Strawson, Peter Frederick

Strawson, Peter Frederick, 1919–2009, British philosopher, grad. Oxford 1940. An influential advocate for so-called ordinary language philosophy, he began teaching at Oxford in 1947 and from 1968 to 1987 was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysics. In an early article, “On Referring” (Mind, 1950), he disputed Bertrand Russell's theory of definite descriptions, drawing a distinction between referring to an entity and asserting its existence. He also disputed, on linguistic grounds, the correspondence theory of truth, maintaining that a “fact” is not something that corresponds to a true statement but something stated; facts are not something to which statements refer, rather “facts are what statements (when true) state.” In his first book, Introduction to Logical Theory (1952), Strawson studied the relationship between common language and the language of formal logic. Later his concern shifted to what he called descriptive metaphysics, a description of the actual structure of our thought about the world. His development of and work in this area revived interest in metaphysics as a respectable philosophic enterprise. Strawson's other works include Individuals (1959, 2d ed. 1965), The Bounds of Sense (1966), Logico-Linguistic Papers (1971), and Freedom and Restraint (1974).

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