Underappreciated Philosophical Writing of the Past 50 Years, Part 1: 1970s


Not everything notable gets noticed, and that’s true in philosophy, too.

[David Hammons, Body Print (1975)]

A valuable philosophical work may get overlooked because it was published in a lesser-known venue.  Or perhaps it was published in a part of the world or in a language that those in the mainstream tend to ignore. Perhaps sociological aspects of the profession concerning dominant writing style preferences or attitudes about the prestige of the author’s institutional affiliations led to its dismissal. Maybe it was ahead of its time, speaking to issues or presenting ideas or arguments the significance of which was only recognized much later. Maybe it was appreciated in its time, but somehow got lost in the crowd of publications since.

Over the next few weeks, I hope gather lists of underappreciated philosophical writing of the past fifty years. These are articles, books, and book chapters that today’s philosophers are not adequately recognizing as valuable.

It’s not an exact science, of course, judging both the significance of the work and the extent to which it is currently appreciated. I encourage people to err in ways that are more inclusive, as it’s better to hear about something you’ve already heard about than to miss out on hearing about something new (to you) and good.

To keep things manageable we’ll break this project into decade-long chunks. This week, let’s look at the 1970s. Readers, please share your suggestions of underappreciated works from that decade. In addition to the title and author of the work, please include a line or two about what makes it worth appreciating.

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Kevin Spencer
Kevin Spencer
1 year ago

Herbert Fingarette’s “Confucius: The Secular as Sacred” (1972). In the first chapter, Fingarette brings J.L. Austin into conversation with Confucius to show how there is a vision of language as action in The Analects that Western philosophers have failed to appreciate.Report

David Gagne
David Gagne
1 year ago

Hi,

I hope these under appreciated writings may also include some from other cultures/countries than Europe and America. I trust they will.

I love Daily Nous. Thanks for your work.Report

Kevin Spencer
Kevin Spencer
Reply to  David Gagne
1 year ago

Do you have some particular texts/authors in mind?Report

David Gagne
David Gagne
Reply to  Kevin Spencer
1 year ago

Sorry. I don’t have an immediate suggestion but I was thinking of Islamic philosophers. I know so little myself about that tradition. But it is important for Islam as it adapts to modernity and gets back in touch with its intellectual and scholarly traditions. But it also had an impact on western traditions. Wish I could be more help.Report

RICHARD T. BURYAN
Reply to  David Gagne
1 year ago

Dear Mr. Gagne:

Regarding Islamic scholarship there is the contribution of Avicenna (Ibn Sina). Consult David B. Burrell’s work titled “Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides and Aquinas.” While David concludes to ‘a negative’ theology, I do not. This is so because ‘a positive’ analogy for transcendence is offered by Barry Miller. Consult Elmar J. Kremer’s “Analysis of Existing: Barry Miller’s Approach to God.” 2014 Bloomsbury PressReport

David Gagne
David Gagne
Reply to  RICHARD T. BURYAN
1 year ago

Thanks, Richard. I will seek out the book you recommended.Report

Kazmi
Kazmi
Reply to  David Gagne
1 year ago

Mulla sadra is also a great islamic philosopher.
Ayatullah tabatabai has work related to him in thr 19th century.Report

Adam Omelianchuk
1 year ago

A paper I find myself coming back to and recommending to others again and again is a 1971 law article by Capron and Kass, “A statutory definition of the standards for determining human death” (1971). It is an enlightening treatment of our death concepts and the different organizing levels of abstraction that inform everything from our metaphysical nature to the diagnostic criteria used in determining death. The fact that it appeared in a law journal appears to be the reason a lot of philosophers working in biomedical ethics miss out on it.Report

DocFEmeritus
DocFEmeritus
Reply to  Adam Omelianchuk
1 year ago

I started teaching medical ethics in 1975 and this paper was a standard assignment. It was sometimes anthologized but I used a print out available through the Hastings Center. An excellent choice.Report

