Elizabeth Anscombe

G. E. M. Anscombe was born in 1919 and studied Classics at St Hugh's College, Oxford (1937-41). After graduating, Anscombe held a studentship at Newnham College, Cambridge (1942-5), before returning to Oxford for a research fellowship at Somerville College (1946-7). She remained at Somerville until 1970, when she became Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge. She retired in 1986 and died in 2001. Anscombe was married to fellow-Catholic and philosopher Peter Geach, with whom she had seven children.

Anscombe is best known for her essay 'Modern Moral Philosophy' and her monograph Intention, both of which are foundational texts in their respective domains – ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ for virtue ethics and Intention for philosophy of action. She translated Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. In 1956 she protested Oxford’s decision to award an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman on the grounds that he was guilty of mass murder.

Elizabeth Anscombe


Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001)

1919 18 March: Born to Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe and Allen Wells Anscombe, in Limerick, Ireland.
1937 Graduated from Sydenham High School. From there, she went on to St. Hugh’s College, Oxford where she studied Honour Moderations and Literae Humaniores (Mods and Greats). She graduated in 1941 with first-class honours.
1939 Publication of the pamphlet "The Justice of the Present War Examined. A criticism based on traditional Catholic principles and on natural reason" (with Norman Daniel).
1941 Married philosopher Peter Geach, with whom she has seven children.
1942 Became a Research Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge (until 1945).
1946 Offered a Research Fellowship at Somerville College, Oxford.
1948 Publication of ‘A Reply to Mr. C. S. Lewis’s Argument that "Naturalism" is Self-Refuting," The Socratic Digest, 4.
1950 Publication of "The Reality of the Past" in Philosophical Analysis: A Collection of Essays, Max Black (ed), (New York: Cornell University Press).
1953 October: Publication of "Note on the English Version of Wittgenstein’s Philosophiche Untersuchungen," Mind, 62 (248), pp.521-2.
  Publication of "Symposium: The Principle of Individuation" (with Jan Lukasiewicz and Karl Popper), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 27, pp.69-120.
  Publication of her translated, and edited (with Rush Rhees) Philosophical Investigations, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Blackwell).
1954 Publication of her translated and edited (with Peter Geach) Descartes: Philosophical Writings, (London: Nelson).
  April: Publication of "Misinformation: What Wittgenstein Really Said," The Tablet.
1956 Publication of her translated and edited (with G. H. von Wright and Rush Rhees) Remarks on the Foundation of Mathe­matics, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of the pamphlet "Mr Truman’s Degree" (Oxford).[1].
  January: Publication of "Aristotle and the Sea Battle: De Interpretatione, Chapter IX," Mind, 65 (257), pp.1-15.
  June: Publication of "Analysis Competition—Tenth ‘Problem,’" Analysis, 16 (6).
1957 Publication of Intention, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "Intention," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 57 (1), pp.321-32.
  Talk: "Does Oxford Moral Philosophy Corrupt the Youth?" The Listener.
  January: Publication of "Report on Analysis ‘Problem’ No. 10," Analysis, 17 (3), pp.49-52.
  October: Publication of "Names of Words. A Reply to Dr. Whiteley," Analysis, 18 (1), pp.17-9.
1958 Publication of "Symposium: Pretending" (with J. L. Austin), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 32, pp.261-94.
  January: Publication of "Modern Moral Philosophy," Philosophy, 33 (124), and "On Brute Facts," Analysis, 18 (3), pp.69-72.
1959 Publication of An Introduction to Wittgenstein’sTractatus, (London: Hutchinson University Library Press).
  July: Publication of "Mr. Copi on Objects, Properties and Relations in the Tractatus," Mind, 68 (271), p.404.
1961 Publication of her translated and edited (with G. H. von Wright) Notebooks 1914-1916, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of Three Philosophers (with Peter Geach), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "War and Murder" in Nuclear Weapons: A Catholic Res­ponse, Walter Stein (ed), (London).
