Discussion — Soames on empiricism

Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century by Scott Soames reminds me of nothing so much as Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov. Both are works that arose immediately out of the needs of undergraduate teaching, yet each manages to say much of significance to knowledgeable professionals. Each indirectly provides an outline of the history of its field, through a presentation of selected major works, taken in chronological order and including items that are generally recognized as marking decisive turning points. Yet neither Soames’s work nor Nabokov’s is a history in any conventional sense, both being immediately disqualified from that category by the general absence of coverage of minor and middling works and writers. The emphasis is pedagogical rather than historiographical: the emphasis is on introducing the student to the field through very close examination of the limited number of key texts selected for inclusion.
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