What is Anglophone philosophy? The question is simple enough, but I do now know if there is consensus on the answer. Three possible answers come to mind:
- Philosophy produced in an English-speaking community.
- Philosophy produced in English.
- Philosophy that is primarily of interest to English-speaking philosophers.
do not know what has been written on this subject, though the question
was raised for me recently when I read (and responded to) Brian
Leiter's "The Most Cited Books in Post-WWII Angolphone Philosophy."
In what follows, I consider Leiter's account of Anglophone
philosophy, because his is the only treatment I've come across. While
Leiter may not be the foremost authority on this issue, I do not know
Number 4 on Leiter's list is Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations
which was not written in English, but which was first published in
English translation, thanks to G. E. M. Anscombe. Of course,
Wittgenstein was a pivotal figure at Oxford. Yet, I presume that he
chose to write in German for a reason. It is also unclear how much of
his philosophy was produced in England. Finally, Wittgenstein's work
has been of significant interest to German and other non-Anglophone
philosophers. So it does not appear that Wittgenstein's Investigations
neatly satisfy any of the criteria I listed.
It is possible that the Investigations
is included because
mainly known thanks to Anscombe's translation. However,
English-language translations of German texts are generally not
considered Anglophone. I think Professor Leiter would agree, since he
does not treat English-language translations of Gadamer or Habermas as
Anglophone, even though they are widely cited. I brought up Gadamer
and Habermas on Leiter's blog, having wrongly thought that
English-language translations qualified as Anglophone philosophy. In
my defense, I was thrown a bit by Leiter's inclusion of Wittgenstein.
(Leiter says Gadamer and Habermas are not "mainstream Anglophone
philosophers," though if we
judge what is mainstream by what is most heavily cited, then we cannot
exclude Gadamer or Habermas' English-language translations on the
grounds that they are not mainstream. For it is precisely because they
are heavily cited that I suggested their inclusion. Thus, I presume
they simply are not Anglophone enough.) The issue of translations raises another interesting case: The Logic of Scientific Discovery
is Popper's post-WWII English-language reformulation of ideas first published before WWII, in the German-language Logik der Forschung.
Should the English-language version be considered a separate
philosophical work? It is not a direct translation, from what I
understand. Is it Anglophone philosophy? Is it post-WWII Anglophone
Leiter says no to the last question. He does not include The Logic of Scientific Discovery
his list, because he says it is pre-WWII. Yet, the post-WWII book is surely Anglophone, and the pre-WWII book surely is not. I responded with a
comment on his blog explaining this, but he has
chosen not to post my explanation. I have not pressed the matter with
him. In fact, I thought I would forget about it; however, the question
continues to flutter around the back of my mind. Perhaps there is some criteria here which I am missing. Or, perhaps it is just that there is room for flexibility when it comes to translations.
There is reason to resist the claim that Anglophone
translations count as Anglophone philosophy. Generally, we may observe
the difficulty in translating philosophical texts, and accept that, in
some sense, a translation is itself a work of philosophy. One cannot
translate philosophy without doing philosophy. Yet, we should
not say that, when we read the Investigations
in English, we are reading Anscombe and not Wittgenstein
Nor are we reading them both, side by side. Rather, we are reading
Wittgenstein through Anscombe. It is Wittgenstein through an
Anglophone lens. But here the metaphor is likely to mislead us into
oversimplifying what is really going on.
Perhaps the degree to which a philosophy is amenable to translation is
the degree to which it is analytic; though I would not put too much
stock in this. For a philosophy may be easy to translate simply by
virtue of being commonplace and simple. Regardless of how much or how
little the original ideas are lost or altered, an English-language
translation brings a work within the grasp of Anglophone
philosophy. Anscombe made the Investigations
a part of
Anglophone philosophy, regardless of how much or how little she altered
Wittgenstein's thinking. At least, such might be argued. It might
also be argued that the Investigations
are not a work in Anglophone philosophy at all.
But, then, what is the criteria?
I think I have successfully danced around this question without
offering an answer. This is as it should be, since I am
not interested in presenting a view so much as posing a problem.
Hopefully some of you will find it challenging and interesting.
I look forward to any and all contributions. Regards, Jason January 8, 2009