April Pick | Selected by Dr Farbod Akhlaghi

Timothy Williamson, The Philosophy of Philosophy

Philosophers rarely explicitly state and defend views about what philosophical questions are about, how philosophy ought to be done, what counts as evidence in philosophy, or other questions about the nature of philosophy itself.

Timothy Williamson (whose first position was at Trinity!) fortunately bucks this trend. First published in 2007, I encountered The Philosophy of Philosophy as an undergraduate and admired how Williamson tackled these questions head-on. Full disclosure: Williamson co-supervised my doctorate, but I thought this book was excellent years before that!

Williamson’s book is a clarion call for greater ‘methodological self-consciousness’ in philosophy. He argues against thinking philosophy is implicitly just concerned with analysing language and/or concepts or that philosophy has a method different in kind from the sciences, and for accounts of how philosophers can discover necessary truths and justifiably use thought experiments – and much more.

All good philosophy books are good partly because of how they push us to ask the right questions, even if we only then discover why we disagree with the author! On that score, Williamson’s book is exemplary in laying down an influential challenge to think more carefully about philosophy itself whilst we do it; to never settle for ‘muddling through’.

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Dr Farbod Akhlaghi

Visiting Research Fellow, Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin

Farbod is a Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy at Christ's College, University of Cambridge and a Visiting Research Fellow at TCD. His primary research focuses on moral philosophy, metaphysics, & their intersections.

From Aug 2024, he will be an Assistant Professor in Moral Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

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