RICHARD T. BURYAN
1 year ago

For humanitarian reasons it is imperative that all read the Achievement and Invitation offered by Bernard Lonergan. Self-Appropriation is the solution for surpassing the immanent horizon of Kant and Hegel.Report

Doubtful
Doubtful
Reply to  RICHARD T. BURYAN
1 year ago

Imperative? Strong claim.Report

Doug Stalker
Doug Stalker
1 year ago

Many of Paul Ziff’s article from the 1970s are worth reading today: e.g., “Something About Conceptual Schemes”, ” The Number of English Sentences”, and “What Is Said”.Report

Ziad Shihab
Ziad Shihab
1 year ago

How about Georg Lukács and his unusually strong self-repudiation in The Theory of the Novel?Report

Umai kazmi
Umai kazmi
1 year ago
Prof. S.V. Raghurama Rao
Prof. S.V. Raghurama Rao
1 year ago

Walter Kauffmann’s “Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidopgobis to Autonomy” is a forgotten classic. His thesis comes out of a deep study of existentialists and goes beyond in formulating new ideas. He identified a fundamental psychological problem of humans of high philosophical significance. He also provides a deeper analysis of alienation. He provides a deeper critique of Rawl’s theory of justice which went unnoticed for some reason. This book is a mine of several enlightening ideas. It was published on 1973.Report

Prof. S.V. Raghurama Rao
Prof. S.V. Raghurama Rao
Reply to  Prof. S.V. Raghurama Rao
1 year ago

There are two typos in the title. The correct title is: Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy.Report

Charles Kaltwasser
Charles Kaltwasser
1 year ago

Timothy leary
wrote Jail Notes
in 1970$Report

Daniel Munoz
1 year ago

Two not-so-underrated articles from the ’70s are Taurek’s “Should the Numbers Count?” and Parfit’s reply, “Innumerate Ethics.” But in the aftermath, PPA published an Easter Egg “Correspondence” between Charles Fried (trying to defend Taurek) and Parfit (in top form).

Parfit’s reply begins with “I am puzzled” and ends with “Here again he rejects his own conclusion.” In between, he gives the first clear-eyed case (to my knowledge) of “ineffective altruism.” Such cases are now famous from the debates on “gratuitous harm” and the “all or nothing problem.” Here’s what Parfit says: “Suppose that I could save either Fried’s life or his umbrella. If both acts would involve a heroic sacrifice, I could not be criticized for choosing neither. But I could be criticized if I chose to save the umbrella.”

I’m sorry I couldn’t think of anything from a less famous philosopher. I’ll make up for it when we get to the ’80s!

Link: http://www.stafforini.com/docs/Parfit%20-%20Correspondence%202.pdfReport

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Daniel Munoz
1 year ago

Daniel,
I don’t think the Taurek piece is nearly as well known as it should be (Maybe because Taurek didn’t write anything else as far as I can tell?), so I think it might deserve to be mentioned as something of a neglected classic. I did a lot of work on ethics in grad school, but I only became aware of it a few years into my professional career. And that was because Sherri Fink, who’s not even a philosopher by training, had a nice discussion of it in her “Five Days at Memorial.” No one assigned it back when I was in grad school, which is a shame because it presents a lot more interesting criticism of utilitarianism than one finds in many of the “classics” we did get assigned.
And thanks for the link to the correspondence. It looks pretty neat.Report

Matt
Reply to  Sam Duncan
1 year ago

Taurek’s paper is cited by Scheffler, Scanlon, and others, so I don’t think it, itself, can be called “underappreciated” (especially given that Taurek himself seems not have have written much else! That has always interested me – it does seem to be a great “one hit wonder” of philosophy.) The article has been cited 520 times according to google scholar. We should all hope to be so under-appreciate!Report

John Fischer
John Fischer
Reply to  Matt
1 year ago

Taurek’s unpublished PhD dissertation was pathbreaking. It was on moral responsibility, and, in particular, blame. And he came up with counter-examples to the transfer of blamelessness (or something like that):
If S is blameless for p, and for p implies q, S is blameless for q. Very prescient. (I think my memory serves me well here, but I’m not sure. Then again, I’m reminded of Charles Barkley’s book title: I May Be Wrong, but I doubt it.”Report

just helpin
just helpin
Reply to  John Fischer
1 year ago
KRISTJAN KRISTJANSSON
KRISTJAN KRISTJANSSON
1 year ago

Kovesi’s little book Moral Notions is a forgotten gem but it may have out in the late 60s in its first edition.

