intention, action, and practical reasoning can be said to have taken its main impetus from this work.
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. From 1929 to 1947, Wittgenstein taught at the University of Cambridge. During his lifetime he published just one slim book, the 75-page Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), one article, one book review and a children's dictionary. His voluminous manuscripts were edited and published posthumously. Philosophical Investigations appeared as a book in 1953, and has since come to be recognised as one of the most important works of philosophy in the 20th century. His teacher, Bertrand Russell, described Wittgenstein as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived; passionate, profound, intense, and dominating".
Philosophical Investigations is a work by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, first published, posthumously, in 1953, in which Wittgenstein discusses numerous problems and puzzles in the fields of semantics, logic, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind. He puts forth the view that conceptual confusions surrounding language use are at the root of most philosophical problems, contradicting or discarding much of what he argued in his earlier work, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921).
"Modern Moral Philosophy" is an article on moral philosophy by G. E. M. Anscombe, originally published in the journal Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 124.
Anscombe was born to Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe and Allen Wells Anscombe, on 18 March 1919, in North Strand, Limerick, Ireland, where her British father had been posted as an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Irish War of Independence. Both her mother and father were involved with education. Her mother was a headmistress and her father went on to head a department at Dulwich College.
Limerick is a city in County Limerick, Ireland. It is located in the Mid-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. Limerick City and County Council is the local authority for the city. The city lies on the River Shannon, with the historic core of the city located on King's Island, which is bounded by the Shannon and the Abbey River. Limerick is also located at the head of the Shannon Estuary where the river widens before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 94,192, Limerick is the third most populous urban area in the state, and the fourth most populous city on the island of Ireland.
The Royal Welch Fusiliers was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Prince of Wales' Division. It was founded in 1689 to oppose James II and to take part in the imminent war with France. The regiment was numbered as the 23rd Regiment of Foot, though it was one of the first regiments to be granted the honour of a fusilier title and so was known as The Welch Regiment of Fusiliers from 1702. The "Royal" accolade was earned fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713.
The Irish War of Independence or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army and British forces: the British Army, along with the quasi-military Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and its paramilitary forces the Auxiliaries and Ulster Special Constabulary (USC). It was an escalation of the Irish revolutionary period into warfare.
She graduated from Sydenham High School in 1937 and went on to read "Mods & Greats" (classics, ancient history, and philosophy) at St Hugh's College, Oxford, graduating with a second class in Honour Moderations in 1939 and a first class in her degree Finals in 1941. [ citation needed ]While still at Sydenham High School, she was converted to the Roman Catholic faith, and during her first undergraduate year she was received into the church. She remained a lifelong devout Catholic. She garnered controversy when she publicly opposed Britain's entry into the Second World War, although her father had been a soldier and one of her brothers was to serve during the war.
Sydenham High School is an independent school for 4- to 18-year-old girls located in London, England. Sydenham High School was founded by the Girls’ Public Day School Trust in 1887. Since then, the original school of 20 pupils has been transformed into a school of 600 girls. The school is separated into the senior and junior schools, each with a separate site located close to one another on Westwood Hill, Sydenham.
St Hugh's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. It is located on a 14.5-acre (5.9-hectare) site on St Margaret's Road, to the north of the city centre. It was founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth as a women's college, and accepted its first male students in its centenary year in 1986.
In 1941 she married Peter Geach, like her a Roman Catholic convert. He became, like her, a student of Wittgenstein and a distinguished British academic philosopher. Together they had three sons and four daughters.
Peter Thomas Geach was a British philosopher and professor of logic at the University of Leeds. His areas of interest were the history of philosophy, philosophical logic, ethics, philosophy of religion, and the theory of identity.
