Reply to Critics of Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century:
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Chris Pincock is offended that I presumed to write a historical overview of analytic philosophy without filling it with scholarly detail provided by specialists. Instead of relying on them, I simply read the works of leading philosophers and tried to figure out for myself what they were up to. Didn’t I know that this is impossible? I myself point out in the Epilogue that the history of philosophy is now a specialized discipline. How, Pincock wonders, could I have failed to recognize the implications of this lesson for my own project? Don’t try this at home! Read the original works, if you must, but don’t dare say anything about the views you find – let alone evaluate them by contemporary standards -- unless you first vet your remarks with those in the archives. History isn’t easy, you know! On the contrary, Pincock tells us, “the overriding lesson of work in the history of analytic philosophy is that history is hard.” Conveying that lesson should, he tells us, be the main goal of any historical introduction to the subject. “Above all,” he says, “I would hope that the reader would finish reading such a book with an appreciation of the difficulties inherent in the study of the history of philosophy.” This, I submit, is self-serving nonsense. Conveying its own difficulty is not an overriding goal of any worthwhile intellectual enterprise. The chief difficulty that daunts Pincock is, of course, the secondary literature produced by those like himself. According to him, any proper historical introduction “would have to build on the mountain of books and papers” – by which he means the mountain of secondary literature – and, “judiciously choose from all the proposed interpretations of those details,” carefully referencing alternative interpretations. I disagree. There are different kinds of historical work, with different goals, which make different contributions. My goal was to present analytic philosophy by identifying both its most important 2 achievements and those of its failures from which we have the most to learn..
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