The compositionality constraint exerted a powerful force in the direction of systematicity. In practice, the only semantic theories to exhibit (rather than merely claim) such a compositional structure were those for formally specified languages. Without such a formal semantics, a philosophy of language looked badly undeveloped to new wavers. It was partly for this reason that Austin was barely mentioned in Oxford philosophy of language by 1973, since he had no formal semantics to offer. The same went for his protégé and in some respects intellectual heir John Searle, whose major work Speech Acts looked out of date from an Oxford perspective almost as soon as it was published in 1969. Timothty Williamson “How Did We Get Here From There?” (20)
Williamson's core intellectual vice is not his parochialism (recall), but that he confuses technical sophistication with philosophical significance; this leads to a certain amount of disfiguring small-mindedness (as exemplified in his remark on Searle). He writes as if there is a research-frontier in professional philosophy and if you are not on it, then you're not in the game.+ (This may be true from the perspective of modern grant agencies, but I ignore them here.) I write the previous sentences without much fondness for Searle's philosophical projects and with considerable admiration for Williamson's achievements. But even if we grant Williamson his authoritative judgment, it is striking that in his put-down, he cannot pause to note the accomplishments of Searle's Speech Acts, which has been astonishingly influential (with close to 20,000 citations according to Scholar.Google),++ including on many worthy non-philosophical and normative projects (something not quite on Williamson's radar-screen).
While one should always defend the intrinsic worth of un-applied philosophy, there is no need to be contemptuous of the many ways in which somewhat-non-cutting-edge-philosophical-tools can have up-take within and outside philosophy. It's not as if Williamson has any philosophical resources to argue otherwise--his justification of formal philosophy is -- not unlike Carnap's -- ultimately consequentialist.* From that vantage point a dated tool that can be used is better than an advanced bit of machinery without use.
If being on the technical cutting edge were decisive in philosophy, then we would have been Platonists (yea!) with Gödel a long time ago. More seriously, if being on the cutting edge of the technical research-frontier is the key mark of philosophical success then Alonzo Church (with his students) was the seminal philosopher of the (middle of the) twentieth century; sadly, Church goes unmentioned in Williamson's story. (So does Gödel.) More important, some works are nowhere near the cutting edge, yet they can generate enduring and insightful philosophical projects. From the vantage point of Eudoxus, Plato looks like a bungler; Leibniz is obviously technically superior to and the better philosopher than Locke (and just about anybody else to have ever lived). Yet, it's not just in political philosophy that Leibniz does not hold a candle to Locke (nor Hobbes). On the same theme: if Euler had read Hume, he would have thought him an amateur, but -- as much as I love Euler -- Hume did grasp philosophical problems in a way that eluded Euler. (It's not impossible Euler did think of Kant as a bungler.) Stebbing will remain a role-model long after Dummett is forgotten. Nietzsche is not a very impressive philosopher of physics, but there are enduring reasons for why Carnap embraces him in the midst of his polemics with Heidegger (see Stone here and Sachs here for discussion).
The previous paragraph is not an argument to stay ignorant of technical developments. (Just because my systematicity is informal, it does not mean I don't recognize a better route for others.) But one important reason for the recurring pattern, that the non-technical-whizz-kids-can-contribute-to-philosophy's progress, is that as long as there are no Philosopher-Kings, the call to philosophy is not exhausted by technical problems with given constraints; we are, as of yet, far removed from being an engineering science. Another reason is that good philosophical judgment is not a consequence of technical skill.** (This is why Bradley's judgment is still quotable by Williamson despite Russell's many purported technical knock-out blows and Ayer's cheap shots.) There is also a third reason that is related to the nature of twentieth century analytical philosophy: it was, with one non-trivial exception, not systematic enough. Without full systematicity, even the most formally sophisticated philosophical project is unprotected from its own arbitrary commitments. I'll try to explain this last, undoubtedly cryptic remark in my final post on Williamson's essay, which -- despite being 'informal and unsystematic' (8) -- has quite a bit to say about systematicity, soon.