Analysis 69 (4):779-781 (2009)
A perennial criticism of analytic philosophy is that it fails to engage with our deepest and most basic human concerns, and has thereby rendered itself irrelevant to the larger culture. In my own thinking about philosophy, I am inclined to dismiss this criticism; after all, different philosophers will find different issues to be interesting and important and will philosophize accordingly; surely it is not the philosopher's job to indulge a corrupted culture by anticipating what it will judge to be important. And yet, a feeling of uneasiness remains; something about the criticism strikes a nerve, although I have difficulty articulating what exactly it is about analytic philosophy that is supposed to be problematic here. Now I know: what a good deal of analytic philosophy is missing is precisely what is not missing from Galen Strawson's work, as demonstrated in his remarkable Real Materialism and Other Essays, a collection of his previously published papers. These papers cover a wide variety of topics and issues, but what remains constant is the sense that something important is always at stake; it matters how these philosophical issues get resolved. This is truly philosophy that matters, but it is also analytic philosophy, and so it refutes the canard that there is something about the very nature of analytic philosophy that ensures its societal irrelevancy.I think an important source of the relevance of Strawson's work is that he so often engages with ‘common-sense views of the world’ , views that are part of what he sometimes calls ‘ordinary thought’ . Moreover, he engages with them in such a way that …
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