Anscombe, G.E.M. (1919–2001)

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Anscombe, G.E.M. (1919–2001)

English philosopher who edited and translated the work of her friend Ludwig Wittgenstein. Born Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe in 1919; died on January 5, 2001, in Cambridge, England; daughter of Allen Wells and Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe; attended St. Hugh's College, Oxford, 1941; married Peter Geach (a Wittgenstein scholar), in 1941; children: three sons and four daughters.

Obtained research fellowships at Oxford and Newnham College, Cambridge (1941–44); named research fellow, Somerville College, Oxford (1946–64); named fellow, Somerville College (1964–70); became professor of philosophy, Cambridge (1970–86); named fellow, New Hall, Cambridge (1970–86). Honorary fellow, Somerville College, Oxford (1970); honorary fellow, St. Hugh's College, Oxford (1972); foreign honorary member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1979); Ehrenkruez Pro Litteris et Artibus (Austria, 1978); Forschungspreis, Alexander von Humbolt Stiftung (1983); honorary J.D., Notre Dame University (1986).

Selected works:

Intention (1957); An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (1959); (with Peter Geach) Three Philosophers (1961); "Thought and Action in Aristotle: What is 'Practical Truth'?" in New Essays on Plato and Aristotle (1965); Causality and Determinism (1971); The Collected Papers of G.E.M. Anscombe: 1. Parmenides to Wittgenstein; 2. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind; 3. Religion and Politics (1981); translator and coeditor with G.H. Von Wright of posthumous works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and wrote over 40 articles in philosophical journals.

Elizabeth Anscombe has been called the most distinguished woman philosopher England has produced, for her work in logic, semantics, semiotics, and philosophy of language, as well as in the development of the tradition of analytic philosophy that has dominated England and North America in the 20th century. She has also argued for the importance of Aristotle in analytic philosophy.

Anscombe is particularly famous for An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, which is the classic exposition of the views in her friend Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. With G.H. Von Wright, she edited and translated Wittgenstein's manuscripts and notebooks posthumously, thus making his later work accessible to the philosophical community. Wittgenstein had published only one book in his lifetime, the Tractatus. Although this work was influential and adopted as a text by philosophers in Vienna who were developing the views of logical positivism (the view that meaning depends on the possibility that something is true or false), Wittgenstein rejected these ideas in his later life. Anscombe's work on Wittgenstein's later writing served to provide access to his revised thought, which had only been accessible before by word of mouth and through the notes taken by some of Wittgenstein's students, Alice Ambrose and Margaret MacDonald .


Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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