Stalking the Neglected Philosophers*

Andrew Chrucky

While reading philosophical literature, once in a while I come across passages which say that a particular essay or book is very good, and sometimes an additional remark is made that it is neglected. While reading such passages, I say to myself that I should take a look at this essay or book -- but then I forget to do so, or don't remember who or what was mentioned. Well, I have decided to start keeping a record of such passages on this page. Who knows where they may lead us!

To Readers: If you come across such passages and want to offer them for inclusion on this page, please send the information to me at:

Brand Blanshard, The Nature of Thought, 2 vols. (New York: Humanities Press, 1939).
"For many years, almost since 1939, I have recommended that students planning to become teachers read the seven chapters in Book Three of The Nature of Thought in which Mr. Blanshard gives an account of "how we think" when we are getting to know something or coming to understand something. These seven chapters (18-25, omitting, 22) contain an excellent, relatively straightforward account of these matters. I do not know of a better one." Alburey Castell, "Blanshard on Understanding," in The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard, ed. Paul Schilpp (Open Court, 1980), p. 528.

Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons preached at the Rolls Chapel (1726; 2d ed., 1729); Dissertation 2, Of the Nature of Virtue (appendices to Analogy of Religion (1736).
"Butler has the solid common-sense and the sweet reasonableness of an English bishop of the eighteenth century. He writes about facts with which we are all acquainted in language which we can all understand and his work, though it does not pretend to be a complete treatise on ethics, forms one of the best introductions to the subject that exists." C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory (1930), p. 53.

R. G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan (1942).
"The logic of practical reasoning is a very difficult, not well-understood subject. . . . The best extended discussions known to me occur in R. G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan (1942) . . ." Bruce Aune, Knowledge, Mind, and Nature (1967), footnote 26 to ch. 8, p. 278.

C. J. Ducasse, Philosophy As a Science (1941).
"I should like to acknowledge with gratitude the critical encouragement I have from time to time received, in connection with my study of philosophical method, from C. J. Ducasse (under whom I studied at Brown University, and whose book on method, Philosophy As a Science, deserves more attention than it has so far received), . . .". Ian McGreal, Analyzing Philosophical Arguments (1967), Preface, p. xiv.

R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (1952).
". . . the neo-imperativist approach of R. M. Hare, is, in my opinion, sufficiently close to the truth to be a useful point of departure for the ideas I wish to develop." Wilfrid Sellars, "Imperatives, Intentions, and the Logic of "Ought"," in Morality and the Language of Conduct, edited by Hector-Neri Castañeda and George Nakhnikian (Wayne State University Press, 1963), p. 162.

Rudolf Hermann Lotze, Metaphysik (1841); English translation by Bernard Bosanquet, Metaphysics in Three Books: Ontology, Cosmology, and Psychology (Clarendon, 1884).
"The distinction between the nature of a thing and its various situations; between the situation in which it was placed at a certain moment and others in which it might have been placed instead at that moment; and between how it actually did behave and how it would have behaved if its situation had been different; is continually drawn in ordinary life and in science. . . . I may say that the best treatment of it with which I am acquainted is to be found in Lotze's Metaphysik, though I should hesitate to recommend Lotze's writings to a reader who was pressed for time or in search of thrills." C. D. Broad, Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy, Vol. I (1933): pp. 264-5.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Of the Social Contract (1762).
". . . Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the greatest political philosopher who has ever lived. His claim to immortality rests upon one short book, Of the Social Contract . . ." Robert Paul Wolff, About Philosophy 9th ed. (2006), p. 318.

J. Rueff, From the Physical to the Social Sciences (1929).
"That this is the task of ethical theory has been pointed out by J. Rueff in his book, From the Physical to the Social Sciences (1929), which deserves to be better known than it seems to be." C. J. Ducasse, Philosophy As a Science (1941), footnote 1, ch. 12, p. 176.

J. Rueff, From the Physical to the Social Sciences (1929).
"That this is the task of ethical theory has been pointed out by J. Rueff in his book, From the Physical to the Social Sciences (1929), which deserves to be better known than it seems to be." C. J. Ducasse, Philosophy As a Science (1941), footnote 1, ch. 12, p. 176.

Bertrand Russell, Principles of Mathematics (1903).
"Probably this book [Principles of Mathematics], which I had read hastily in the School Library, but now studied carefully for the first time, has influenced me more than any one other." C. D. Broad, "Critical and Speculative Philosophy," in Contemporary British Philosophy: Personal Statements (First Series), ed. J. H. Muirhead (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1924): 77-100.

Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (1943).
"In my judgment, Being and Nothingness is probably the single best piece of philosophy written in the 20th century. That is a strong claim, and I don’t make it lightly. There is lots of good philosophy in the 20th century, but this book has a kind of sweep and scope that, as far as I know, no other work has in this century. There may be exceptions — for example, Heidegger’s Being and Time, which I do not know well — but within the limits of my knowledge, Being and Nothingness stands out as without serious competition.

What are the alternatives? Husserl’s Logical Investigations, for one, and his Ideas, for another. Heidegger’s Being and Time, perhaps. Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, and Russell’s Principles of Mathematics. Perhaps Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations. Some people would nominate Quine’s Word and Object, which is a work for which I have the highest respect.

But all these, in my considered judgment, are no deeper philosophically than Sartre’s Being and Nothingness is, and are certainly less ambitious in scope." Vincent Spade, Class Notes for Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Fall 1995.

Henry Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics (1874; 7th ed., 1907).
"Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics seems to me to be on the whole the best treatise on moral theory that has ever been written . . .". C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory (1930), p. 143.
"All those that I have just made and many more will be found in Book IV Chapters 3-5 of Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics. I think that this book is the best book ever written on ethics, and that these chapters are the best chapters of the book." J. J. C. Smart, "Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism," The Philosophical Quarterly 6 (1956): 344-354.

Edward Westermarck, Ethical Relativity (1932).
"An unjustly neglected work which anticipates my stress on objectification is E. Westermarck's Ethical Relativity (London, 1932)." J. L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (1977), p. 241.

Alfred North Whitehead, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (1919) ;The Concept of Nature (1920).
"I then try to explain in simple terms the nature and objects of Whitehead's Principle of Extensive Abstraction. This seems to me to be the "Prolegomena to every future philosophy of Nature."" (p. 4) . . . "The method by which such difficulties as these have been overcome is due to Whitehead, who has lately worked it out in full detail in his Principles of Natural Knowledge, and his The Concept of Nature, two epoch-making works." (p. 39). C. D. Broad, Scientific Thought (1923).

* This title is meant to echo Euell Gibbons' Stalking the Wild Asparagus