The Library of Living Philosophers
by Rick Lewis
Arthur Danto is an American analytic philosopher and art critic who has spent the last half century teaching at Columbia University. He is wideranging in his interests, but his most influential work falls into two areas. Firstly he has been one of the bridges between the two divergent traditions of thought in modern Western philosophy, by taking some major figures from the history of Continental philosophy, particularly Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre, and writing about their works treating them as if they were Anglo-American analytic philosophers. Purists may pale at the very idea, but Danto’s deep scholarship and clear writing style has pulled this stunt off with considerable success, reconnecting these thinkers to ongoing debates in the analytic tradition and thus vastly increasing their influence among the academics of Britain and North America. Until quite recently many professional philosophers in Britain dismissed Nietzsche by saying that he was more a poet or a literary figure rather than a philosopher as such; this attitude has now completely disappeared and Danto is due some of the credit for that.