After graduating from Oxford, Anscombe was awarded a research fellowship for postgraduate study at Newnham College, Cambridge, from 1942 to 1945.Her purpose was to attend Ludwig Wittgenstein's lectures. Her interest in Wittgenstein's philosophy arose from reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as an undergraduate. She claimed to have conceived the idea of studying with Wittgenstein as soon as she opened the book in Blackwell's and read section 5.53, "Identity of object I express by identity of sign, and not by using a sign for identity. Difference of objects I express by difference of signs." She became an enthusiastic student, feeling that Wittgenstein's therapeutic method helped to free her from philosophical difficulties in ways that her training in traditional systematic philosophy could not. As she wrote
Newnham College is a women's constituent college of the University of Cambridge.
The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that was published during his lifetime. The project had a broad goal: to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science. It is recognized by philosophers as a significant philosophical work of the twentieth century. G. E. Moore originally suggested the work's Latin title as homage to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus by Baruch Spinoza.
Blackwell UK, also known as Blackwell's and Blackwell Group, is a British academic book retailer and library supply service. It was founded in 1879 by Benjamin Henry Blackwell, after whom the chain is named, in Oxford on Broad Street. The firm now has a chain of 45 shops, and an accounts and library supply service. It employs around 1000 staff in its divisions.
For years, I would spend time, in cafés, for example, staring at objects saying to myself: 'I see a packet. But what do I really see? How can I say that I see here anything more than a yellow expanse?' ... I always hated phenomenalism and felt trapped by it. I couldn't see my way out of it but I didn't believe it. It was no good pointing to difficulties about it, things which Russell found wrong with it, for example. The strength, the central nerve of it remained alive and raged achingly. It was only in Wittgenstein's classes in 1944 that I saw the nerve being extracted, the central thought "I have got this, and I define 'yellow' (say) as this" being effectively attacked.
After her fellowship at Cambridge ended, she was awarded a research fellowship at Somerville College, Oxford, [ citation needed ]but during the academic year of 1946/47, she continued to travel to Cambridge once a week to attend tutorials with Wittgenstein on the philosophy of religion. She became one of Wittgenstein's favourite students and one of his closest friends. Wittgenstein affectionately referred to her by the pet name "old man" – an exception to his general dislike of academic women. His confidence in Anscombe's understanding of his perspective is shown by his choice of her as translator of his Philosophical Investigations before she had learned German, for which purpose he arranged a stay in Vienna.
Anscombe visited Wittgenstein many times after he left Cambridge in 1947, and travelled to Cambridge in April 1951 to visit him on his death bed. Wittgenstein named her, along with Rush Rhees and Georg Henrik von Wright, as his literary executor, and after his death in 1951 she was responsible for editing, translating, and publishing many of Wittgenstein's manuscripts and notebooks.[ citation needed ]
She scandalised liberal colleagues with articles defending the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to contraception in the 1960s and early 1970s. Later in life, she was arrested twice while protesting outside an abortion clinic in Britain, after abortion had been legalised (albeit with restrictions).[ citation needed ]
Anscombe remained at Somerville College from 1946 to 1970. She was also known for her willingness to face fierce public controversy in the name of her Catholic faith. In 1956, while a research fellow at the University of Oxford, she protested Oxford's decision to grant an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman, whom she denounced as a mass murderer for his use of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She and three others voted against awarding the honour to Truman. She would later defend her decision in a 1957 pamphlet. [ verification needed ]
Anscombe was elected Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 1970, where she served until her retirement in 1986. She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1979.
In her later years, Anscombe suffered from heart disease, and was nearly killed in a car crash in 1996. She never fully recovered and she spent her last years in the care of her family in Cambridge.She died on 5 January 2001, aged 81, with her husband and four of their seven children at her bedside.
She had not said where she was to be buried and the family chose what is now the Ascension Parish burial ground, as it was the nearest one to their home. There was some difficulty in getting a full-size plot, where she could be buried without being cremated first. This was not possible in the new part of the cemetery, so the site finally obtained – after negotiation with Ely diocesan authorities – was that of an old grave, corner-to-corner with the plot where Wittgenstein had been buried half a century before.