  Publication of her edited (with Raymond Klibansky) Plato: The Sophist & The Statesman, (London: Nelson).
1962 Publication of "Authority in Morals" in Problems of Authority, J. M. Todd (ed), (London: Darton, Longman & Todd).
  January: Publication of "On Sensations of Position," Analysis, 22 (3), pp.55-8.
1963 April: Publication of a critical note of Semantic Analysis, by Paul Ziff, Mind, 72 (286), pp.288-93.
  July: Publication of "The Two Kinds of Error in Action" (with Sidney Morgenbesser), The Journal of Philosophy, 60 (14), pp.393-401.
1964 Appointed a teaching Fellowship at Somerville College.
  January: Publication of "Before and After," The Philosophical Review, 73 (1), pp.3-24.
  Publication of "Substance" (with J. Körner), Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 38 (1), pp.69-90.
1965 Publication of "Thought and Action in Aristotle. What is Practical Truth?" in New Essays on Plato and Aristotle, Renford Bambrough (ed), (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).
  Publication of "The Intentionality of Sensation. A Grammatical Feature" in Analytical Philosophy – Second Series, R. J. Butler (ed), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  June: Publication of "Contraception and Natural Law," New Blackfriars, 46 (540), pp.517-21.
  December: Publication of "Retractation," Analysis, 26 (2), pp.33-6.
1966 Publication of "A Note on Mr. Bennett," Analysis, 26 (6), p.208.
  July: Publication of "The New Theory of Forms," The Monist, 50 (3), pp.403-20.
1967 Became a Fellow of the British Academy.
  Publication of her translated and edited (with G. H. von Wright) Zettel, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "Who is Wronged? Philippa Foot on ‘Double Effect:’ One Point," The Oxford Review, 5, pp.16-7.
  October: Publication of "On the Grammar of ‘Enjoy’," The Journal of Philosophy, 64 (19), pp.607-14.
1968 Publication of "You Can have Sex without Children: Christianity and the New Offer" in Renewal of Religious Structures: Proceedings of the Canadian Centenary Theological Congress, L. K. Shook (ed), (Toronto).
1969 Publication of her translated (with Denis Paul) and edited (with G. H. von Wright) On Certainty, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "On Promising and its Justice, and Whether it Need be Respectedin Foro Interno," Critica, 3 (7/8), pp.61-83.
  Publication of "Parmenides, Mystery and Contradiction," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 69, pp.125-32.
  March: Publication of "Causality and Extensionality," The Journal of Philosophy, 66 (6), pp.152-9.
1970 Moved to Cambridge University, where she was a Chair of Philosophy. She remained there until her retirement in 1986.
1971 Publication of Causality and Determination. An Inaugural Lecture, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
1972 Publication of "Contraception and Chastity," The Human World.
  December: Publication of "On the Nature of Justice in a Trial" (with J. Feldman), Analysis, 33 (2), pp.33-6.
1973 October: Publication of "Hume and Julius Caesar," Analysis, 34 (1), pp.1-7.
1974 Publication of "Comment on Professor R. L. Gregory’s Paper" in Philosophy of Psychology, S. C. Brown (ed), (London: Macmillan).
  Publication of "Memory, ‘Experience’ and Causation" in Contemporary British Philosophy: Personal Statements Fourth Series, H. D. Lewis (ed), (London: Allen and Unwin).
  Publication of "Times, Beginnings and Causes," Proceedings of the British Academy, 60.
  Publication of the pamphlet "Transubstantiation" for the Catholic Truth Society (London).
  Publication of "Comment" in Practical Reason, Stephan Körner (ed), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  April: Publication of "’Whatever Has a Beginning of Existence Must Have a Cause’: Hume’s Argument Exposed," Analysis, 34 (5), pp.145-51.
1975 Publication of "The First Person" in Mind and Language. Wolfson College Lectures 1974, Samuel Guttenplan (ed), (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
  Publication of "Subjunctive Conditionals," Ruch Filozoficzny, 33.
1976 Publication of "Soft Determinism" in Contemporary Aspects of Philosophy, Gilbert Ryle (ed), (London: Oriel Press).
  Publication of "The Question of Linguistic Idealism" in Essays on Wittgenstein in Honour of G.H. von Wright (Acta Philosophica Fennica), J. Hintikka (ed).
  Publication of "The Subjectivity of Sensation," Ajatus (Yearbook of the Philosophical Society of Finland), 36.
