Robert Maximilian de Gaynesford

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Maximilian de Gaynesford
Born (1968-01-02) 2 January 1968 (age 50)
Era 21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of mind

Maximilian de Gaynesford (born 1968) is an English philosopher and the author of "The Rift in the Lute: Attuning Poetry and Philosophy" (Oxford, 2017). He was educated at Ampleforth College and Balliol College, Oxford (1986–9; First in Modern History), after which he spent several years studying Theology, before turning to Philosophy in 1993. Before receiving his doctorate, he was elected Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford (1997). He was subsequently Humboldt Research Fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin (2003) and a tenured professor at The College of William and Mary in Virginia (2002–2006) before becoming Professor of Philosophy (2008) and Head of Department (2016) at the University of Reading. He is the author of over forty articles and four books: "The Rift in the Lute: Attuning Poetry and Philosophy" (Oxford, 2017), I: The Meaning of the First Person Term (Oxford, 2006), Hilary Putnam (Routledge, 2006), and John McDowell (Polity, 2004). In 2011, he edited a collection of articles on the Philosophy of Action, Agents And Their Actions (Blackwell), which includes recent work by John McDowell and Joseph Raz. He often gives papers on attuning poetry and philosophy for general audiences, as here [1]. He spoke at the Harvard Conference in celebration of Hilary Putnam, here [2]. He has a daughter, Elisabeth (born 2009).

Recent Work

Most of his papers can be found here [3]

  • On J. L. Austin's doctrine of 'Uptake': Speech, Action and Uptake in Agents And Their Actions (Blackwell, 2011) ed. M. de Gaynesford, pp. 121–37.
  • On the notorious comments made by J. L. Austin about Poetry: How Not To Do Things With Words in The British Journal of Aesthetics, 2011, 51, pp. 31–49.
  • On the extension of a theory of speech acts to cover poetic utterance: Speech Acts and Poetry in Analysis, 2010, 70, pp. 1–3.
  • On the relationship between Philosophy and Poetry: The Seriousness of Poetry in Essays in Criticism, 2009, 59, pp. 1–21.
  • On the use of Speech Act Theory to justify intervention in the publication and distribution of pornography: Illocutionary acts, Subordination, and Silencing in Analysis, 2009, 69, pp. 488–90.

Main Writings

The Rift in the Lute: Attuning Poetry and Philosophy

What is it for poetry to be serious and to be taken seriously? What is it to be open to poetry, exposed to its force, attuned to what it says and alive to what it does? These are important questions that call equally on poetry and philosophy. But poetry and philosophy, notoriously, have an ancient quarrel. Maximilian de Gaynesford sets out to understand and convert their mutual antipathy into something mutually enhancing, so that we can begin to answer these and other questions. The key to attuning poetry and philosophy lies in the fact that poetic utterances are best appreciated as doing things. For it is as doing things that the speech act approach in analytic philosophy of language tries to understand all utterances. Taking such an approach, this book offers ways to enhance our appreciation of poetry and to develop our understanding of philosophy. It explores work by a range of poets from Chaucer to Geoffrey Hill and J. H. Prynne, and culminates in an extended study of Shakespeare's Sonnets. What work does poetry set itself, and how does this determine the way it is to be judged? What do poets commit themselves to, and what they may be held responsible for? What role does a poet have, or their audience, or their context, in determining the meaning of a poem, what work it is able to achieve? These are the questions that an attuned approach is able to ask and answer.

I: The Meaning of the First Person Term

The book I: The Meaning of the First Person Term (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006) rejects the established view that I is a so-called Pure Indexical, arguing that it is a deictic term, and hence like the other singular personal pronouns (You; He / She).

The established view, so the book argues, depends on three mutually supportive doctrines which turn out to be myths:

  • Rule Theory: A simple rule is sufficient to give the meaning of I.
  • Independence: One can use I to express thoughts without having to identify what is being referred to.
  • The Guarantee: The meaning of I logically guarantees any use of the term against failure to refer.

The radically new account of I (as a deictic term) depends on various kinds of evidence:

  • Logical Character: The substitutional behaviour of I-use is that of an obligatorily deictic term.
  • Inferential Role: The inferential behaviour of I-use is that of an obligatorily deictic term.
  • Referential Function: The referential determinacy of I-use is deictic: it depends on making an individual salient.
  • Expressive Use: The discriminability of I-use for the reference-maker is deictic: it depends on the referent's salience.
  • Communicative Role: The discriminability of I-use for the audience is deictic: it depends on the referent's salience.

This account has a major bearing on other areas of research: the meaning of I is used to elucidate the thoughts expressed by the term, and so helps account for difficult and controversial features of self-knowledge, practical reasoning, belief-acquisition, and belief-ascription.

Hilary Putnam

A critical evaluation which reveals a basic unity in Putnam’s work (Hilary Putnam, McGill-Queens University Press / Acumen, 2006), achieved through repeated engagements with a small set of hard problems, all of which stem from the need to account for the intentionality of thought and language.

John McDowell

A study (John McDowell, Blackwell / Polity Press, 2004) of McDowell's view that treating our fundamental relations with the world as problematic is a deep mistake, attributable to false views about nature, and that we should give proper weight to a natural fact about the world: that human beings are of a kind that is naturally placed within the natural order.

External links

  • Maximilian de Gaynesford's Academia page.
  • Book Details.
  • TLS review of I: The Meaning of the First Person Term (by Stephen Williams; 20 April 2007).
  • I: The Meaning of the First Person Term Chapter 1.
  • The Seriousness of Poetry.
  • Illocutionary Acts, Subordination and Silencing.
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