Last week I was honored to give two lectures on Anscombe at the University of Pennsylvania–one for the Collegium Institute, which is embedded below, and one for he philosophy department, which hosted its first Anscombe archive conference. You can read about the Collegium here, and how they acquired Anscome’s archive here. If you are in the Philadephia area, you should definitely make a point of attending some of their public events.
I spent about three hours in the Anscombe archive last Thursday. For me, it was an incredible experience that I am still processing, not only because of how exciting some of the unpublished material is (an entire manuscript on truth!), but also because it was a unique window into Anscombe’s private life. I read a long philosophical exchange (on postcards!) between Anscombe and Kenny as he was losing his faith and she was trying to bring him back. I read a letter from Philippa Foot to Anscombe explaining why she was an atheist. I read some of her “hate mail” after her opposition to Truman became international news (yes, it had some undeniable misogynist overtones). I read her marginalia on drafts of NNL papers (yes, it is funny and sometimes unkind). Finally, I read a letter from a Japanese victim of US war crimes that brought me to tears (he was writing from his hospital bed, describing what happened to him and his loved ones). As someone who has long admired Elizabeth Anscombe, sorting through all of this was an incredible experience, and I’m currently drafting a proposal to make several return trips.
For some thoughts about Anscombe’s relevance to all of us today, see the lecture below.