Dr Joel Isaac (Queen Mary, University of London)

5 May 2011, 17:00 - 19:00



In this year's Balzan-Skinner Lecture, Dr Joel Isaac (Queen Mary, University of London) will discuss the analytic tradition of philosophy in the United States. The lecture will be followed by a colloquium on Friday 6 May 2011. 

In his lecture and colloquium, Dr Joel Isaac will focus on the reception of the analytic tradition of philosophy in the United States. By any measure, the migration to America of the thinkers and ideas of the Vienna Circle, of the Cambridge school of logical analysis, and of Oxford ordinary language philosophy constitutes a major event in twentieth-century intellectual history.  Historians of philosophy and political thought, philosophers, and practitioners of the social sciences gesture toward this moment of encounter when they speak of the rise of positivism in philosophy, or of the impact of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigation on the post-Second World War human sciences.  But the historical significance of this shift, and especially the fine-grained details of the ways in which the analytic tradition was formed and remoulded in America, have yet to be fully explored. In the Balzan-Skinner 2011 lecture and colloquium, Dr Joel Isaac will aim to lay down a framework for an intellectual history of the analytic turn in American philosophy and social thought.

In his lecture, Dr Joel Isaac will take up questions concerning the reception of the analytic tradition through an exploration of the career and writings of the philosopher, trained classicist, and part-time theorist of decision-making, Donald Davidson (1917-2003).  By following Davidson’s path from graduate studies on Plato’s Philebusto experimental work in decision theory to the analytic philosophy of action, mind, and language, we can assess in concrete terms how the analytic heritage of Vienna, Cambridge, and Oxford was received, re-purposed, and (in certain cases) avoided in the United States. 

The colloquium, meanwhile, will investigate these issues within a transatlantic framework.  It will examine the work and the influence of such key analytic thinkers as Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Bertrand Russell, W V Quine, Donald Davidson, J L Austin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stanley Cavell, and Richard Rorty.  The ultimate purpose of this year’s Balzan-Skinner event will be to present a preliminary survey of the ways in which analytic philosophy can be placed within the intellectual history of modern America, Britain, and Europe.

For Administrative enquiries contact Michelle Maciejewska
A programme for the colloquium will be available shortly.