Then there is all the work that R.S. Peters did in the 1970s which resusicated educational philosophy.Report

William Peden
William Peden
1 year ago

I’ve heard stories of seminars in formal epistemology where people reinvented ideas from Henry E. Kyburg’s “Subjective Probability: Criticisms, Reflections, and Problems” (1978) and in some cases this was gently pointed out to them.

Colin Howson later argued that its arguments changed the way that subjective Bayesians had to advocate their position, but I’ve noticed that this isn’t generally acknowledged. This might be because we tend to be a bit ahistorical in formal epistemology, even within our own subfield.

Plus, what a cheeky title!Report

Roland Caldwell
Roland Caldwell
1 year ago

MJ ADLER. please contact Center For Studies of Great Ideas, Chicago, IL. They have all his work available electronically.
Roland Caldwell
Fellow CSGIReport

Daniel Greco
Daniel Greco
1 year ago

How about Bernard Suits’ “The Grasshopper”, originally published in 1978?

Maybe it’s underappreciated no more–my impression is that it’s experiencing something of a revival–but I think it had a kind of cult status for a long time. Wonderful book.Report

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Daniel Greco
1 year ago

Seconding this. An amazing piece of philosophy.Report

Damien
Damien
1 year ago

Charles Taylor, “Interpretation and the sciences of man”, The Review of Metaphysics, Sept. 1971Report

Damien
Damien
1 year ago

Charles Taylor, “Interpretatipn and the sciences of man”, Review of Metaphysics, sept 1971Report

Clint Verdonschot
Clint Verdonschot
1 year ago

I get the feeling that Alan Gewirth’s Reason and Morality (1978) deserves more attention than it gets.Report

Margaret Atherton
Margaret Atherton
1 year ago

Here is one even more forgotten than the estimable Taurek paper: Edna Ullman-Margalit and Sidney Morgenbesser, “Picking and Choosing” Social Research, (1977) 757-67. Well worth reading and a reminder that Morgenbesser was not just a source of one-liners.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Margaret Atherton
1 year ago

Its companion piece “Big Decisions: Opting, Converting, Drifting” is excellent as well and it also gets nowhere the level of acknowledgement and attention that it deserves. I know mentioning it is cheating since it was published in the aughts if I’m not wrong but whatever I’ll cheat. It’s a good bit of work and really ought to be discussed a lot more in all the debates on transformative choice and related issues.Report

Eric Schliesser
Eric Schliesser
Reply to  Margaret Atherton
1 year ago

These papers are much cited and mentioned prominently in Agnes Callard’s recent book on Aspiration. But yeah, worth re-reading.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  Eric Schliesser
1 year ago

Callard may mention them but they get pretty short shrift in most other discussions of transformative or big choices. At least half the papers o transformative choice I’ve read — and I know this literature pretty well—don’t mention Ullman-Margarit and about 90% of the ones that do talk about her work discuss it in passing as an afterthought to Paul’s work or even just mention it in a footnote.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
1 year ago

I’d second “Picking and Choosing”, but also Annette Baier, “Act and Intent” The Journal of Philosophy 67 (19): 648–58. Annette was my supervisor, so I am not exactly neutral, but I think it is a real gem.Report

Grant
Grant
1 year ago

Edward Lee’s “Circular Movement as the Model of Mind (Nous) in Later Plato” (1976) and Lynne Ballew’s Straight and Circular : A Study of Imagery in Greek Philosophy (1979) are some of the best treatments of circular motion in Plato’s late dialogues but don’t seem to be that well-known.Report

Margaret Atherton
Margaret Atherton
1 year ago

Sergio’s suggestion reminds me of another great early paper of Annette Baier’s, “The Intentionality of Intentions”Review of Metaphysics, 30 (1977) 389-414, where, among other things, she says some very interesting things about George Berkeley, that many Berkeley scholars have failed to appreciate.Report

Alan White
Alan White
1 year ago

Lynne Rudder Baker:

On the Mind-Dependence of Temporal Becoming. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 39:341–57, 1979.
Temporal Becoming: The Argument from Physics. Philosophical Forum, 6:218–36, 1974.

