The concluding paragraph of P.M.S. Hacker’s review of Timothy Williamson’s The Philosophy of Philosophy, taken from the latest Philosophical Quarterly.
The Philosophy of Philosophy fails to characterize the linguistic turn in analytic philosophy. It fails to explain why many of the greatest analytic philosophers thought philosophy to be a conceptual investigation. It does not explain what a conceptual truth is or was taken to be, but mistakenly assimilates conceptual truths to analytic ones. It holds that philosophy can discover truths about reality by reﬂection alone, but does not explain how. It holds that some philosophical truths are conﬁrmable by experiments, but does not say which. It misrepresents the methodology of the empirical sciences and the diﬀerences between the sciences and philosophy. It has nothing whatsoever to say about most branches of philosophy. But it does provide an adequate ‘self-image’ of the way Williamson does philosophy.
I’ll hopefully have a chance to return to some of the substantive points Hacker makes, or tries to make, here. It’s interesting to think about what conceptual truth might be if not analytic truth. (Is the distribution of primes a conceptual truth that’s synthetic? What about geometric facts? What about moral facts? These seem to be interesting questions.) But this post is largely about the rhetoric.
On the one hand, being this over the top in one’s negativity seems counter-productive. On the other, this is a relatively specific bill of charges, certainly relative to most negative reviews. (And each sentence is the conclusion of something that is argued for, with differing degrees of success, in the body of the review.) On the third hand, I don’t think I’ve seen a review this negative by someone at the same university as the reviewee for many a long year.
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized