C.D. Broad makes it to the SEP

I’m really pleased to see that a good piece on C.D. Broad has been added to the ever-more-wonderful Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

It has always seemed to me that Broad has been underrated (compared e.g. with Moore); and — leaving aside the special case of Ramsey — Broad remains in many ways the philosopher from the first half of the twentieth century whom I feel most in sympathy with. So some years ago, as an act of Cambridge piety, I wrote the entry on Broad for the surely misbegotten Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I say ‘misbegotten’ as it seeks to go far too wide in a way that few users will care about at the expense of any real depth: cramped and confined as it  originally was by a traditional print conception of an encyclopedia’s role, the policy of going for breadth rather than useful depth meant that I had less than half the space  which my predecessor writing on Broad for the Edwards Encyclopedia of Philosophy had three decades before. My entry was therefore sadly trite.

I was asked, in fact, whether I’d like to write at proper length on Broad for SEP and was very tempted. But to do the job properly would have meant months away from other projects, as I’d have had to reread the great man’s works, and while that’s no hardship there are a lot of them, and I regretfully declined. So as I said I’m very glad to see he has got due recognition from Kent Gustavsson.

I would, it goes without saying, done things a bit differently — but that’s philosophy for you, and no criticism! In particular, I would have spent more time on Broad’s work on probability and induction. And I’d have given a special mention to that remarkable passage from An Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy that was reprinted in the old Feigl and Sellars reader as ‘The “nature” of a continuant’ which talks about dispositions, essences and natural kinds, and perhaps — read by so many graduate students in the 1950s and 60s — sowed some important seeds in the revival of metaphysics.

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