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date: 20 February 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

In the preface to his pioneering book on Frege, published in 1973, Michael Dummett remarked that a book without a preface is like arriving at someone’s house for dinner and being shown straight to the table. There is a huge feast on offer in the present volume, and even though the starters may be more than enough to whet the appetite, an amuse bouche should be offered first in the reception lounge. Given that one of the aims of this volume is to elucidate the historical origins of analytic philosophy, which is now the dominant tradition in the philosophical world, it is only right that I say something here about the origins of this book and the form it came to take. Menus, too, have a history.

The publication of this book is the clearest sign yet that history of analytic philosophy is now recognized as a subfield of philosophy in its own right. As Peter Momtchiloff emailed me back in September 2006, in inviting me to edit this volume in the Oxford Handbook series, ‘I believe that now is an ideal time for this, a collective study of a subject that is really taking off.’ Over the weeks that followed I had extensive discussion with Peter and several colleagues and friends, some of whom have contributed to this Handbook, about the form the Handbook should take and the possible chapters and authors. The proposal drawn up went to four advisers, and valuable comments and suggestions were received. I then began the process of inviting contributors, and the negotiations and correspondence we engaged in helped shape other chapters and fed back into the discussions that continued throughout the editorial project. Several contributors kept in touch with others writing on related topics, and drafts were circulated and comments passed. It was an exciting period, as I became more aware myself of just what interesting stories there were to tell and of what issues became important in the analytic tradition.

Right from the beginning, the Handbook was intended as more than a mere survey of developments in analytic philosophy, and I encouraged contributors to take their own line through the material they covered and to reflect on what doing history of analytic philosophy involved. This is not a history of analytic philosophy by many hands, in other words, though much light has certainly been shed on key chapters in that history. Rather, it is a genuine handbook, representing and bringing together the best work in the area over recent years, making room for a variety of voices, and opening up new perspectives and lines of investigation, with the aim of enthusing, informing, and orienting all those with an interest in the history of analytic philosophy.

Inevitably, some chapters turned out to be rather different than I had anticipated, and the organization of the volume altered accordingly. Some people who had originally (p. vi) agreed to contribute found that they could not, after all, deliver, whether because of illness, other commitments, or the realization (so they said) that they had nothing new to say, and two people disappeared into a black hole of electronic silence. This was when the most difficult decisions had to be taken: whether to recommission, to find ways in which the resultant gaps might be filled in other chapters, or simply to drop the topic. As more and more chapters came in, the options for recommissioning reduced, as the obligations to those who had already sent in their chapters built up. I am especially grateful to several authors for agreeing to contribute at a later stage in the project and to a much tighter schedule. In the end, with much regret, I did have to call it a day on a few of the originally planned contributions. Perhaps I should have cracked the whip earlier, but I hope I achieved the right balance between inclusion and delay.

I was often conscious of the paradox of editing—or more precisely, of the paradox that arises from setting deadlines to contributors. Contributors would want to know when the final (or final final) deadline was, understanding by that the date when all the contributions bar their own would have been sent in. No one actually said ‘Let me know when you’ve received the last chapter but mine, and I promise to send you mine within two weeks from then’, though an editor of another Oxford Handbook told me that this had indeed been said to them, and I am sure that something like this thought crossed the minds of one or two of the present contributors (and it does not help when they are in contact with one another!). Although I will never edit something as large as this ever again (I say to myself with some determination), I may yet do some further editing, so I had best not own up in public to the strategy I adopted for resolving the paradox, or the more ruthless strategy that I sometimes wondered whether I should have followed.

All these facts are salutary reminders of the contingencies that affect the publication of all books, which the historian of analytic philosophy should bear in mind just like every other historian. Looking back at the original proposal submitted to Oxford University Press, I am aware of how much has changed. Excellent papers have been added that were not envisaged, but equally, some chapters originally planned have had to be dropped, for one reason or another. I am extremely happy with the resultant set of contributions, although I would have recommissioned chapters on one or two topics had time not been running out (and the constraints of space allowed). The Handbook will be made available online, however, and I have been told that further chapters can be added for the online edition. I also look forward to updating the chronology and bibliography as a continual resource for future work in history of analytic philosophy. I would be delighted to receive suggestions for additions to the online edition.

This book has taken up far more of my life than I anticipated when I agreed to edit it: thousands of emails have been exchanged since that first email from Peter Momtchiloff, and I have often read and commented on more than one draft of a chapter, most chapters ending up rather longer than originally intended. When I look at the size of my mailbox folder for this Handbook, I realize just how impossible it would have been to edit it without email. (The effect of all our new technology on both the practice of philosophy and the study of its history has scarcely begun to be appreciated, and strikes me as both facilitating and terrifying, in equal measure, for future historians of philosophy.) (p. vii) There have been the usual highs and lows involved in any editorial project, but I regard it as an enormous privilege to have been given the opportunity to work with so many of the leading scholars in the field. What has been most satisfying is the sense of having contributed to a genuinely cooperative enterprise that I am certain will be valued for a long time to come.