  May: Publication of "On the Hatred of God," Theology, 79, pp.131-2.
  June: Publication of "On Frustration of the Majority by Fulfilment of the Majority’s Will," Analysis, 36 (4), pp.161-8.
1978 Publication of "On the Source of the Authority of the State," Ratio, 20 (1), pp.1-28.
  Publication of "Will and Emotion," Grazer Philosophische Studien, 5, pp.139-48.
  September: Publication of "Rules, Rights, and Promises," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 3 (1), pp.318-23.
1979 Elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  Publication of "Chisholm on Action," Grazer Philosophische Studien, 7/8, pp.205-13.
  Publication of "What is it to Believe Someone" in Rationality and Religious Belief, C. F. Delaney (ed), (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press).
  Publication of "On Humanae Vitae" in Human Love and Human Life. Papers on Humanae Vitae and the Ovulation Method of Natural Family Planning from the International Conference,University of Melbourne, 1978, J. N. Santamaria and J. J. Billings (eds), (Melbourne: Polding Press).
  April: Publication of "Understanding Proofs: Meno, 85d9-86c2, Continued," Philosophy, 54 (208), pp.149-58.
  May: Publication of "Under a Description," Noûs, 13 (2), pp.219-33.
  Autumn: Publication of "Prolegomenon to a Pursuit of the Definition of Murder: The Illegal and the Unlawful," Dialectics and Humanism, 6 (4), pp.73-7.
  October: Publication of review of The Meaning of Illegitimacy, by J. Teichman, The Philosophical Quarterly, 29 (117), pp.375-6.
1981 Publication of From Parmenides to Wittgenstein: The Collected Philosophical Papers of G.E.M. Anscombe (Volume One), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G.E.M. Anscombe (Volume Two), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of Ethics, Religion and Politics. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G.E.M. Anscombe (Volume Three), (Oxford: Blackwell).
  Publication of "A Theory of Language" in Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein, Irving Block (ed), (Massachusetts: MIT Press).
  September: Publication of "Commentary 2" [of "Ethical problems in the management of some severely handicapped children," by John Harris], Journal of Medical Ethics, 7 (3), pp.122-3.
1982 Publication of "Medalist’s Address: Action, Intention and ‘Double Effect,’" Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 56, pp.12-25.
  Publication of "On the Notion of Immaterial Substance" in Substance and Things: Aristotle’s Doctrine of Physical Substance in Recent Essays, M. L. O’Hara (ed), (Washington, D.C: University Press of America).[2]
  Publication of "Opening Address" and "On Private Ostensive Definitions" in Language and Ontology: Proceedings of the 6th Inter­national Wittgenstein Symposium, W. Leinfellner, E. Kraemer and J. Schank (eds), (Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky).
  Publication of "Morality" in Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, C. Marneau (ed), pp.16-18.[3]
  December: Publication of a review of Philosophy and the Young Child, by Gareth B. Matthews, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 43 (2), pp.265-7.
1983 Publication of "The Causation of Action" in Knowledge and Mind: Philosophical Essays, Carl Ginet and Sydney Shoemaker (eds), (Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "Sins of Omission? The Non-Treatment of Controls in Clinical Trials" (with Michael Lockwood), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 57, pp.207-27.
1984 Publication of "Some Reminiscences of Wittgenstein from Littlewood’s Papers per Dame Mary Cartwright," The Cambridge Review.
1985 Publication of "Has Mankind One Soul … An Angel Distributed through Many Bodies?" (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press).
  Publication of "Were You a Zygote?" in Philosophy and Practice (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements), A. Phillips Griffiths (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  Publication of "Paganism, Superstition and Philosophy," The Thoreau Quarterly, 17.
  Publication of "Why Anselm’s Proof in theProslogionis not an Ontological Argument?" The Thoreau Quarterly, 17.
  January: Publication of a review of Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, by Saul Kripke, Ethics, 95 (2), pp.342-52.
  February: Publication of "Aquinas Lecture 1984: Truth: Anselm or Thomas?" New Blackfriars, 66 (776), pp.82-97.