My career-long interest in philosophy of time was greatly inspired by reading these two articles in the later 70s while dissertating. I had the privilege of meeting her many years later to tell her how formative her early works were on my own work. But by then she seem embarrassed that she had written them! Anyway her writing was/is a model of clarity and punch.Report

Jonathan Quong
Jonathan Quong
1 year ago

Hillel Steiner, “The Structure of a Set of Compossible Rights,” Journal of Philosophy (1977). The article uses two premises to derive a theory of justice and is one of the first, maybe the first, detailed formulations of left-libertarianism in contemporary political philosophy.Report

ABC
ABC
1 year ago

Basically all of Hans Blumenberg’s work is astonishing and unfortunately very ignored (he was somewhat known in the late 80s to 90s in Germany). His work on myth and metaphor is great but so is everything else he ever wrote.
(1975) The Genesis of the Copernican World
(1979) The Legibility of the World
(1979) Work on Myth
is what comes to my mind from the 70s.Report

Horst Huber
Horst Huber
Reply to  ABC
1 year ago

Seconding that, I would add the name of Odo Marquard to the underappreciated (passed away 2018), except that appreciating him requires a more than academic familiarity with German.Report

Will Small
Will Small
1 year ago

Anselm Müller, “Radical Subjectivity: Morality Versus Utilitarianism”, Ratio, 1977Report

Brad Cokelet
Brad Cokelet
1 year ago

Several early Stocker articles, including these:
1970, “Morally Good Intentions,” The Monist, 124-141.
1970, “Intentions and Act Evaluations,” The Journal of Philosophy, 589-602.
1973, “Act and Agent Evaluations,” The Review of Metaphysics, 42-61.Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
1 year ago

Two articles on Kant from the 1970s that I found very useful in my writing my dissertation occurred to me:

1. Wilfrid Sellars’s “… this I or He or It (The Thing Which Thinks)”. It’s one of the best short things I’ve ever read on Kant’s philosophy of mind and it’s got really interesting things to say about the relationship of Kant’s theoretical and moral philosophy. And yeah I now it’s been cited a few times, but it’s not much read or discussed these days. Ameriks mentions it in his excellent book on Kant’s philosophy of mind, but I’ve not seen it mentioned in recent work on Kant. Sellars had a deep knowledge of Kant’s theoretical and moral philosophy and he wasn’t afraid to admit that Kant said some things we might find crazy. Both of those things are sorely missing in a lot of contemporary Kant scholarship, especially scholarship on Kant’s moral philosophy.

2. Karl-Heinz Ilting, “Der naturalistische Fehlschluss bei Kant”. I think this one is still pretty well known in Germany, but it’s never gotten the attention it deserves in English. Some of it is sorely dated; he’s way more impressed by the naturalistic fallacy than he should be. But he makes some incredibly interesting points about how the fact of reason is supposed to work and uses Hegel to critique Kant in a novel way. I ultimately think he’s wrong about Kant, but I profited immensely from taking his criticisms seriously and figuring out why I think he’s wrong. What Ilting says about Kant and the role the consciousness of death is supposed to play in Kant’s argument also seems to open up interesting criticisms and points of contact with Heidegger and even contemporary analytic philosophers like Scheffler.Report

s. leon
s. leon
1 year ago

n. l. wilson wrote numerous papers in language, logic, and metaphysics. they’re joys to read and seem to me to deserve more recognition. see, e.g., “linguistical butter and philosophical parsnips”, “grice on meaning: the ultimate counterexample”, and many more.Report