Philosophy P. F. Strawson
Anil Gomes
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0429


Peter Frederick Strawson (b. 1919–d. 2006) was one of the most important and influential philosophers of the late twentieth century. His career centered on Oxford, where he was a Tutorial Fellow at University College and later Gilbert Ryle’s successor as Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Magdalen College. His writings range over philosophical logic, the philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. They were influential in moving Oxford philosophy from the anti-metaphysical leanings of A. J. Ayer and J. L. Austin to a rejuvenated era of traditional philosophical theorizing, albeit understood in a distinctively Strawsonian fashion. Across a range of debates and topics, he aimed to identify the fundamental concepts involved in our ordinary ways of thinking of the world and to show both that they cannot be eliminated and that our entitlement to use them does not depend on their being reduced to a more scientifically acceptable basis. He made important contributions to debates about the nature of truth, reference, perception, induction, free will and determinism, and the role that our concepts of body, person, space, and time play in securing reference. His work has attracted and continues to attract significant scholarly attention, not least through a generation of students who studied under Strawson and on whom his influence was profound.

Biographical Works

Snowdon 2007 provides an overview of Strawson’s life and work from the perspective of a former student. Strawson’s own intellectual autobiography in Strawson 1998 and Strawson 2003 traces his influences and philosophical development. Both are revealing of his character and personality and are reprinted in Strawson 2011 (cited under Works by Strawson). Gomes 2019 provides a more recent and accessible introduction to Strawson’s life and works aimed at a general audience.

  • Gomes, Anil. “Snapshot: P. F. Strawson.” The Philosophers’ Magazine (2019).

    DOI: 10.5840/tpm20198411

    An accessible introduction to Strawson’s life and work, written for his centenary in 2019.

  • Snowdon, P. F. “Peter Frederick Strawson, 1919–2006.” Proceedings of the British Academy 150 (2007): 221–244.

    Snowdon’s biographical memoir, published as part of the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, contains discussion of Strawson’s life and work, including a section on Strawson as “Teacher, Writer and Person.”

  • Strawson, P. F. “Intellectual Autobiography of P. F. Strawson.” In The Philosophy of P. F. Strawson. Edited by Lewis Edwin Hahn, 1–22. Chicago: Open Court, 1998.

    Strawson’s charming intellectual autobiography, from his volume in the Library of Living Philosophers, provides an overview of his life and philosophical interests.

  • Strawson, P. F. “A Bit of Intellectual Autobiography.” In Strawson and Kant. Edited by Hans-Johann Glock, 7–14. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    Some further intellectual autobiography, with focus on Strawson’s relationship with the work of Immanuel Kant.

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