1986 Publication of "Knowledge and Reverence for Human Life" in Linking the Human Life Issues, Russell Hittinger (ed), (Chicago: Regnery Books).[4]
  Publication of "Gradualness in a Law, and a Law of Gradualness," Anthropos, 2.
1987 Publication of "Descartes and Anselm" in Essays on Philosophy and Logic: Proceedings of the XXXth Conference on the History of Logic, Dedicated to Roman Suszko.
1988 June: Publication of "The Presidential Address: Existence and Truth," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 88, pp.1-12.
1989 Publication of "The Simplicity of the Tractatus," Critica, 21.
  Publication of "von Wright on Practical Inference" in The Philosophy of Georg Henrik von Wright, Paul Arthur Schilpp and Lewis Edwin Hahn (ed), (Open Court).
  Publication of "Why Have Children?" Proceedings of the American Catholic Philoso­phical Association, 63, pp.48-53.
1990 Publication of "Truth, Sense and Assertion, or: What Plato should have told the Sophists" in Logic Counts, Ewa Zarnecka-Bialy (ed), (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers), pp.43-6.
  January: Publication of "A Comment on Coughlan’s ‘Using People,’" Bioethics, 4 (1), p.62.
1991 Publication of "On a Queer Pattern of Argument" in Peter Geach: Philosophical Encounters, H. A. Lewis (ed), (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers).
  Publication of "Wittgenstein, Whose Philosopher?" in Wittgenstein: Centenary Essays (Royal Institute of Philosophy,PhilosophySupple­ment: 28), A. P. Griffiths (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
1992 January: Publication of reviews of Ethics, Reproduction and Genetic Control, by Ruth Chadwick, and The Vatican, the Law and the Human Embryo, by Michael Coughlan, The Philosophical Quarterly, 42 (166), pp.126-9.
1993 Publication of "On Wisdom," Acta Philosophica, 2 (1), pp.127-33.
  Publication of "Causality and Determination" in Causation, Ernest Sosa and Michael Tooley (eds), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  Publication of "Knowledge and Essence" in A Wittgenstein Sympo­sium,Girona, 1989, Josep-Maria Terricabras (ed), (Amsterdam: Rodopi).
  Publication of "The Origin of Plato’s Theory of Forms" in Modern Thinkers and Ancient Thinkers. The Stanley Victor Keeling Memorial Lectures at University College, London, 1981-1991, Robert W. Sharples (ed), (London: UCL Press).
  October: Publication of "Russelm or Anselm?" The Philosophical Quarterly, 43 (173), pp.500-4.
1994 October: Publication of a review of Analysis and Metaphysics, by P. F. Strawson, The Philosophical Quarterly, 44 (177), pp.528-30.
1995 July: Publication of "Cambridge Philosophers II: Ludwig Wittgenstein," Philosophy, 70 (273), pp.395-407.
1999 Publication of "Practical Truth," Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, 2 (3), pp.68-76.
2000 Publication of "Making True" in Logic, Cause and Action: Essays in Honour of Elizabeth Anscombe (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements), Roger Teichmann (ed), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.1-8.[5]
  Publication of "Grammar, Structure and Essence," Arete, 12 (2), pp.113-20.
  Publication of "Whatever has a beginning of existence must have a cause" in Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, Brian Davies (ed), (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
2001 5 January: Died, in Cambridge.
2005 Publication of Human Life, Action and Ethics: Essays by G.E.M. Anscombe (St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs), Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (eds), (Exeter: Imprint Academic).
2008 Publication of Faith in a Hard Ground. Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs), Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (eds), (Exeter: Imprint Academic).
2011 Publication of From Plato to Wittgenstein: Essays by G.E.M. Anscombe (St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs), Mary Geach and Luke Gormally (eds), (Exeter: Imprint Academic).

Sarah Lewin (31/10/16)

[1] I’m not entirely confident about this date; sources range from 1956-1958.

[2] Text of a lecture given in 1979 at the University of Navarre, Pamplona.

[3] Text of a talk given in February, 1982.

[4] Text of a lecture given in 1981 at Marquette University, Milwaukee.

[5] Text read to the Oxford Philosophical Society in 1982.

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