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Sir P. F. Strawson (Sir Peter Frederick) Biography

(1919– ), (Sir Peter Frederick), Introduction to Logical Theory, Individuals, an Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics

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British philosopher, born in London, the son of a schoolmaster, educated at St John's College, Oxford. After military service between 1940 and 1946, he began teaching philosophy at University College of North Wales, Bangor; from 1947 onward he lectured at Oxford, becoming Wayneflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in 1968. He was knighted in 1977 for his contributions to philosophy, which have been chiefly concerned with theories of language and metaphysics. Introduction to Logical Theory (1952) gained wide notice for its extension of what is termed ‘ordinary language philosophy’ to an exacting consideration of its implications for formal logic. Strawson maintained that the techniques of logical analysis were not equipped to deal with the complexity and range of normal usages; his attention to the nature of linguistic functions in relation to truth led to an insistence on the distinction between the active and descriptive capacities of language. During the mid-1950s he developed his ideas on ‘descriptive metaphysics’, a designation he introduced to differentiate his work from speculative metaphysics, which he viewed as preoccupied with establishing conceptual systems. Individuals, an Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics appeared in 1959, comprehensively examining the structures of thought by means of which we apprehend reality and identifying particular material objects as the basis for theories of knowledge; the book is regarded as having re-established metaphysics as a branch of philosophical discourse. Among Strawson's other works are The Bounds of Sense (1966), his provocative commentary on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781); Freedom and Resentment (1974), a study of moral and relational attitudes; and Skepticism and Naturalism, Some Varieties (1985), four lectures out of which a flexible mode of naturalism emerges in the course of a concentrated review of his work to date.

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