As a young philosophy don, Anscombe acquired a reputation as a formidable debater. In 1948, she presented a paper at a meeting of Oxford's Socratic Club in which she disputed C. S. Lewis's argument that naturalism was self-refuting (found in the third chapter of the original publication of his book Miracles ). Some associates of Lewis, primarily George Sayer and Derek Brewer, have remarked that Lewis lost the subsequent debate on her paper and that this loss was so humiliating that he abandoned theological argument and turned entirely to devotional writing and children's literature. Anscombe's impression of the effect upon Lewis is somewhat different:
The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has those qualities [to address Anscombe's objections], shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr Havard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennet remembered any such feelings on Lewis's part ... My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis' rethinking and rewriting showed he thought was accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends – who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments or the subject-matter – as an interesting example of the phenomenon called "projection".
As a result of the debate, Lewis substantially rewrote chapter 3 of Miracles for the 1960 paperback edition.
Some of Anscombe's most frequently cited works are translations, editions, and expositions of the work of her teacher Ludwig Wittgenstein, including an influential exegesisof Wittgenstein's 1921 book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus . This brought to the fore the importance of Gottlob Frege for Wittgenstein's thought and, partly on that basis, attacked "positivist" interpretations of the work. She co-edited his posthumous second book, Philosophische Untersuchungen/Philosophical Investigations (1953) with Rush Rhees. Her English translation of the book appeared simultaneously and remains standard. She went on to edit or co-edit several volumes of selections from his notebooks, (co-)translating many important works like Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (1956) and Wittgenstein's "sustained treatment" of G. E. Moore's epistemology, On Certainty (1969) .
In 1978, Anscombe was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, 1st class for her work on Wittgenstein.
Her most important work is the monograph Intention (1957). Three volumes of collected papers were published in 1981: From Parmenides to Wittgenstein; Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind; and Ethics, Religion and Politics. Another collection, Human Life, Action and Ethics appeared posthumously in 2005.
The aim of Intention (1957) was to make plain the character of human action and will. Anscombe approaches the matter through the concept of intention , which, as she notes, has three modes of appearance in our language:
|She is X'ing intentionally||intentional action|
|She is X'ing with the intention of doing Y |
or ... She is X'ing to Y
|intention with which|
or further intention in acting
|She intends to Y|
or ... She has expressed the intention to do Y
|expression of intention for the future;|
(what Davidson later called a pure intending)
She suggests that a true account must somehow connect these three uses of the concept, though later students of intention have sometimes denied this, and disputed some of the things she presupposes under the first and third headings. It is clear though that it is the second that is crucial to her main purpose, which is to comprehend the way in which human thought and understanding and conceptualisation relate to the "events in a man's history", or the goings on to which he is subject.
Rather than attempt to define intentions in abstraction from actions, thus taking the third heading first, Anscombe begins with the concept of an intentional action. This soon connected with the second heading. She says that what is up with a human being is an intentional action if the question "Why", taken in a certain sense (and evidently conceived as addressed to him), has application.An agent can answer the "why" question by giving a reason or purpose for her action. "To do Y" or "because I want to do Y" would be typical answers to this sort of "why?"; though they are not the only ones, they are crucial to the constitution of the phenomenon as a typical phenomenon of human life. The agent's answer helps supply the descriptions under which the action is intentional. Anscombe was the first to clearly spell out that actions are intentional under some descriptions and not others. In her famous example, a man's action (which we might observe as consisting in moving an arm up and down while holding a handle) may be intentional under the description "pumping water" but not under other descriptions such as "contracting these muscles", "tapping out this rhythm", and so on. This approach to action influenced Donald Davidson's theory, despite the fact that Davidson went on to argue for a causal theory of action that Anscombe never accepted
Intention (1957) is also the classic source for the idea that there is a difference in "direction of fit" between cognitive states like beliefs and conative states like desire.Cognitive states describe the world and are causally derived from the facts or objects they depict. Conative states do not describe the world, but aim to bring something about in the world. Anscombe used the example of a shopping list to illustrate the difference. The list can be a straightforward observational report of what is actually bought (thereby acting like a cognitive state), or it can function as a conative state such as a command or desire, dictating what the agent should buy. If the agent fails to buy what is listed, we do not say that the list is untrue or incorrect; we say that the mistake is in the action, not the desire. According to Anscombe, this difference in direction of fit is a major difference between speculative knowledge (theoretical, empirical knowledge) and practical knowledge (knowledge of actions and morals). Whereas "speculative knowledge" is "derived from the objects known", practical knowledge is – in a phrase Anscombe lifts from Aquinas – "the cause of what it understands".
