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date: 25 August 2019

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

When Peter Momtchiloff invited us to edit The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy we sat down (over a glass of wine, truth be known) and asked ourselves how best to produce a volume that, while not being an encyclopedia, was not a handbook of one or another area of philosophy. We wanted a volume that would give readers a sense of the range and excitement of contemporary analytic philosophy (excluding formal logic) and would inform them of some of the most interesting recent developments, while being something they could hold in one hand or maybe cradle in two.

We also wanted a volume that would be a contribution to the subject. With this in mind, we invited our contributors to take the opportunity to set agendas for future discussions of the subject matters of their chapters. They were asked to produce chapters that gave a good sense of the philosophical geography of their assigned topic, but we gave them maximum flexibility in how to structure their chapters and made it clear that they were free to focus the discussion on the issues they judged to be most central and to express their own opinions. We were looking not for a mini-encyclopedia but, if you like, for a series of very high-quality opinion pieces. We were delighted with the response. Reading the chapters as they came in was an education in the contemporary philosophical scene for both of us.

Although we gave our contributors maximum flexibility, we were intrusive when it came to the topics within the various parts (moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and action, philosophy of language, meta-physics, epistemology, and philosophy of the sciences). For each part we made a judgement concerning the topics of most interest and fertility, and of course drew on our knowledge of who was working on what. For example, in the philosophy of the sciences it seemed to us that realism, laws, physics, and biology were four topics that stood out for inclusion, and we were delighted to attract four major players on those topics as contributors. Similar remarks apply to the other parts.

An example of where we drew on our knowledge of who was working on what is the chapter by John Doris and Stephen Stich, ‘As a Matter of Fact: Empirical Perspectives on Ethics’. We had heard versions of the challenging ideas in this chapter as presentations. But in fact most of the invitations to our contributors were prompted in one way or another by personal acquaintance with their work. There are also a number of chapters that we knew were in someone's head and that what was needed to make the highly desirable transfer from head to page was the right invitation.

There are topics we wish we could have included but could not find room for—or the right contributor for; and, of course, other editors would have made different choices. That's life.

Producing this volume has been a lot of work—perhaps rather more than we had expected. We are very grateful to our contributors for their contributions and in some cases their extraordinary patience, and to Peter Momtchiloff and Laurien Berkeley of Oxford University Press.

F. J. and M.S.