The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding: Reflections on the Thought of Barry Stroud

ISBN : 9780195381658

Jason Bridges; Niko Kolodny; Wai-hung Wong
320 Pages
167 x 241 mm
Pub date
Jan 2012
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Barry Stroud's work has had a profound impact on a very wide array of philosophical topics, including epistemological skepticism, the nature of logical necessity, the interpretation of Hume, the interpretation of Wittgenstein, the possibility of transcendental arguments, and the metaphysical status of color and value. And yet there has heretofore been no book-length treatment of his work. The current collection aims to redress this gap, with 13 essays on Stroud's work by a diverse group of contributors including some of his most distinguished interlocutors and promising recent students. All but one essay is new to this volume. The essays cover a range of topics, with a particular focus on Stroud's treatments of skepticism and subjectivism. There are also chapters on Stroud's views on meaning and rule-following, on Hume on personal identity, and on the role of desires in the explanation of action. Despite the diversity, the essays are unified by the thematic unity in Stroud's own writings. Stroud approaches every philosophical problem by attempting to get as clear as possible on the nature and source of that problem. He aims to determine what kind of understanding philosophical questions are after, and what the prospects for achieving that understanding might be. This theme-of the nature and possibility of philosophical understanding-is introduced in the opening essay of this volume and recurs in different ways throughout the remaining chapters. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the philosophy of philosophy. As these essays show, one important source of insight on this subject is the thought of Barry Stroud, for whom pursuit of the philosophy of philosophy has always been indistinguishable from pursuit of philosophy as such.


1. Introduction: The Question to Understand Philosophy
2. Rethinking Hume's Second Thoughts about Personal Identity
Skepticism and Knowledge
3. External World Scepticism and the Structure of Epistemic Entitlement
4. Stroud and Pyrrhonism
5. Transcendental and Circular Reasoning
6. Stroud's Proposal for Removing the Threat of Skepticism
7. What the Skeptic Still Can't Learn from How We Use the Word 'Know'
Meaning and Reason
8. Inside and Outside Language: Stroud's Nonreductionism about Meaning
9. Dispositions and Rational Explanation
Subjectivism and Reality
10. Colours as Secondary Qualities
11. Intelligible Causation
12. Unsettling Subjectivism about Value
13. Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Time

About the author: 

Bridges: Philosophy, University of Chicago; Kolodny: Philosophy, UC Berkeley; Wong: Philosophy, CSU Chico

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