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Alan Nelson

Very interesting!

Nicholas Denyer

So you count on Geach not to recognise the best in McTaggart's approach? What do you think his Truth, Love and Immortality misses?

James Camien McGuiggan

"These involve (self-serving) ideas about what counts as legitimate and intelligible philosophical speech."

Are you aware of any serious attempt to articulate these? Or is it just the implicit ideas that manifest in political criticisms of people such as Derrida? Am trying to build a bibliography of it.

Eric Schliesser


David Gordon

Didn't Geach admire Schopenhauer?

Kenneth Pearce

I'm also curious about the Geach comment. Another characteristic of early to mid-century analytic philosophy was the marginalization of theism/religion (in stark contrast to, e.g., William James and Josiah Royce), to which Anscombe and Geach are probably the most prominent exceptions. Geach often draws on Aquinas whom Carnap or Ayer would regard as sheer nonsense. Of course one might very well be a boundary enforcer while at the same time disputing with the other boundary enforcers about where exactly the boundary should be. But I was wondering what you had in mind there.

Eric Schliesser

Don't take my word on it (read Geach's papers and reviews). But here is something in the public record: "He tended to look over people's shoulders when talking to them, as if at some impersonal truth, was famously irascible and failed to suffer gladly anything he considered to conflict with Catholic doctrine, even if uttered by respected clerics. He once stood up during a sermon, shouting "This is heresy", and marched his family out of the church. In Who's Who he listed his recreations as "Reading stories of detection, mystery and horror; collecting and annotating old bad logic texts"."

Alan Nelson

I wonder whether journal capture trailed "department capture," at least in the U.S. Apart from the fact that JP and PR were house journals at leading departments, Ph.D. specialties, jobs, and prestige are controlled by departments.

Nicholas Denyer

Don't worry. I won't take your word on it. I have read a lot of Geach's papers and reviews - and books. I still ask which of the best things about McTaggart you rely on his McTaggart book to overlook. And it really doesn't do to quote the Guardian. In the McTaggart book, Geach suffers very gladly, so badly as to write a sympathetic exposition of it, a philosophy that he was well aware conflicts with Catholic doctrine.

Eric Schliesser

Look, you are entitled to your opinion. But you need to provide evidence and not just argue from your purported authority. (You may not like the Guardian, but I provided actual evidence.)

The McTaggart book is genuinely interesting and does engage seriously with McTaggart. But as I said above, it can't quite get Hegel into proper focus. In fact, although I don't think of myself as an expert on these matters, from my vantage point the McTaggart book is really a means to promote Geach's own views in light of Dummett's rehabilitation of (features of) McTaggart's argument.

Nicholas Denyer

The McTaggart book is proof positive that Geach sometimes expounded carefully and sympathetically theses and arguments with which he disagreed. If you think that he agrees with all that he expresses in the body of the book, then you should look again at the preface, p. 8: "my agreement is not to be assumed unless I explicitly say that I agree with McTaggart." The McTaggart book is also conclusive refutation of the claim in the Guardian that Geach "failed to suffer gladly anything he considered to conflict with Catholic doctrine." For the ideas of McTaggart that Geach expounds are often - as Geach was well aware - in conflict with Catholic doctrine.

There remains the original claim that Geach "could be counted on never to recognize what is best in other approaches." This could be true, even given the McTaggart book. For it could be that the ideas of McTaggart that Geach expounded were not McTaggart's best. Indeed, according to the original claim, we can count on that being so. So what is the best idea in McTaggart? What is this idea of which you think, when you get to the end of Geach's book on McTaggart, and say to yourself "Geach never saw that idea and its virtues - which is exactly what I was counting on in advance."?

By the way, did you see that Guardian now talks of Orwell's "doublespeak" when it means doublethink? It really is not to be relied on for anything in the way of sophisticated detail.


Eric Schliesser

Mr. Denyer, I am willing to grant that, perhaps, I overstated the case against Geach (who surely expounded views with which he disagreed), although I do not withdraw the claim that he is exemplary of a certain kind of intellectual bullying that helped facilitate analytical philosophy's institutional power. (Your unwillingness to even confront that part -- the main part -- of the issue kind of suggests you share in the vice I attribute to Geach?) But as I pointed out, I don't think the McTaggart book really undermines my position (although I'll happily re-read it at some point): Geach is sympathetic to McTaggart in so far as it serves him to advance his own philosophical purposes (which are not McTaggart's)--again, he does not develop the resources to understand McTaggart's Hegelianism (and so Geach's sympathy is rather limited). And, as I pointed out above, I strongly suspect that the turn to McTaggart is motivated by Dummett. Since we're fast reaching diminishing returns in this exchange, I'll happily let you have the last word.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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