Anscombe made great contributions to ethics as well as metaphysics. She is credited with having coined the term "consequentialism". In her 1958 essay "Modern Moral Philosophy", Anscombe wrote:
The denial of any distinction between foreseen and intended consequences, as far as responsibility is concerned, was not made by Sidgwick in developing any one 'method of ethics'; he made this important move on behalf of everybody and just on its own account; and I think it plausible to suggest that this move on the part of Sidgwick explains the difference between old-fashioned Utilitarianism and the consequentialism, as I name it, which marks him and every English academic moral philosopher since him.
"Modern Moral Philosophy" is credited with reviving interest in and study of virtue ethics in Western academic philosophy.
Anscombe also introduced the idea of a set of facts being 'brute relative to' some fact. When a set of facts xyz stands in this relation to a fact A, they are a subset out of a range some subset among which holds if A holds. Thus if A is the fact that I have paid for something, the brute facts might be that I have handed him a cheque for a sum which he has named as the price for the goods, saying that this is the payment, or that I gave him some cash at the time that he gave me the goods. There tends, according to Anscombe, to be an institutional context which gives its point to the description 'A', but of which 'A' is not itself a description: that I have given someone a shilling is not a description of the institution of money or of the currency of the country. According to her, no brute facts xyz can generally be said to entail the fact A relative to which they are 'brute' except with the proviso "under normal circumstances", for "one cannot mention all the things that were not the case, which would have made a difference if they had been."A set facts xyz ... may be brute relative to a fact A which itself is one of a set of facts ABC ... which is brute relative to some further fact W. Thus Anscombe's account is not of a distinct class of facts, to be distinguished from another class, 'institutional facts': the essential relation is that of a set of facts being 'brute relative to' some fact. Following Anscombe's lead, John Searle derived a sharper conception of 'brute facts' simply as non-mental facts to play the foundational role and generate similar hierarchies in his philosophical account of speech acts and institutional reality .
Her paper "The First Person" [ citation needed ]buttressed remarks by Wittgenstein (in his Lectures on "Private Experience" ) arguing for the now-notorious conclusion that the first-person pronoun, "I", does not refer to anything (not, e.g., to the speaker) because of its immunity from reference failure. Having shown by counter-example that 'I' does not refer to the body, Anscombe objected to the implied Cartesianism of its referring at all. Few people accept the conclusion – though the position was later adopted in a more radical form by David Lewis – but the paper was an important contribution to work on indexicals and self-consciousness that has been carried on by philosophers as varied as John Perry, Peter Strawson, David Kaplan, Gareth Evans, John McDowell, and Sebastian Rödl.
The philosopher Candace Vogler says that Anscombe's "strength" is that "'when she is writing for [a] Catholic audience, she presumes they share certain fundamental beliefs,' but she is equally willing to write for people who do not share her assumptions."In 2010, philosopher Roger Scruton wrote that Anscombe was "perhaps the last great philosopher writing in English." Mary Warnock described her in 2006 as "the undoubted giant among women philosophers" while John Haldane said she "certainly has a good claim to be the greatest woman philosopher of whom we know."
Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology.
Metaphilosophy is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy". Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. Thus, while philosophy characteristically inquires into the nature of being, the reality of objects, the possibility of knowledge, the nature of truth, and so on, metaphilosophy is the self-reflective inquiry into the nature, aims, and methods of the activity that makes these kinds of inquiries, by asking what is philosophy itself, what sorts of questions it should ask, how it might pose and answer them, and what it can achieve in doing so. It is considered by some to be a subject prior and preparatory to philosophy, while others see it as inherently a part of philosophy, or automatically a part of philosophy while others adopt some combination of these views. The interest in metaphilosophy led to the establishment of the journal Metaphilosophy in January 1970.
Action theory is an area in philosophy concerned with theories about the processes causing willful human bodily movements of a more or less complex kind. This area of thought involves epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, jurisprudence, and philosophy of mind, and has attracted the strong interest of philosophers ever since Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. With the advent of psychology and later neuroscience, many theories of action are now subject to empirical testing.
Mary Rosalind Hursthouse is a British-born New Zealand moral philosopher noted for her work on virtue ethics.
In the philosophy of language, the distinction between concept and object is attributable to the German philosopher Gottlob Frege.
Analytical Thomism is a philosophical movement which promotes the interchange of ideas between the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and modern analytic philosophy.
Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical methodology that sees traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by distorting or forgetting what words actually mean in everyday use. "Such 'philosophical' uses of language, on this view, create the very philosophical problems they are employed to solve." Ordinary language philosophy is a branch of linguistic philosophy closely related to logical positivism.
In contemporary philosophy, a brute fact is a fact that has no explanation. More narrowly, brute facts may instead be defined as those facts which cannot be explained. To reject the existence of brute facts is to think that everything can be explained.. There are two ways to explain something: say what "brought it about", or describe it at a more "fundamental" level. For example, a cat displayed on a computer screen can be explained, more "fundamentally", as there being certain voltages in bits of metal in the screen, which in turn can be explained, more "fundamentally", as certain subatomic particles moving in a certain manner. If we keep explaining the world in this way and reach a point at which no more "deeper" explanations can be given, then we would have found some facts which are brute or inexplicable, in the sense that we. As it might be put, there may exist some things that just are. The same thing can be done with causal explanations. If nothing made the Big Bang expand at the velocity it did, then this is a brute fact in the sense that it lacks a causal explanation.
Alice Ambrose Lazerowitz was an American philosopher, logician, and author.
Oswald Hanfling was a German philosopher who worked from 1970, until his death, at the Open University in the UK.
Rush Rhees was an American philosopher. He is principally known as a student, friend, and literary executor of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. With G. E. M. Anscombe, he edited Wittgenstein's posthumous Philosophical Investigations (1953), a highly influential work. He was also responsible for publishing other works by Wittgenstein, including Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Philosophische Bemerkungen, Philosophical Remarks, and Philosophical Grammar. Rhees taught at Swansea University from 1940 to 1966.
Peter Michael Stephan Hacker is a British philosopher. His principal expertise is in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. He is known for his detailed exegesis of the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his outspoken conceptual critique of cognitive neuroscience.
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Ludwig Wittgenstein considered his chief contribution to philosophy to be in the philosophy of mathematics, a topic to which he devoted much of his work between 1929 and 1944. As with his philosophy of language, Wittgenstein's views on mathematics evolved from the period of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, changing from logicism which was endorsed by his mentor Bertrand Russell, to a general anti-foundationalism and constructivism that was not readily accepted by the mathematical community. The main source in Wittgenstein's thinking on mathematics is the text compiled as Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, which contains the late Wittgenstein's views, notably a controversial repudiation of Gödel's incompleteness theorems. The success of Wittgenstein's general philosophy has tended to displace the real debates on more technical issues.
Alice Crary is an American philosopher who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and also at the Graduate Faculty, The New School for Social Research in New York City, where she was the Philosophy Department Chair 2014-17 and founding Co-Chair of the Gender and Sexuality Studies program. For the academic year 2017-18, she was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In the summer 2018 she was LFUI-Wittgenstein Guest Professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
Hidé Ishiguro is a Japanese analytic philosopher and emeritus professor at Keio University, Tokyo. She is considered an expert on the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz on whom she has published many papers. She is also a Wittgenstein scholar.