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1. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Photo of Elizabeth Anscombe
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2. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
John Haldane ACPQ Special Issue on Elizabeth Anscombe: Editor's Introduction
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3. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Anthony Kenny Elizabeth Anscombe at Oxford
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Anscombe first became famous in Oxford for her opposition to the awarding of an honorary degree to President Truman. Very soon thereafter, however, the publication of Intention established her as an important figure in British philosophy. “Modern Moral Philosophy” marked her difference from contemporary Oxford moral philosophers and introduced a set of ideas that subsequently had great influence. At Oxford she was a singular figure but extremely welcoming to graduate students. While she gave much time to the translation, interpretation, and teaching of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, she also doubted its compatibility with the Catholicism, to which she had converted and to which she was staunchly committed.
4. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Arthur Gibson Anscombe, Cambridge, and the Challenges of Wittgenstein
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In the decade between Elizabeth Anscombe’s arrival in Cambridge in 1942 and Wittgenstein’s death in 1951 she became in turn a student, a friend, and then a chosen translator of his work. His choice of her as translator and literary heir speaks for itself, but it is not widely appreciated that the position she came to occupy contrasted with aspects of his Cambridge life prior to her taking up a research studentship at Newnham College. Anscombe came to be a profound and original philosopher. Perhaps Wittgenstein’s engagement with her presupposed an inkling of her qualitative gifts later attested to by Donald Davidson, who estimated her short monograph Intention to be “the most important treatment of action since Aristotle.” It is impressive that while living amid the throes of WWII, giving birth to a large family, often engaging with forces surrounding Wittgenstein, and holding her own with him, she was simultaneously crafting her own philosophical progress. Twenty years after his death she was appointed to the Chair of Philosophy at Cambridge that he had occupied when they first met.
5. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Rachael Wiseman The Intended and Unintended Consequences of Intention
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This paper examines the context in which Anscombe wrote Intention—focusing on the years 1956–1958. At this time Anscombe was engaged in a number of battles against her university, her colleagues, and, ultimately, “the spirit of the age,” which included her public opposition to Oxford University’s decision to award Harry Truman an honorary degree. Intention, I show, must be understood as a product of the explicitly ethical and political debates in which Anscombe was involved. Understanding the intention with which she wrote Intention suggests that we need radically to rethink its nature and character, and that the consequences of the book for work in ethics—consequences Anscombe foresaw and intended—are yet to be understood.
6. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Candace Vogler Nothing Added: Intention §§19 and 20
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Although most work in contemporary Anglophone philosophical action theory understands Elizabeth Anscombe’s monograph on Intention as the work that inaugurates the field, action theory often operates by setting out to understand intentional action by investigating the psychological antecedents of intention action. Now, Anscombe has no quarrel with moral psychology. Intention is a work of moral psychology, but it is a kind of moral psychology in which we attend to the act of deliberately making something the case in order to understand having a mind to make something the case. The more usual approach takes things the other way around. Anscombe attempted to ward off such approaches in Intention. If the arguments of §19 are any good, for example, they ought to tell against the mind-first approach in contemporary Anglophone ethics and action theory. If the arguments of §20 work, then they ought to dispel any sense that Anscombe is prone to behaviorism. Together, the arguments in §§19 and 20 are meant to clear the ground necessary for work on practical knowledge. In this essay, I give a reading of these difficult, crucial sections of Anscombe’s monograph in order to explore her arguments.
7. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
John Zeis Anscombe and the Metaphysics of Human Action
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In “Causality and Determination,” Anscombe rejects the two received opinions on the nature of causality in the modern philosophical tradition. She rejects the Humean conception of universal generalization based on the constant conjunction in experience of cause and effect, and she also rejects the notion that causality entails a necessary connection between cause and effect. As an alternative, she suggests that the core notion of causality is one of the derivativeness of the effect from the cause. Her consideration of causality ranges generally over all types of causality, but I believe that the most significant implication of her position is in application to the causality of human action. In this paper, I will articulate what I take to be that position.
8. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
T. A. Cavanaugh Anscombe, Thomson, and Double Effect
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In “Modern Moral Philosophy” Anscombe argues that the distinction between intention of an end or means and foresight of a consequentially comparable outcome proves crucial in act-evaluation. The deontologist J. J. Thomson disagrees. She asserts that Anscombe mistakes the distinction’s moral import; it bears on agent-evaluation, not act-evaluation. I map out the contours of this dispute. I show that it implicates other disagreements, some to be expected and others not to be expected. Amongst the expected, one finds the ethicists’ accounts of action and understanding of how agent-assessment relates to act-assessment. Amongst the unexpected, one finds the moralists’ views about the possibility of self-imposed moral dilemmas and allied positions concerning temporal aspects of “ought implies can.” Anscombe’s employment of the distinction in act-evaluation withstands close scrutiny; Thomson’s denial of it does not.
9. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Sarah Broadie Practical Truth in Aristotle
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An interpretation is offered of the Aristotelian concept of “practical truth” in the wake of Anscombe’s very interesting exegesis. Her own interpretation is considered and its merits noted, but a question is raised as to its plausibility as an account of what Aristotle himself intended in speaking of “truth that is practical” (he alētheia praktikē).
10. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Cora Diamond Asymmetries in Thinking about Thought: Anscombe and Wiggins
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My essay is concerned with two kinds of case of asymmetries in thinking about thought. If one says that there is nothing else to think but that so and so, one may mean either that there are no considerations which could make it reasonable to think the opposite, or that to think anything else is to be in a muddle, not really to be thinking anything. A case of the latter sort is important in Elizabeth Anscombe’s criticism of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, while a case of the former sort is important for David Wiggins’s thought about truth in ethics. After setting out the issues, I examine Anscombe’s view and situate it in relation to ideas of Frege’s and Wittgenstein’s. I then turn to ethics and consider the relation between Anscombe’s view and that of Wiggins.
11. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Roger Teichmann The Identity of a Word
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What is it for the same word or expression (written, spoken, or otherwise produced) to occur in two different contexts? One is inclined to say that the word “rat” does not occur in “Socrates loved Plato,” but it is harder to justify this statement than might be thought. This issue lies in the midst of a tangle of issues, a number of which are investigated in an important but little-discussed article of Anscombe’s, in which she considers the question whether the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations can be read as proposing a “micro-reductionist” theory of language: i.e., a theory which states non-circular conditions for any given sound’s (or shape’s) having a meaning. Anscombe answers the question negatively; and indeed there are obstacles faced by any such theory of language. Our investigation turns out to have implications not only within philosophy of language, but also within (for example) philosophy of psychology.
12. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Anscombe Thought and Reality
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In this essay, Anscombe describes the Aristotelian account of how the intellect makes actually intelligible the forms of material particulars, and thereby is able to fashion concepts and think of those things. She identifies difficulties in it having to do with the differing “content” of concepts and of forms, and the generality of the former. She then contrasts that account with the Lockean theory of ideas as representations and with Hume’s development of the ideational view which holds that all we can ever conceive of are ideas and impressions. She next compares the Aristotelian isomorphist account with that of Wittgenstein in the Tractatus, showing that while both avoid the sceptical implication of the theory of ideas, a question arises regarding the relation of names to their bearers and how to understand ostensible names. Finally, Anscombe outlines Anselm’s treatment of “nothing” but notes its limits as a general treatment. (Ed. J.H.)
13. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
John Finnis On Anscombe’s “Royal Road” to True Belief 
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This essay draws upon observations made by Elizabeth Anscombe regarding, respectively, the mutual need of scientific theory and philosophical analysis, the manner in which human rationality may show itself as a principle of bodily action, and the fulfilment in the New Testament of the central promise of Hebrew scripture. It examines something of the nature of material organization and the incorporation and subsumption of that into living systems, among which emerges the human, rational form of life. Noting the distinctness of the human soul as a principle of thought, reflection, and free choice, certain aspects of scripture are identified and explored to suggest what Anscombe may, or might well, have had in mind in speaking of a “royal road.”
14. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 90 > Issue: 2
John Haldane Anscombe and Geach on Mind and Soul
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Anscombe and Geach were among the most interesting philosophers to have come out of Oxford in the twentieth century. Even before they encountered Wittgenstein, they had begun to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries, and in the course of their work they moved between highly abstract and often technical issues, and themes familiar to non-academics, the latter aptly illustrated by the title of Geach’s first collection of essays, God and the Soul, and by that of Anscombe’s analysis of human sexual acts, “Contraception and Chastity.” I consider their early work together and illustrate its influence on later writings by each. I then examine the ideas and arguments advanced in those writings in so far as they bear upon the issue of materialism and the question of the existence and nature of the soul. Finally, I respond to their somewhat skeptical arguments, though I conclude that there is also reason to acknowledge the propriety of what I will term “spiritual agnosticism.”