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News: July/August 2011

Big cache of Wittgenstein notes found • Jenny Saul named Woman Philo of the Year • Getting medieval with philosophical problems — News reports by Sue Roberts

Wittgenstein Archive Discovered

The existence of a big archive of previously unknown notes and manuscripts by Ludwig Wittgenstein, unseen since the chaotic days of the Second World War, has been revealed by the Cambridge academic Prof Arthur Gibson. The enormous task of investigation was undertaken by Prof Gibson, who was himself taught by two of Wittgenstein’s most distinguished students (Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach) while he was at Cambridge. The archive runs to about 170,000 words plus mathematical equations, and is said to offer rare insights into the mind of the great philosopher. It is also enlightening with regard to his relationship with the young Francis Skinner who, as his scribe, was responsible for recording the material. Skinner, who was also his lover and companion, died from polio at the age of just 29. The distraught Wittgenstein sent the archive to one of his students and it remained unexplored for decades. One of the most exciting finds is the only known handwritten version of Wittgenstein’s Brown Book which contained notes from his Cambridge lectures in the mid-30s. There are an additional sixty pages of manuscript for the Brown Book with a revised opening, and another exercise book which may or may not be the long-sought Pink or Yellow Book.

It is hoped that the research will be published as a book within a year. Professor Gibson says: “The archive shows that unpredicted and new revolutionary matters still await us in Wittgenstein’s philosophy and scientific knowledge that we incorrectly think we already understand.”

Woman Philosopher of the Year

The Society for Women in Philosophy has awarded the title of Distinguished Woman Philosopher of 2011 to Dr Jennifer Saul of the University of Sheffield. Her book Feminism: Issues and Arguments (OUP, 2003) has been widely praised. The awarding committee noted: “Her work on implicit bias has done much to bring in allies to the advancement of women in philosophy, including many who would not ordinarily consider themselves feminist.” Jenny Saul is also one of the founders and co-bloggers for the Feminist Philosophers blog, an excellent transcontinental forum for highlighting gender bias. The blog has led to the ‘Gendered Conference Campaign’ and the ‘What is it like to be a Woman in Philosophy?’ messageboards.

For Young Fellows? No

The National Humanities Center has endowed a fellowship in philosophy in memory of the philosopher and theologian Philip Quinn, who died in 2004. It will be awarded to young women philosophers on an annual basis. The fellowship will be to support a year in residence at the National Humanities Center with a stipend of $50,000. Applicants should submit the Center’s standard form, available at nationalhumanitiescenter.org

Scholastics Attempt a Comeback

Do you want to know the number of angels who can dance on the top of an iPod? Scholasticism was the dominant philosophical approach for much of the Middle Ages, with major thinkers including William of Occam and Thomas Aquinas. ‘Scholastic’ has since come to denote a nitpicking, overly-academic style. However Ontos, the international publisher in philosophy and mathematical logic, has just announced a new series of books under the heading Contemporary Scholasticism. The publicity material says that the series will provide a forum for the growing community of philosophers who are interested in applying insights drawn from Aristotelian and scholastic traditions to current philosophical debate. The series will be edited by Edward Feser and Edmund Runggalier.


It’s Our 20th Anniversary!

Philosophy Now Issue 1 On 27th May 1991 a truck driver unloaded a big pile of brown cardboard boxes on my doorstep, and Issue 1 of Philosophy Now was out. Printing it had cost all of my savings. Its cover was great but inside it looked a bit rough, as I didn’t have much idea about typesetting and anyway was using software intended for writing letters, not designing magazines. Still, it had some wonderful articles, by Antony Flew, Robin Attfield, Andrew Belsey, Dan Hutto and many more. I piled the boxes in my front room, and the intoxicating smell of printer’s ink filled the house.

This summer sees the magazine’s 20th anniversary. Many, many thanks to all the readers and contributors down the years who have helped us to build up a magazine for everyone interested in ideas, and made this anniversary possible. We’ve had fun. There will be a Philosophy Now birthday party in London later in the year, to which all readers and contributors are invited. We’ll put details in the next issue and on our website.

Rick Lewis & the team.

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