Sir Peter Strawson, in full Peter Frederick Strawson, (born November 23, 1919, London, England—died February 13, 2006, Oxford, Oxfordshire), British philosopher who was a leading member of the ordinary language school of analytic philosophy during the 1950s and ’60s. His work was instrumental in reviving interest in metaphysics within Anglo-American (analytic) philosophy in the mid-20th century.
After graduating from St. John’s College at Oxford in 1940, Strawson served in the British military during World War II. In 1947, on the recommendation of Gilbert Ryle, he was appointed to a lectureship at University College, Oxford; he was elected a fellow the following year. In 1968 he was elected Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford—replacing Ryle, who had retired—and moved to the university’s Magdalen College, where he remained until his retirement in 1987. He also held numerous visiting professorships in the United States.
Strawson first came to prominence with two papers: “Truth” (1949), in which he attacked the complex correspondence theory of his Oxford colleague J.L. Austin, and “On Referring” (1950), in which he criticized the widely accepted theory of definite descriptions put forward by Bertrand Russell in “On Denoting” (1905). Russell’s analysis had entailed that a sentence such as “The present king of France is bald” is meaningful but false, because there is no present king of France. Strawson claimed that such a sentence is meaningful but neither true nor false, because its presupposition—that there is a present king of France—is false; he thus challenged the widely held view that every indicative sentence is either true or false.
Because of their generally empirical orientation, adherents of ordinary language philosophy (which was based on the examination of nontechnical uses of philosophical terms in everyday language) tended to view metaphysics with skepticism if not outright scorn. Strawson’s work Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (1959) helped to change this perception by showing how ordinary language analysis could shed light on traditional metaphysical questions. In The Bounds of Sense (1966), Strawson attempted to determine how much of the metaphysics of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781; 2nd ed. 1787) could be plausibly defended. His arguably uncharitable assessment of Kant’s transcendental idealism nevertheless inspired much new Anglo-American scholarship on Kant in subsequent decades.
Strawson’s other publications included Introduction to Logical Theory (1952); Freedom and Resentment (1974), a collection of essays; Subject and Predicate in Logic and Grammar (1974); Scepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties (1985); and Analysis and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy (1992). He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1960 and knighted in 1977.
|Sir Peter Frederick Strawson|
|Born||23 November 1919|
Ealing, West London
|Died||13 February 2006(2006-02-13) (aged 86)|
|Alma mater||St John's College, Oxford|
|Philosophy of language ·Philosophy of mind|
|Ordinary language philosophy, moral reactive attitudes, the distinction between sortal and characterising universals|
Sir Peter Frederick StrawsonFBA (; 23 November 1919 – 13 February 2006), usually cited as P. F. Strawson, was an English philosopher. He was the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College) from 1968 to 1987. Before that, he was appointed as a college lecturer at University College, Oxford, in 1947, and became a tutorial fellow the following year, until 1968. On his retirement in 1987, he returned to the college and continued working there until shortly before his death. His portrait was painted by the artists Muli Tang and Daphne Todd.
When he died, the obituary in The Guardian noted that, "Oxford was the world capital of philosophy between 1950 and 1970, and American academics flocked there, rather than the traffic going the other way. That golden age had no greater philosopher than Sir Peter Strawson."
Peter Strawson was born in Ealing, west London, and brought up in Finchley, north London, by his parents, both of whom were teachers. He was educated at Christ's College, Finchley, followed by St John's College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Strawson first became well known with his article "On Referring" (1950), a criticism of Bertrand Russell's Theory of Descriptions (see also Definite descriptions) that Russell explained in the famous "On Denoting" article (1905).
In philosophical methodology, there are (at least) two important and interrelated features of Strawson's work that are worthy of note. The first is the project of a 'descriptive' metaphysics, and the second is his notion of a shared conceptual scheme, composed of concepts operated in everyday life. In his book Individuals (1959), Strawson attempts to give a description of various concepts that form an interconnected web, representing (part of) our common, shared, human conceptual scheme. In particular, he examines our conceptions of basic particulars, and how they are variously brought under general spatio-temporal concepts. What makes this a metaphysical project is that it exhibits, in fine detail, the structural features of our thought about the world, and thus precisely delimits how we, humans, think about reality.
Strawson was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1960 and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1969 to 1970. He was knighted, in 1977, for services to philosophy.
After serving as a captain in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers during World War II, Strawson married Ann Martin in 1945. They had four children, including the philosopher Galen Strawson. He lived in Oxford all his adult life and died in hospital on 13 February 2006 after a short illness. P. F. Strawson was elder brother to Major General John Strawson.
- Introduction to Logical Theory. London: Methuen, 1952.
- Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics. London: Methuen, 1959.
- German translation by F. Scholz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1972)
- French translation by A. Shalom and P. Drong (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1973)
- Italian translation by E. Bencivenga (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1978)
- Japanese translation by N. Nakamura (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo, 1978)
- Polish translation by B. Chwedenczuk (Warsaw: Wydawniczy Pax, 1980)
- Spanish translation by A. Suarez and L. Villanueva (Madrid: Taurus, 1989)
- The Bounds of Sense: An Essay on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. London: Methuen, 1966.
- Spanish translation by C. Luis Andre (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1975)
- German translation by E. Lange (Hain, 1981)
- Italian translation by M. Palumbo (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1985)
- Japanese translation, 1987
- Logico-Linguistic Papers. London: Methuen, 1971
- Freedom and Resentment and other Essays. London: Methuen, 1974
- Subject and Predicate in Logic and Grammar. London: Methuen, 1974
- Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
- Analysis and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
- Entity and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Philosophical Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Philosophical Subjects: Essays Presented to P. F. Strawson, ed. Zak Van Straaten (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980)
- Leibniz and Strawson: A New Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics, Clifford Brown (Munich: Philosophia Verlag, 1990)
- Ensayos sobre Strawson, ed. Carlos E. Carosi (Montevideo: Universidad de la Republica, 1992)
- The Philosophy of P. F. Strawson, ed. Pranab Kumar Sen and Roop Rekha Verma (Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1995)
- The Philosophy of P. F. Strawson, Lewis E. Hahn, ed. (Open Court, 1998)
- Theories of Truth, Richard Kirkham (MIT Press, 1992). (Chapter 10 contains a detailed discussion of Strawson's performative theory of truth.)
- Strawson & Kant: ensaios comemorativos aos 50 anos de The Bounds of Sense. GELAIN, Itamar Luís & CONTE, Jaimir (Org.) Pelotas: NEPFIL (On-line), 2016.
- Ensaios sobre a filosofia de Strawson. CONTE, Jaimir & GELAIN, Itamar Luís (Org.). Florianópolis: Editora UFSC, 2015.
- Strawson and Kant, ed. Hans-Johann Glock (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
- Sir Peter Strawson (1919–2006), Univ Newsletter, Issue 23, page 4, Hilary 2006.
- Peter Strawson, Clifford Brown (Acumen Publishing, 2006)
- Free Will and Reactive Attitudes: Perspectives on P. F. Strawson's 'Freedom and Resentment'. Micheal McKenna and Paul Russell, forthcoming.[clarification needed]