I am grateful to many people both for help and support with this project and for inspiration and advice over the years in my own work on the history of analytic philosophy. I would like to thank, first, each and every contributor to this volume: I have learnt much from their chapters and from our discussions, which have helped shape both the volume as a whole and my own editorial material. Many of the contributors have encouraged and influenced me in all sorts of other ways over the years, especially Tom Baldwin, Stewart Candlish, Sean Crawford, Jonathan Dancy, Cora Diamond, Juliet Floyd, Gottfried Gabriel, Hanjo Glock, Nick Griffin, Peter Hacker, Gary Hatfield, Peter Hylton, Michael Kremer, Bernard Linsky, Robert May, Erich Reck, Sanford Shieh, Peter Simons, John Skorupski, Charles Travis, and Thomas Uebel.

Second, I would like to thank all those others who have helped me, in various ways, in my work on the history of analytic philosophy, whether in email correspondence or in discussion at conferences and seminars. Here the list is extensive, and I can only mention a few: Andy Arana, Ken Blackwell, Rosalind Carey, Chen Bo, James Connelly, Josie D’Oro, Philip Ebert, Sébastien Gandon, Warren Goldfarb, Dirk Greimann, Han Linhe, Chris Hookway, Jiang Yi, Wolfgang Künne, Dermot Moran, Koji Nakatogawa, John Ongley, Marco Panza, Carlo Penco, Eva Picardi, Michael Potter, Aaron Preston, Tom Ricketts, Marcus Rossberg, Eric Schliesser, Peter Sullivan, Amie Thomasson, Maria van der Schaar, Pierre Wagner, Crispin Wright, and Yu Junwei.

Third, I have been fortunate to have had many colleagues and students over the years, in a number of institutions, with whom I have had fruitful discussions of analytic philosophy, its history, and methodological and historiographical issues. Again, I can only list a few here (not already mentioned): David Bell, Hanno Birken-Bertsch, Dan Brigham, Cristina Chimisso, Wonbae Choi, Bob Clark, James Clarke, Martin Davies, Mauro Engelmann, Jeremy Gray, Wolfgang Kienzler, Peter Lamarque, Sandra Lapointe, Marie McGinn, Peter Millican, Volker Peckhaus, Barry Smith, Tom Stoneham, Christian Thiel, Roger White, David Wiggins, Adrian Wilson, and Rachael Wiseman.

Fourth, I am grateful to all those who have been involved in the production of this volume for Oxford University Press. Peter Momtchiloff has been the perfect editor, initiating the project with enthusiasm, guiding it with encouragement and sound advice, and responding at every stage promptly and adeptly. In the final stages, Jo North has done a superb job in copy-editing such a huge text, and Ellie Collins has been equally efficient in handling the cover design and publicity, and Sree Viswananthan in coordinating the production process. I am also indebted to Jim Driscoll for his help in proof-reading the entire volume, and to James Bridge for compiling the index.

Last, but not by any means least, I thank my family for living through this project with me: my wife Sharon and our children Tara, Thomas, and Harriet. Tara’s work on German literature and philosophy and Thomas’s medical training and research in the history of (p. viii) medicine have informed our family discussions of historical and historiographical topics. Taking Harriet through her AS-level course in philosophy was more valuable to me than I think she realizes. I would especially like to thank Harriet for suggesting the work of Paul Nash for the front cover, the design of which was also a matter of family discussion. Born in the same year as Wittgenstein, Collingwood, and Heidegger, Nash was one of the pioneers and promoters of modernism in Britain, founding the Unit One art movement with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and others in 1933. He painted ‘Kinetic Feature’, one of the few examples of his own abstract art, in 1931, and it was first exhibited in 1933. As made clear in Chapter 2 of this Handbook, this was just the time that the phrases ‘analytic philosopher’ and ‘analytic philosophy’ began to be used, suggesting that a new philosophical tradition was emerging.

My greatest debt, as ever, is to Sharon Macdonald, whose own work as an anthropologist and her wide-ranging intellectual interests have inspired and informed my own writing and thinking in ways that no historian, and least of all myself, could possibly do justice to. The final stages of completing the editing of this book have coincided with the finishing of Sharon’s own book on memorylands; and we have shared both the excitements and frustrations of trying to complete major projects. I dedicate my own contribution to this volume to her. The volume as a whole is dedicated to all those who work on the history of analytic philosophy.

Michael Beaney

3 March 2013